In the comments thread of my Akira review, Dr. Trammel recommended Ghost in the Shell for my exploration of anime. I had actually heard of Ghost in the Shell due to in-game ads in the fantastic Syndicate Wars PC game, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Of course I can count on the insanely well stocked anime collection at my local library, so I recently headed there to grab the DVD.
Ghost in the Shell is set in a cyberpunk styled near future where most humans are enhanced with cybernetic implants. The changes range from secretaries that have hands replaced with mechanical appendages for keyboarding to Terminator style endoskeletons for military or police personnel. The protagonist is an example of the latter, elite government agent Motoko Kusanagi who’s only non-bionic component is her brain.
Kusunagi leads a unit investigating cybercrimes and the plot focuses on pursuit of a hacker known as the Puppet Master. The mystery and pursuit elements of the story are engaging, though the plot is mainly a way to raise questions about what it means to be human when humans and machines intertwined. Those questions are not always subtle, but they are addressed in a satisfying way.
The plot moves along at a nice pace and is much easier to follow than Akira. The ending struck me oddly, but I’ll leave the spoilers for the comments thread.
The presentation is middle of the road. The animation is an interesting blend of traditional and computer that is toned down and gritty. It does a nice job of rendering a believable cyberpunk future, but is not mind blowing in the same way Akira was to me. The music and voice acting are merely adequate.
It won’t be anytime soon, but there is definitely enough there to warrant a second viewing.