Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Ghost in the Shell is an anime film based on the manga by Masamune Shirow. The film was directed by Mamoru Oshii, and was released to Japanese theaters in 1995. This review is for Manga Entertainment's 2-disc special edition DVD release of the film.
The main character of Ghost in the Shell is a female cyborg named Major Motoko Kusanagi. She is the leader of Section 9's assault team, which has been assigned to capture an elusive hacker called "The Puppet Master." Kusanagi's teammates are Batou (Kusanagi's second in command) and Ishikawa.
During their hunt for "The Puppet Master," they find a garbageman using a program he received from a sympathetic man to illegally ghost-hack his wife's mind. It turns out the man is not married, and has had false memories implanted into him. The program the man was given actually hacked into a woman connected with the government.
"The Puppet Master" also triggers the creation of a female cybernetic body at the corporation that supplies cybernetic material for Section 9. The new cyborg escapes into the city and is run over. Section 9 retrieves the cyborg to investigate it, but they are interrupted by an ambush by Section 6. Section 9 also uncovers the mysterious Project 2501. From here, the plots weave together into a dramatic climax.
Ghost in the Shell is highly regarded as one of the first anime films to seamlessly blend cel animation and computer graphics. After watching this film, I can say with certainty that Oshii and his crew did a fantastic job combining the two elements together to create a visually stunning film. By combining these two elements in this way, it really helped to bring about the futuristic vibe that the story needed. While this film obviously doesn't look like a modern production, it doesn't truly look dated, either. Visually, I think Ghost in the Shell has held up well over the years.
Story-wise, the film utilized its 82 minute runtime very effectively. You got enough background throughout the film to understand what was going on, and it didn't feel like you were getting an "info dump." Also, the story moved and flowed in such a way that I didn't feel like the story was bogging down. After seeing this film, I understand why Ghost in the Shell is regarded as a classic anime film.
Content-wise, there is some nudity as well as some bloody violence. From the trailer I saw in the bonus features, Ghost in the Shell was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America; because of this, I can only truly recommend the film for anime viewers who are 17 or 18 years of age and older.
When it comes to the 2-disc special edition DVD, the first disc just has the film on it. On the first disc, you can choose to watch the film in its entirety, choose where in the film you want to begin watching, and access the setup menu to decide whether you want English or Japanese audio and if you want subtitles.
The second disc in the set contains two menu options: "Features" and "Extras." The "Features" option has six choices, while the "Extras" option includes three options.
First in the "Features" option is Production Report, a 26-minute documentary aimed at an English-speaking market. It talks about the animation style of the film, recording dialogue and audio, the music, and more. While this documentary was informative, I felt as if it was "talking down" to the audience. Because of that, I found it to be a little on the boring side.
Next in "Features" is Digital Works, a 29-minute Japanese documentary on the film that has Japanese audio with English subtitles. Unlike the previous documentary, this one was better produced and was more interesting to watch. This documentary focused exclusively on the animation. The only issue I had with this documentary was the fact that the subtitles tended to be delayed.
"Character Dossiers" contains a writeup and pictures for Aramaki, Batou, Ishikawa, Kusanagi, Nakamura, Puppetmaster and Togusa. "Creator Biography" is a two-page biography of Masamune Shirow, and "Director Biography" is a 3-page biography of Mamoru Oshii. "Ghost in the Shell Trailers" includes English language trailers for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and Ghost in the Shell.
The "Extras" portion of the disc includes Manga Video Previews, which is 18 minutes worth of previews for Manga Entertainment and various releases they were promoting at that time; Manga DVD Catalogue; and Weblinks (which include web addresses for Manga Entertainment, the official Ghost in the Shell website, and for Production I.G.)
Ghost in the Shell is a "must see" anime film from the 1990s for viewers who really want to delve into anime. This 2-disc special edition release of the film also makes a fantastic addition to an anime fan's DVD collection.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD release that my husband and I purchased.