Ghost in the Shell

What, my friends, to make of Ghost in the Shell? A film dir­ec­ted by Mamoru Oshii and based on the manga art of Masamune Shirow, this Japanimation effort recalls the exist­en­tial pain and ambi­gu­ity of 1988’s Akira. The plot of Ghost in the Shell is not some­thing one can eas­ily sum­mar­ize because it exists in a kind of anime hyper­space to which only the cre­at­ive team by Ghost can travel. In oth­er words, it has more folds than a katana, but emerges equally sharp, and beau­ti­ful.

OK, that won’t do. Let me snip this plot set-up from Wikipedia:

Ghost in the Shell is an exist­en­tial­ist search for mean­ing set in the 21st cen­tury. Superficially, it is a futur­ist­ic spy thrill­er deal­ing with the exploits of Motoko Kusanagi, a mem­ber of the cov­ert oper­a­tions sec­tion of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission, Section 9, which spe­cial­izes in fight­ing tech­no­logy-related crime. Although sup­posedly equal to all oth­er mem­bers, Kusanagi fills the lead­er­ship role in the team, and is usu­ally referred to as “Major” due to her past rank in the armed forces. She is cap­able of super­hu­man feats, and cyber­net­ic­ally spe­cial­ized for her job; her body is almost com­pletely mech­an­ized, save her brain and a single spin­al cord seg­ment.

Ghost abounds with shoot-from-the-hip visu­als remin­is­cent of Bladerunner. Indeed, it draws upon some of the cyber­punk clas­sics — Neuromancer, for a start — and flogs its cent­ral with gusto: arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence as a dehu­man­ising force. What are the implic­a­tions of mimet­ic beings that, we know, do not con­tain bio­lo­gic­al mat­ter, but do exhib­it the prop­er­ties we asso­ci­ate with human­ity, such as lan­guage, emo­tion­al beha­viour, and so on? Ghost chi­canes around these issues even as it dips into the strange wells of manga-strength nud­ity and viol­ence. It does not sug­gest any answers, but that’s OK. There might be no answers. And it ended some­what abruptly. But I’d recom­mend the film as an intel­li­gent stab at the back of human­ity.

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Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

One thought on “Ghost in the Shell”

  1. One of the best film scripts Bill Gibson nev­er wrote 🙂 The spin-off series is actu­ally not half bad either.

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