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ghost in the shell
by: liquidindian 23 october 04
I've seen these green scrolling figures in a title sequence before, and the last time I saw them was just prior to one of the biggest film disappointments in recent history, Matrix: Revolutions. But whereas the final installment in that trilogy was almost a parody of the original idea, full of unsubtle allegory and needlessly wordy exposition, Ghost In The Shell is a 'proper film' - it's The Matrix that looks like an unrealistic cartoon in comparison.
Ghost In The Shell forces you to pay attention from the beginning, as no allowances are made for the fact you're being shown an unfamiliar technophilic future, where counter-intelligence agents are mechanically enhanced and it's possible for your brain to be hacked like a computer. Politcal conspiracy may be afoot, and there's a criminal on the loose duping people into carrying out his schemes. This could all be very confusing - and in fact, it is. Political and technical jargon is hurled back and forth with abandon, and while I'm sure I caught the general drift of the story, certain elements remain a little hazy.
Something that isn't hazy is the art, which is beautiful. The main characters may be exagerrated in the way anime often is, but it's not as cartoony as, say, Metropolis, lending the film a certain gravitas lacking from some serious animated features. At times, a break is taken from the plot and action simply to show the futuristic city, rather like those shots setting the scene in Blade Runner, and just as good, sleek and alienating. The action sequences are similarly excellent, more realistic in some ways than most anime, but still with the fun and jerky kung-fu punch ups and bullet dodging.
The Matrix comparisons are a little unfair on both the Wachowski's film and Ghost in the Shell. If anything, the latter owes more to the aforementioned Blade Runner, with its ruminations on the nature of being and a rather open ending. As it happens, this is the main flaw with Ghost... - there are some fantastic moments and it's a visual feast, but there's a slight feeling of 'and...?' when the credits roll. Having said that, it's good to see an anime that doesn't treat the audience as entirely comprised of virginal fanboys.
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