Ghost in the Shell

Official Blurb:

"Ghost in the Shell becomes one of the most significant films in the history of Japanese animation this autumn when it is simultaneously launched in Japan, Britain and America. This is the first time an anime - the Japanese term for animated films - has received such international recognition, evidence of the genre's growing worldwide appeal. Ghost in the Shell is premiered at the Odeon in Leicester Square as part of the London film Festival on Saturday 11 November. It goes on theatrical release early the following month, opening at the MGM Trocadero in London and cinemas around Britain on Friday 8 December."

"The movie is based on an acclaimed series of comic books (or 'manga') by the artist Masamune Shirow, celebrated for his work on such anime titles as Appleseed and Dominion. The film has been co-produced by Kodansha (the Japanese publishing company responsible for Katsuhiro Otomo's acclaimed anime, Akira), Bandai Visuai and the British company Manga Entertainment - the first Western partner in a Japanese animation project. The soundtrack to Ghost in the Shell also features One Minute Warning, a track which appears on the forthcoming Original Soundtracks 1 album by Passengers, the latest venture by U2 and Brian Eno."

"Ghost in the Shell is set in the year 2029. An internationally notorious computer criminal has surfaced in Japan. Codenamed 'The Puppet Master' for his ability to control the minds of innocent victims, this unique and mysterious super-hacker is suspected of a multitude of offences, including stock market manipulation, illegal data gathering, terrorist acts and infringment of cybernetic ethics. Section 9, Japan's elite secret service, is called in to capture this elusive criminal, only to discover that the elaborate web of evidence leads back to Japan's own Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a computer virus created by them as the ultimate tool in political espionage."

"Ghost in the Shell sets new standards in animation, combining state-of-the-art computer graphics with traditional cel techniques. The film was directed by Mamoru Oshii who was also responsible for the enormously successful Palabor anime series."

Creator:          Masamune Shirow
Director:         Momoru Oshii
Screenplay:       Kazunori Ito
Animation:        Toshihiko Nishikubo
Music:            Kenji Kawai
Mecha Design:     Shoji Kawamori
Character Design: Keisuke Okiura & Hiroyuki Okiura
Copyright:        Kodansha/Bandai Visual/Manga Entertainment

First release:
Language Format:  English Language
English cast:
  Bateau:         Richard George
  Kusanagi:       Mimi Woods
  Aramaki:        William Frederick
  Puppet master:  Abe Lasser
Running time:     79 mins
Certificate:      15
Label:            Manga Video
Catalogue no:     MANV 1133
Price:            £13.99
Release Date:     13th May 1996

Double Pack:
Includes 'Making of' directed by Mitsuhiko Hishida
Language Format:  Japanese Language, English Subtitles
Running time:     111 mins
Certificate:      15
Label:            Manga Video
Catalogue no:     MANV 1169
Price:            £19.99
Release Date:     11th Nov 1996

DVD version:
Includes 'Making of', trailer, and 'A Guide to Ghost in the Shell'
Language Format:  Bilingual Japanese/English, optional English Subtitles
Running time:     79 mins (making of: 30 mins)
Certificate:      15
Label:            Manga Video
Catalogue no:     MANG 5529
Price:            £19.99
Release Date:     28th Feb 2000


This anime is a big budget joint production between our Manga Entertainment Limited, Bandai Visual, and Kodansha. It's adapted from a manga by the famous Masamune Shirow (Appleseed, Dominion, Orion), who is to manga what Kim Stanley Robinson is to SF. So the result was, to put it mildly, eagerly awaited. Briefly, it is about special forces personnel who are so heavily augmented as to be part, or almost entirely, cyborg. The year is 2029. A dangerous computer criminal, the 'Puppet Master', named for his ability to hack into and control the minds of innocent victims, and suspected of stock market manipulation, illegal data gathering and terrorist acts, has surfaced in Japan. Section 9, a covert secret service group, is called in to capture the criminal, only to discover that the trail leads to their own government's Foreign Ministry.

The result, at a cost of some £2.5 million - is impressive, with highly realistic animation likely to appeal to the uncommitted viewers, a wealth of striking effects and a thrilling music sound track. SF fans should appreciate the serious SF content, and some heavyweight philosophising between Kusanagi and Bateau. There are art-oriented scenes, as well as frequent passages of violent action. The main problem with the movie in that in trying to appeal to various tastes the makers have produced one in which the various elements do not sit entirely easily together. It is also addressing the same question as ARMITAGE III - what is a human being? But ARMITAGE III does it more simply and to more immediate effect. The plot of SHELL is also too cynical and labyrinthine for its own good. For all that, it's one of the most exciting and impressive animated movies to appear to date, and richly detailed enough to reward multiple viewings. I was initially noncommital, but I think I'll be watching this again and again.

The one anime movie every one had heard of is AKIRA. With all the money and expectations riding on this new movie, in future it may well be AKIRA and GHOST IN THE SHELL that every one has heard of.

By the way, the 'ghost' is, more or less, a soul, without the religious connotations.

Verdict: Pawn anything so you can get to see this, or you're not an anime fan. [Geoff Cowie]

Comment from newsgroups:

Jerry Hsu:
I liked GitS a lot.  I've only skimmed the manga once or twice so I don't know 
how it compares to that (no puma sister cameos).  In tone and style, GitS is a 
lot like P2 (surprise surprise since most of the P2 staff worked on GitS).  
There was a good amount of action.  The underlying theme seemed to be a "what 
makes a person human" questioning.  I assume this is consistant with the 

The animation was really smooth and well done.  The dubbing was good and I'd 
compare it to Totoro in terms of how natural the voices sounded. 

As some other notes, the movie was originally intended to be produced in both 
Japanese and English.  MangaEnt was a co-producer.  For this reason, I'm 
assuming that the dialogue and story are consistent between the two versions.

All and all, I liked it a lot and it's definitely worth seeing at least once 
and on a big screen.

David Morton:
For some reason it seems that the more important the character, the less 
he or she looks like Shirow's original character design. Shades of the 
Appleseed anime. Music: very good, though at times it will make you think 
of that Aptiva commercial on TV. Dubbing: not bad, although I really 
didn't like the voice of Major Kusanagi. She sounded more like your 
friend's sister than a police commando. Animation: beautiful. Though 
there was an atmospheric section in the middle that took so long to 
demonstrate how beautiful the animation was, it drew attention to itself. 
A very good film, but wait for the sub (there WILL be a sub won't there 
Mr. Frain?).

Jason W Kim:
To me GitS was very understandable, but my semi-otaku friends (both who like
the not-so-hardcore-sf stuff) complained bitterly about the lack of
understability (mostly they were complaining about the monotonic voice acting,
which didn't help the material (esp. Motoku's explanation about her self on
the boat) to go down well for them. This was strange, because otherwise, my
friends ARE the types to sit down and analyze a film to death. Any one of
these two could sit down and babble about (Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of
Electric Sheep) to death and beyond. One thing I found annoying was that my
friends were putting down GitS as a cheap BR clone. This notion I found very
annoying (not to mention inaccurate).

Another really cool item about GitS (anime AND manga) was how the characters
equates the "Ghost" as the essential part of sentience in cyborgs, sort of
like the idea of a spirit being the motif force behind life. Shirow pulls Muy
large rabbits out of his hat!! Hee!!!

Keith Ramsey:
     I thought GITS was excellent.  I saw it twice, and the second time 
the storyline was a little clearer and I picked up a lot of things I 
missed the first time I saw it.  They kept talking about the MOFA and it 
finally clicked that that was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Section 
6). The whole Section 6-Puppetmaster thing started to make some sense as 
     Still, if you want to get an even more engrossed storyline, you can 
get the manga series.  One reason I like Shirow's work is that he writes 
involved stories which take some brainpower (and dialogue) to figure out. 
     In addition, Mamoru Oshii, who directed GITS, uses monologues in 
most of his animes to bring about a more complex storyline.  The Patlabor 
movies were as much drama as action.
     GITS had some great action sequences as well, and overall I thought 
the pace of the story was good.  The voice actors were pretty good too; 
the Major's voice was kind of monotone, kind of bored, but that reflects 
her character.
     What I'm waiting to see is if a year from now the new people to 
anime start saying "I remember seeing GITS and it got me hooked," as 
opposed to the previous start-up movie, Akira.

Charles King:
There are times when you don't feel as
if you're moving at the same pace as the film. On the other hand, the
more I watched it, the more I felt that this was, in part, a useful technique
to disengage the viewer from the 'real world' events. 

Time after time, Oshii deliberately changes gear. This is most noticeable 
during the transfer scene when the Puppetmaster and Kushanagi link
up. You are forced into an unreal, ghost-like sense of time as they
calmly discuss things while the helicopters hover overhead.

The film could, indeed have been better, but I would put the blame more
on Shirow than Oshii. The manga did not, after all, provide all that much to
go on, and Oshii added a lot of extra touches to Kusanagi that gave a 
much greater sense of her alienation from the human society she was
meant to serve.

Chris Keroack:
The music was good. The computer effects were stylish (particularly those 
which enhanced the rest of the view on the world, like the water droplets 
on the main character's goggles when she goes diving). Some of the matte 
work was detailed and rich. The movement of some of the characters and 
machines, particularly the arachnid-looking tank, were good.

However, all of this was cancelled out by the awful (English; don't know 
about Japanese) dialogue. Actually, I can't say it was dialogue; it was a 
series of monologues, spouting off on not-too original themes of what it 
means to be human, conscious, or invested in the advancement of artificial 
intelligence. No one talked to each other; no one *demonstrated* how they 
felt, if they felt at all; they just stood, stared and chattered away in a 
monotone. It was dry and amateurish in presentation, and not too original 
to begin with. 

And the flat voice acting didn't help one bit. Just as one can present 
someone being boring in a work of fiction without boring the audience, 
these semi-humans and non-humans and automatons didn't have any life in 
them whatsoever, artificial or otherwise. I saw no reason to care about 
them as people or their situation any more than I'd be compelled to care 
about the faux-psychologist program "Eliza" that spits out words in a 
monotone without having any feelings about them.

In short: kind of pretty to watch, but not nearly as good as the hype made 
it sound. This isn't what I'd show to people to win them over to anime. 
"Nausicaa" or "Wings of Honneamise" it ain't. 

David Emami:
Personally, I liked GitS a *lot*. Quite a bit more than Akira. That said, it 
did have problems. There was too much exposition; the speeches could have been 
trimmed down a lot without confusing the audience. And I kinda disliked the 
gratuitous nudity. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing per se against people 
conducting running gun battles in the buff, but there should be a reason for 
it. Those two objections aside, there were a lot of interesting ideas in there 
(sentient programs engaging in sexual reproduction? mind control via net 

Maybe I'll notice more to dislike when I rent the tape, but at the time I was 
in too much of a "gosh, I'm in watching anime in a *theatre*" happy mood to be 
cataloging things to gripe about. And even if I were, the cataloging section 
of my brain was busy with "how would you work this in Shadowrun?" type of 
questions. :)

Brian E. Angliss:
Shirow does seem to be asking "What does it mean to be human."  Another
respondant pointed out that, if a human can be improved by machine
parts(cyborgs) and a machine can have a soul, what truly differentiates
human from machine?  I think that part of the point of the film is that
there may be no difference, and that's what Shirow seems to be saying.

However, I personally feel that the manga did a MUCH better job at saying
this.  From the manga, I got a feel that Shirow was saying that that
technology was neutral in most cases, and generally beneficial in those
cases where it wasn't neutral.  I got a much more "technophilic" sense out
of the manga than I did from the film.  While I personally didn't like the
ending with the merging of the Major and the AI, it made sense in the

However, the anime has a much darker, "technophobic" feel.  It's almost as
if the anime was saying that technology was the root cause of half of all
suffering in the world, but without mentioning any of the positive aspects
of technology.  Look at the battle scene at the end, for example, where
the Major is fighting the tank.  At one point, the tank sends bullets into
a fresco which is the tree of life, showing the branches off the tree for
apes, reptiles, birds, etc.  The destruction from the bullets stop just
short of the top of the tree, which has the word "humanis" written on it.
Not exactly subtle condemnation of technology, IMHO.

And because of this overall technophobia present in the film, the Major's
assent to being fused with the AI seems totally non-sensical.  It's like,
at the last instant, the anime decides to do a 180 degree reversal on
technology and become technophilic in order to reconcile the end of the
anime with the end of the manga.  The ending is so out of place compared
to the rest of the film that it just wipes it out.  If it weren't for the
ending, GiTS could have been one of the best anime I'd ever seen, up there
with Wings of Honneamise, Gall Force, Bubblegum Crisis, and Eva, but that
ending(plus a few minor problems like I hate the Major's eyes) just ruined