Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell ★★★★★

I finally picked up the 4K version, and it was phenomenal all the way through until the credits. Why are y’all replacing Kenji Kawai’s Reincarnation, the track over the ending credits, with that U2/Brian Eno track. You had it all perfect until that!! Needless to say, this is a masterpiece, regardless of the track over the ending credits.

Random portion from an old piece I wrote:
"Ghost in the Shell is such an astounding film because of how strongly it phenomenologically connects to the viewers. Very few films, animated or not, use point-of-view (POV) shots as extensively and effectively as Oshii. The POV shots aren’t limited to character’s vision, but in the majority of cases the viewer dives into digital environment like the Net, security feeds, machine feeds (dare I call these minds when analyzing Ghost in the Shell?), or even cyborg’s ‘minds. This is the genius of Oshii’s rendition of Ghost in the Shell: the viewer is aligned with the position of machines and technology instead of other humans. In a film that is made to question the established boundaries of humanity, technology, and the marriage of the two, there are few more controversial methods of conveying this to audiences. The marriage of humanity and technology is mirrored in the production of the film. Ghost in the Shell was one of the first major animated films that extensively combined traditional cel-animation techniques, the established method of anime for decades, with cutting-edge digitally-generated animation (DGA). DGA was exclusively used and brought to mainstream audiences with Pixar’s film Toy Story (1995) which came out the same year as Ghost in the Shell. These actual animation techniques are evident in the phenomenological elements of the film and make a large difference in the impact on the viewer. In addition to these aspects inherent in the film, there is a feature that exists outside of the film that I argue has the ability to create a large phenomenological impact, but only for specific portions of the audience – the transmedial franchise of Ghost in the Shell. Through parasocial relationship theory on fictional characters, there is a confirmation that a portion of viewers identify and regard characters of transmedial franchises in a more personal manner. I argue that, because of these personal relationships some viewers experience, it becomes easier for these viewers to integrate and experience the film phenomenologically. Overall, through the integration of new animation techniques that physically marry human and technological elements, as well as the existence of a massive transmedial franchise, the phenomenological aspects of Ghost in the Shell are emphasized and directly serve to reinforce the existential questions guiding the film, namely: where and what is the line that separates a living being from a lifeless object.

Ghost in the Shell introduced western audiences to what Cameron called “the first truly adult animation”. The film is based off of a manga written by Masamune Shirow in 1989 of the same title, and, while the manga dealt with many of the same existential ideas as the film, Oshii’s film was transfixed on the interweaving balance of life and technology. Through this vein of being “the first truly adult animation” Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell simultaneously subverts and enforces traditional genre theory. Looking at Carolyn Miller’s “Genre as Social Action”, she outlines how genre expectations are modeled off of social and cultural exigence, “at the level of the genre, motive becomes a conventionalized social purpose, or exigence, within the recurrent situation… genres serve as keys to understanding how to participate in the actions of a community” (162-165). Ghost in the Shell delves into the foray of genre theory by being viewed as a science fiction film, specifically cyberpunk, and an animated film, specifically anime. In regard to anime or animation being viewed as a genre, in much of the world, especially the west, at the time of Ghost in the Shell’s release, anime was viewed as a childish, infantile genre – something that you might see on television accompanying children’s programming on a cartoon block. The blending of anime and science fiction seem to directly contradict each other in Miller’s genre theory. The existential, serious questions probing at the limits and boundaries of life seemingly have no place in something traditionally portrayed as childish. This is where Cameron’s reflections on Ghost in the Shell being “the first truly adult animation” prove especially important. In order to analyze the effectiveness of anime and animation as a genre befit of adults it is key to perceive the shift that occurs as a result of films like Ghost in the Shell and its precursor Akira (1988). Following Miller’s theory, Ghost in the Shell fits into the science fiction and cyberpunk genres by providing and delving into discourse on a presumably fairly likely future for humanity. As technology develops, how do we progress with it, how do we interact with it? How far do we go before we become god? However, these questions present in the discourse of science fiction and cyberpunk would be countered because of the traditional presence and implication of a genre like anime. Ghost in the Shell flips public perception of the genre as a whole and allows viewers to experience the entire genre with a new perspective. This feat compounds onto Oshii’s miraculous fusion of phenomenological aspects into the genre of anime."

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