Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell ★★★★

Letterboxd Season Challenge 2017-18
Week 6: October 9th-15th
No Studio Ghibli Week

Although I'm a day late by the challenge schedule, this was a very appropriate film to wait and see after viewing "Blade Runner 2049" (2017) and rewatching "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991). Like those films, it is set in the mid-21st century and deals with artificially developed human-looking entities, in this case "augmented" humans whose organic brains with consciousness (ghosts) are encased in cybernetic super bodies (shells). These bad boys could certainly give any Nexus-9 replicant or T-800 a run for its money.

The lead "ghost" in this animated feature by Japanese director Mamoru Oshii is the cyborg policewoman Major Motoko Kusanagi, voiced by Atsuko Tanaka. I should point out that I had already seen Rupert Sanders' American live action remake (2017) with Scar-Jo in this role, so I opted to watch the original in Japanese with English subtitles, giving my Japanese language skills a good workout.

The Major's cyber-sighted sidekick here is Batou (Akio Ôtsuka) and they work on an assault-team for the Public Security Section 9 of "New Port City" in Japan, which looks a lot more like Hong Kong than Yokohama. As the request of Director Nakamura (Tesshô Genda), the chief of Section 6, she assassinates a diplomat of a foreign country before he can arrange the defection of a rogue programmer named Mizuho Daita (Mitsuru Miyamoto).

We get some pretty heavy philosophy here about the nature of being human, the concept of "soul," collusion between corporations and governments, and inter-departmental rivalries. A corporation called Megatech Body is responsible for maintenance of cyborg parts/bodies, and a mysterious hacker called Puppet Master (Iemasa Kayumi) seems capable of accessing and manipulating Megatech's work. The Major's attention becomes fully devoted to finding this hacker and stopping whatever plan he has hatched, related to something called Project 2501.

Although the story is a bit convoluted, it never loses attention or slows in its pace. We get some full frontal nudity that we can only wish had translated to Scar-Jo's performance, and the ending is considerably more intriguing. What's more, the mix of traditional cel animation with CGI is nothing short of amazing, still fresh as yesterday even now. There's no question why this has become a cult classic, sometimes referred to as "one of the greatest anime films of all time." Very much worth watching.

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