Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell ★★★★½

“Ghost in the Shell” is one of the foundational cinematic texts on the concept of human identity.

It’s a high achievement, particularly since - its subject is a cyborg. 

Mamoru Oshii’s dystopian cyberpunk story centers around a mysterious police section that sets out to investigate a hacker known only as “The Puppet Master.”

It’s impossible now to not reference “Ghost” in tandem with “The Matrix.” The Wachowski sisters credited Oshii’s vision with the foundation of their own sci fi trilogy. The works share some imagery, and the concept of a character that can ‘run’ through the networks of communication. But “Ghost” and “Matrix” are most fundamentally linked by the search for personal identity through collectivism. 

The idea of unification for the purpose of individual evolution has a particular resonance from a Japanese creator. In a culture that has long emphasized the good of the whole over the desires of each single person, “Ghost” mediates on how self-definition can still occur in such a system. 

The film provides no firm answer on the quandary, except for the essentiality of the quest for meaning itself - so long as the search does not come at the detriment to others, or the societal structure. 

“The Matrix,” then, riffs on the theme through the interpretation of two trans women directors. The Wachowskis have long ruminated in their works about the interconnection of all souls. And it is indeed through becoming the One [of Many] that Neo finally attains his true power. Self-transformation lies within the understanding of the One’s capacity to interlink with the All. 

Otherwise, we are all just lonely ghosts in the shell of the vast machine.

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