The Ghost In The Shell - The Movie

GITS: The Movie | Books, CDs and Side-products (Under Construction. Sorry.)

All images are Copyright Kodansha, Manga Entertainment, GITS Team, Sensei Shirow

Ghost In The Shell: The Movie
Based on Masamune Shirow's Ghost In The Shell

In the year 1995, the anime world (and a relatively small die-hard fan-group crowd of a guy called 'Shirow Masamune') was up on its feet in aticipation for one of the biggest releases in many years. Many compared it to a previous mind-blowing sci-fi anime Akira, and wondered if it could live up to all the hype. Production took more than a year and the total budget was around 4 million US$ (Yes, that's million US Dollars) involving big names in the industry such as Kodansha, Bandai, Manga Entertainment, and Mr Mamoru Oshii. And a good many people finally discovered the intrigue and wonder of Sensei Shirow Masamune. The source of all the hype is, of course, Ghost In The Shell (GITS) originally one of the many manga masterpieces created, authored and illustrated by Sensei Shirow. Outside Japan, Ghost was a huge success breaking many records and bringing the anime genre to a new level and audience.

Wired Up n Ready To Go
One Cyborg, All Wired-up. GITS Promotion
Masamune Shirow, GITS Team, Kodansha
Why all the fuss? There are several reasons. Firstly, its the animation dream-team working on the GITS project. We have Mamoru Oshii (Patlabor 2 fame) as director and stroyboard provider. Oshii is no stranger to the anime scene, in fact he is considered one of the 'big name' directors of the genre with his own unique trademark style of 'adult' (not in that sense!) themed and moody animation. Screenplay is by Kazunori Ito who previously worked as the screenwriter for Patlabors 1 + 2, Dirty Pair and Urusei Yatsura TV. Mecha designs were handled by Shoji Kawamori (Macross / Patlabor 2), and key animation was the responsibility of Hiroyuki Okiura (preliminary sketch artist for Akira and Roujin Z). All that with music director Kenji Kawai (Devilman / Ranma 1/2) too... The distinguished list goes on.
Next is the big investment in the making of the movie, totaling to about 4 million US$. That kind of money for an anime would definitely make a lot of heads turn. Next is the integration of state of the art computer graphics animation for special effects, promising viewers a spectacular and mind-blowing experience (!). And of course, having Manga Entertainment involved and with Western viewership in mind from the initial stages of the project contributed to the hype. The theme of GITS, being a Cyberpunk futuristic thriller didn't hurt too. A blockbuster hit anime, it continues to be popular up 'til today and is a 'must see' on the list of any anime fan worldwide.

Ghost In The Shell, The Movie. 83 minutes Run Time. Release Worldwide: November 1995. Based on the Manga by Masamune Shirow. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. Screenplay by Kazunori Ito. Music by Kenji Kawai. Co-produced by Kodansha Japan, Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment. Available in both Video and DVD format.

Movie Key Staff and Credits

Director: Mamoru Oshii
Patlabor, Patlabor 2, Patlabor TV, Dirty pair TV, Urusei Yatsura TV, Beautiful Dreamer (live action TV), Maroko, Twilight Q, Dallos.

Screenwriter: Kazunori Ito
Patlabor, Patlabor 2, Patlabor TV, Dirty Pair TV, Urusei Yatsura TV, Ultraman Powered, New Gamera 95.

Music Director: Kenji Kawaii
Patlabor, Vampire Princess Miyu, Ranma 1/2, Mermaid Forest, Maison Ikkoku, Irresponsible Capt. Tylor.

Art Director: Hiromasu Ogura
Patlabor, Patlabor 2, Wings of Honneamise, Appleseed, Ninja Scroll, Giant Robo, Maison Ikkoku, Nadia of the Blue Water.

Mechanical Design: Shoji Kawamori
(Director) Macross Plus, Macross: D.Y.R.Love, (Mecha) Gunhed, Patlabor 2, Macross 7, Macross TV, Moldiver, Gundam, Dangaioh.

Producers: Yoshimasa Mizuo (Akira, Devilman), Ken Iyadomi (Akira, Guyver II, Dark Hero), Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (Patlabor 1 & 2), Ken Matsumoto.

Executive Producers: Teruo Miyahara (Kodansha), Shigeru Watanabe (Bandai Visual), Andy Frain (Manga Entertainment).

Production Design: Takashi Watabe.

Character Design: Hiroyuki Okiura.

Weapon Design: Mitsuo Iso.

Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi.

Chief Editor: Shuichi Kakesu.

Motoko's Bare Essentials

Ghost In The Shell? What was that all about?

Motoko's cyborg skullPeople love machines in 2029 A.D. Who are you? Who slips into my robot body and whispers to my ghost? - GITS the movie. That opening line basically sets the main theme and feel of the GITS movie. Set in futuristic 'Japan' after the 3rd and 4th World Wars the show opens with the main character of GITS, Motoko Kusanagi, an agent for Section 9 (a shady government agency in charge of 'Public Security') performing a political assasination of a high profile programmer seeking asylum with a foreign country. Section 9 is hot on the trail of an elusive hacker who ghost-hacked into the foreign minister secretary's 'brain'. Considering the hacker as a serious security threat, the pursuit leads Kusanagi's team into a series of bizzare hacking crimes. This includes a simulated memory implant on a garbage man leading into a high adrenaline chase and gun fight through a crowded marketplace, one of the early highlights of the movie. Who is the real hacker? What is its motive?

Motoko lands on a roofThe recent chain of events left the cyborg squad leader Kusanagi in a dillema over her self-identity. Is she a mere machine? Is she just a tool programmed to be used by the government? Does the 'Ghost' inside of her mechanised shell mean anything? Is she 'human'? Not having much time to ponder these issues, Section 9 got busy again. A blond female cyborg was run over by a truck. The remains ended up at Section 9's due to some abnormalities in the cyborg's system. Suspecting this to be the prime hacker they were searching for all the while, the cyborg was analysed. In the middle of the process another government agency, Section 6 - Ministry of Foreign Affairs - barged in to S9's headquarters and demanded the cyborg be turned over to them. They claimed that the cyborg is the 'Puppet Master' an infamous AI (artificial intelligence) network 'born in a sea of information' from Project 2501, created in the US with the intention industrial espionage and data manipulation. It has no physical form and is able to roam freely the global information highways, and its intelligence in hacking and manipulating data makes it a potential threat even to its creators.

The Puppy Master? ^_^Surfing the immense networks, the information-based creature gained self-awarenesss and considers itself a living being, demanding the acknowledgement of its existence. The lines between the definition of what is artificial and what is alive were blurred. Its creators decided to isolate the Puppet Master into a contained cyborg 'shell' to separate it from the net. The Puppet Master got the upper hand over Section 6's security loopholes and managed to escape, manipulating and leaving trails of its activities to be picked up and eventually ending up in the hands of Section 9. In the middle of the discussion between Chief Aramaki of S9 and S6's representatives, the Puppet Master awakened and dismissed S6's claim of being its 'owner'. It demands political asylum from Section 9, claiming and justifying its existence as a new life form. Section 6 decided to play dirty and sabotaged S9's headquarters, forcibly removing the Puppet Master from Section 9's premises. Fortunately this manouver has been monitored by Togusa and Motoko's team ever since they realised something was criminally wrong with Section 6's presence in Section 9. The team trailed the Puppet Master and its 'kidnappers' through the city in a dark, rainy night...

Where's the Fuchikoma?!?Kusanagi decided to take out the white sedan car suspected of carrying the Puppet Master by herself. Descending from a helicopter to an abandoned warehouse (or museum?) where the car stopped, Motoko didn't realise what she was up against. Picking up a strange shield surrounding the car, Motoko had her helicopters blow away the roof, the splatter of the wet rain damaged the opto-cam revealing the 'bodyguard'. Apparently Section 6 decided to use a spider-like tank as an escort. They were pretty determined to keep the Puppet master in their hands. Good ol' Motoko. One look at the tank and she decided she could take it out on her own. Well, she was wrong. Slugging out with her machine gun and finally resorting to her bare hands to pry open the tank, Major Kusanagi just isn't built to take on a tank one on one. On the verge of getting her skull crushed, backup finally arrived in the form of Batou packing an anti-tank bazooka. With little of her body remaining intact, Motoko requested Batou to hook her up to the Puppet Master's body, in order to salvage whatever information that was left there. Meanwhile, the destroyer squad is closing in on the warehouse...

Can we be good friends? ^_^Attempting to access the Puppet Master's systems, Motoko Kusanagi was disabled and taken over by the Puppet Master. After shutting out Batou, the Puppet Master proceeded with its exchange with Motoko. Explaining its origins and purpose to Motoko, the Puppet Master told her that it had known about her and Section 9 for a long time, before they even knew it existed. The Puppet Master had been watching Motoko ever since and had a proposal for her. Although considering itself to be a life-form, the Puppet Master still had one requirement- it needs a permanent physical existence. There is still danger of being wiped out by a single virus program and its inability to reproduce offspring of different varieties threatens the survival of the network creature as a life form. To overcome this, it proposed a merge with Motoko, where she gains its massive knowledge and networking capabilities and the Puppet Master gains physical existence. Motoko agreed, but had a question. 'Why me?' asked Motoko. 'Because I see myself in you' replied the outcome of Project 2501.

Aah.. the Net is Vast!Tracker beams from the destroyers above were searching for their targets- The Puppet Master and Motoko Kusanagi's heads. They were on orders to eliminate the Puppet master once and for all, taking out Major Kusanagi as well. In a split second after the agreement between Motoko and the Puppet Master, laser beams were shot and blows off the two cyborgs but not before Batou managed to get his hand between the beam and Motoko's brain. Assuming the mission carried out successfully, the destroyers faded away into the night sky... Fast forward to an apartment on the hilltop where a child cyborg was resting. This is Batou's place, and the cyborg is the new Motoko now fused with the Puppet Master. Achieving a new level of existence with the Puppet Master's knowledge and database, the confident new Kusanagi steps out into her new life. Firstly she will need to 'reproduce'- to have children in her new form to ensure the survival of her new form.

What will she do now? The Net is vast...

MSHP takes apart the GITS movie

Honestly speaking, I am not exactly impressed with the Ghost In The Shell movie. While it has received numerous thumbs-up and rave reviews all around (backed up by equally impressive sales figures and is the top choice of anime releases in any new format), it has failed miserably to live up to its expectations (my expectations to be exact) and does not do justice to Sensei Shirow's original manga. So for those who adore and worship the movie and just likes Shirow purely because of this, stop here. The following will only annoy you. Those who want to know my opinions and why I don't think much of it, do read on.

Note: Sensei Shirow said that all he did for the movie was 'give his signature' (i.e. permission) to Sensei Oshii to do the movie and that's all. Therefore, I consider this movie to be Oshii's work rather than Sensei Shirow's.

Hey, at least smile abit!No Soul. Oshii's GITS vs Shirow's GITS: One of the most stark and unbearable feature of the animated version of GITS is the lack of emotion. I don't know if this was intentional on the part of the animation team or a serious misinterpretation of Sensei Shirow's work. In Shirow's manga version, Major Kusanagi is a cool character. She hangs out with her girlfriends, goes around in casual dressing and shades, makes little jokes with chief Aramaki and her colleagues, enjoys a drink or two at the bar, has a boyfriend, but is a dead-serious professional when it comes to her work at Section 9. The movie version Motoko is just... dead. No emotion, no life, no nothing. And selfish too. While the manga Kusanagi has survival instincts and is a good team player, in the movie Motoko is somewhat rash and likes to take things into her own hands (taking over Togusa's car chase in the garbage man scene, taking on the S6 Tank without even requesting backup etc.). I'm not entirely sure this is really the reliable top agent of Section 9 Public Security. I don't know why on earth did the Puppet Master want someone like that as a physical extension. She doesn't have anything human to offer the AI creature. Remember that Motoko has a human brain and spinal cord left intact, and that is her 'Ghost' within the cybernetic body. She isn't a robot manufactured exclusively by artificial means. And not only Motoko. All the side characters in the movie seemed so stiff and unhappy about something. No one even smiled. Is the future such a dreadful time? Maybe this is director Oshii's style and maybe the main focus of the movie was supposed to be on special effects and serious issues. It is a great pity not to devote some time to the characters' personalities as Shirow's GITS cast is such an interesting lot.

This is how it should be!Better on paper than on screen: It is obviously impossible and impractical to be 100% faithful to the manga design and storyline, let alone trying to squeeze in a thick 345-page volume worth of scenes and footnote details in about 83 minutes of film. Movie adaptations tend to look for a compromise, either by just making part of the book as the gist of the story or just taking the original concept + cast and build a whole new world around them. In the case of GITS, it is a combination of both, badly put together. I have read Otomo's Akira before and I thought the anime adaptation was a great effort. Its always exciting to see the drawings and pages of your favourite mangas 'coming to life' on the big screen. Dissapointment again for this Shirow fan. This is not to say that the movie missed the point completely, but I feel that it could be better. Director Oshii chose the garbage truck scene and blended it in with the hacking of the foreign minister's secretary and going directly to Project 2501 conflict with Section 6. A good great chunk of the movie relies heavily on special, realistic effects to keep the viewers on the screen rather than interest in the plot. And like I mentioned before, the animation especially the characters are very 'dead'. I can't feel for them the way I could with Shirow's manga. Also the backgrounds and architecture seem to be very 'hard-edged' where Shirow's style / design tend to be more 'organic' e.g. blobs shaped like mushrooms or insect hives are quite prominent. Yes, the movie needs to be somewhat 'original' and 'different' from the manga. But what's the point of 'adapting' Ghost In The Shell when the original concept and feel of Shirow's manga is re-written to this extent? Might as well just do an original title from the start. While the GITS manga is one of the top 5 mangas ever for me (the other 4 being Shirow's other titles!) the movie isn't even in my top 10 list of anime favourites.

Ride a Fuchikoma! GITS PSX KusanagiCan anyone do any better then?: Are all these criticisms unjustified and have no basis? The fact that GITS the movie is supposed to be unique and no one can do it better? Not. There is another Ghost In The Shell project that is in my opinion, far superior than the movie. And that is the GITS PSX game, produced by SCEI / Production I.G. / Kodansha for the Sony Playstation. From the animation sequences, graphics, storyline, to music soundtracks are all far far better than what the GITS movie can achieve. Not to mention the Fuchikoma plays center stage in this game. I am pretty sure the Fuchikoma is a closer representation of Sensei Shirow's genius mecha design than the think-tank. The game manages to capture Shirow's mood for the GITS series and the character's personalities to the dot. Just watching the stage ending animation sequences is such a joy to a Shirow / Ghost fan. While I still have my own (lousy, crazy) ideas on how a Shirow game should be made, I have no complaints whatsoever regarding the animation, graphic and sound work. While the movie left me disillusioned, the game alone restored my faith that there are good teams out there who can do a decent spin-off of Sensei Shirow's brilliant works. More about the plus points and a detailed review in the GITS PSX game section (coming soon! - Lucas)

Shirow's original is still the best!In Conclusion: Everyone has their own opinions and views on how the GITS movie turned out to be. For me, I'm very dissapointed. The movie in general is nothing special (except for the special effects) and is a far cry from the original Shirow GITS. I wouldn't recommend this to someone who is curious about Sensei Shirow's works or anyone who is interested to get into anime as a beginner. I'd rather recommend people to sample the GITS manga directly. And just for the sake of watching a sci-fi-ish anime watch Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, Sensei Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita or the more mellow but thought-provoking Serial Experiments Lain to name a few. There is a saying: Too many good cooks spoil the broth, and this is what I think happened to the GITS movie. I rate it a lowly 5/10 (I give stuff like Trigun and Karekano a 8/10 , and Digi Charat a 9/10 to give you an idea of my scale. I'm not hard to impress!). Purely for those who appreciate special effects and high-budget in an anime and of course, the loyal Shirow fan. Otherwise, I say give this movie a pass. Put your money into completing your collection of Shirow mangas, or use it for Shirow animes like Black Magic M-66 or Dominion Tank Police (Parts 1 & 2) instead (but don't touch Appleseed and Landlock either!). If there is ever going to be a sequel, I seriously hope the animation team for the GITS PSX game is in charge!

- End - Lucas, 5th July 2000.

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