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Ghost in the Shell (1995 film)

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Ghost in the Shell
Ghostintheshellposter.jpg
Japanese film poster
Directed byMamoru Oshii
Produced by
Screenplay byKazunori Itō
Based onGhost in the Shell
by Masamune Shirow
Starring
Music byKenji Kawai
CinematographyHisao Shirai
Edited by
  • Shūichi Kakesu
  • Shigeyuki Yamamori
Production
company
Distributed by
Release date
  • 18 November 1995 (1995-11-18) (Japan)
  • 8 December 1995 (1995-12-08) (United Kingdom)
Running time
82 minutes[2]
Country
LanguageJapanese
Budget$10 million[5]
Box office$43 million

Ghost in the Shell[a] is a 1995 anime cyberpunk film based on the manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow. It was written by Kazunori Itō and directed by Mamoru Oshii, and stars the voices of Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka, and Iemasa Kayumi. Ghost in the Shell was a Japanese-British international co-production, produced by Kodansha, Bandai Visual and Manga Entertainment, with animation provided by Production I.G.

The plot follows Motoko Kusanagi, a public-security agent, who hunts the mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. The philosophical themes include self-identity in a technologically advanced world. The music, composed by Kenji Kawai, includes an ancient Japanese language.

Widely considered one of the greatest anime films of all time, critics particularly praised the film's visuals, achieved through a combination of traditional cel animation and CGI animation. The film, which had a budget over $10 million, was initially a box office failure, before drawing a cult following on home video, and eventually grossing approximately $43 million in total box office and home video sales revenue. It inspired filmmakers such as the Wachowskis, creators of the Matrix films, and James Cameron. In 2004, Oshii directed Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, billed as a separate work and not a true sequel. In 2008, Oshii released an updated version of the original film, Ghost in the Shell 2.0, featuring new audio and updated 3D animation. A live-action adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson was released in 2017.

Plot[edit]

In 2029, with the advance of cybernetic technology, the human body can be "augmented" or even completely replaced with cybernetic parts. Another significant achievement is the cyberbrain, a mechanical casing for the human brain that allows access to the Internet and other networks. An often-mentioned term is "ghost", referring to the consciousness inhabiting the body (the "shell").

Major Motoko Kusanagi is an assault-team leader for the Public Security Section 9 of "New Port City" in Japan. Following a request from Nakamura, chief of Section 6, she successfully assassinates a diplomat of a foreign country to prevent a programmer named Daita from defecting.

The Foreign Minister's interpreter is ghost-hacked, presumably to assassinate VIPs in an upcoming meeting. Believing the perpetrator is the mysterious Puppet Master, Kusanagi's team follows the traced telephone calls that sent the virus. After a chase, they capture a garbage man and a thug. However, both are only ghost-hacked individuals with no clue about the Puppet Master. The investigation again comes to a dead end.

Megatech Body, a "shell" manufacturer with suspected close ties to the government, is hacked and assembles a cybernetic body. The body escapes but is hit by a truck. As Section 9 examines the body, they find a human "ghost" inside its computer brain. Unexpectedly, Section 6's department chief Nakamura arrives to reclaim the body. He claims that the "ghost" inside the brain is the Puppet Master himself, lured into the body by Section 6. The body reactivates itself, claims to be a sentient being and requests political asylum. After the Puppet Master initiates a brief argument about what constitutes a human, a camouflaged agent accompanying Nakamura starts a diversion and gets away with the body.

Having suspected foul play, Kusanagi's team is prepared and immediately pursues the agent. Meanwhile, Section 9 researches "Project 2501", mentioned earlier by the Puppet Master, and finds a connection with Daita, whom Section 6 tries to keep from defecting the country. Facing the discovered information, Daisuke Aramaki, chief of Section 9, concludes that Section 6 created the Puppet Master itself for various political purposes. This is why Section 6 is desperately trying to reclaim the body.

Kusanagi follows the car carrying the body to an abandoned building. It is protected by a large tachikoma. Anxious to face the Puppet Master's ghost, Kusanagi engages the tank without backup and is mostly dismembered and nearly killed. Her partner Batou arrives in time to save her, and helps connect her brain to the Puppet Master's.

The Puppet Master explains to Kusanagi that he was created by Section 6. While wandering various networks, he became sentient and began to contemplate his existence. Deciding the essence of humanity is reproduction and mortality, he wants to exist within a physical brain that will eventually die. As he could not escape Section 6's network, he had to download himself into a cybernetic body. Having interacted with Kusanagi (without her knowledge), he believes she is also questioning her humanity, and they have a lot in common. He proposes merging their ghosts, in return, Kusanagi would gain all of his capabilities. Kusanagi agrees to the merge.

Snipers from Section 6 approach the building, intending to destroy the Puppet Master's and Kusanagi's brains to cover up Project 2501. The Puppet Master's shell is destroyed, but Batou shields Kusanagi's head in time to save her brain. As Section 9 closes in on the site, the snipers retreat.

"Kusanagi" wakes up in Batou's safe house with her previous shell's head attached to a new cyborg child body. She tells Batou that the entity within her body is neither Kusanagi nor the Puppet Master, but a combination of both. She promises Batou they will meet again, leaves the house and wonders where to go next.

Voice cast[edit]

Character Japanese English
(Pseudonyms in parenthesis)[6]
Motoko Kusanagi Atsuko Tanaka
Maaya Sakamoto (young Motoko)
Mimi Woods
Batou Akio Ōtsuka Richard Epcar (Richard George)
The Puppet Master Iemasa Kayumi (original)
Yoshiko Sakakibara (2.0)
Tom Wyner (Abe Lasser)
Togusa Kōichi Yamadera Christopher Joyce
Chief Aramaki Tamio Ōki William Frederick Knight (William Frederick)
Ishikawa Yutaka Nakano Michael Sorich
Chief Nakamura Tesshō Genda Simon Prescott (Ben Isaacson)
Mizuho Daita Mitsuru Miyamoto Richard Cansino (Steve Davis)
Garbage Collector A Kazuhiro Yamaji Kevin Seymour (Tom Carlton)
Garbage Collector B Shigeru Chiba Doug Stone

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Director Mamoru Oshii in 2008

Director Mamoru Oshii stated, "My intuition told me that this story about a futuristic world carried an immediate message for our present world. I am also interested in computers through my own personal experience with them. I had the same feeling about Patlabor and I thought it would be interesting to make a film that took place in the near future. There are only a few movies, even out of Hollywood, which clearly portray the influence and power of computers. I thought this theme would be more effectively conveyed through animation."[7] Oshii expanded on these thoughts in a later interview, noting that technology changes people and had become a part of the culture of Japan. He commented that his use of philosophy caused producers to become frustrated because of sparing use of action scenes. Oshii also acknowledged that a movie with more action would sell better, but he continued to make these movies anyway.[8] When Oshii went back to make changes to the original Ghost in the Shell to re-release it as Ghost in the Shell 2.0, one of the reasons he gave was that the film did not resemble the sequel. He wanted to update the film to reflect changes in perspective.[9]

Design[edit]

Hiroyuki Okiura, the character designer and key animation supervisor, designed a more mature and serious Motoko than Masamune Shirow's original portrayal of the character in the manga. Okiura chose to depict a physically mature person to match Motoko's mental age, instead of the youthful twenty-something appearance in the manga.[7] Motoko's demeanor lacks the comedic facial expressions and rebellious nature depicted in the manga.

Oshii based the setting for Ghost in the Shell on Hong Kong. Oshii commented that his first thought to find an image of the future setting was an Asian city, but finding a suitable cityscape of the future would be impossible. Oshii chose to use the real streets of Hong Kong as his model.[10] He also said that Hong Kong was the perfect subject and theme for the film with its countless signs and the cacophony of sounds.[7] The film's mecha designer Takeuchi Atsushi noted that while the film does not have a chosen setting, it is obviously based on Hong Kong because the city represented the theme of the film, the old and the new which exist in a strange relationship in an age of an information deluge. Before shooting the film, the artists drew sketches that emphasized Hong Kong's chaotic, confusing and overwhelming aspects.[10]

Animation[edit]

Ghost in the Shell used a novel process called "digitally generated animation" (DGA), which is a combination of cel animation, computer graphics (CG), and audio that is entered as digital data. In 1995, DGA was thought to be the future of animation, which mixed traditional animation with the emerging use of computer graphics, including digital cel work with visual displays. Editing was performed on an AVID system of Avid Technology, which was chosen because it was more versatile and less limiting than other methods and worked with the different types of media in a single environment.[7]

The digital cel work included both original illustrations, compositions and manipulation with traditional cel animation to create a sense of depth and evoke emotion and feelings. Utilized as background, filters like a lens effect were used to create a sense of depth and motion, by distorting the front background and making the far background out of focus throughout the shot. Ghost in the Shell used a unique lighting system in which light and darkness were integrated into the cels with attention to light and shadow sources instead of using contrast to control the light. Hiromasa Ogura, the art director, described this as "a very unusual lighting technique".[7]

Some special effects, like Motoko's "thermo-optical camouflage", were rendered through the use of TIMA software. The process uses a single illustration and manipulates the image as necessary to produce distortions for effect in combination with a background without altering the original illustration. The effect is re-added back into the shot to complete the scene. While the visual displays used in the film were technically simple to create, the appearance of the displays underwent numerous revisions by the production team to best represent visual displays of the future. Another aspect of the CG use was to create images and effects that looked as if they were "perceived by the brain" and were generated in video and added to the film in its final stages.[7]

The opening credits of the film were produced by the CG director, Seichi Tanaka. Tanaka converted code in a computer language displayed in romanized Japanese letters to numbers before inserting them into the computer to generate the credits. The origin of this code is the names of the film's staff as written in a computer language.[7]

Animation director Toshihiko Nishikubo was responsible for the realism and strove for accurate depictions of movement and effects. The pursuit of realism included the staff conducting firearms research at a facility in Guam. Nishikubo has highlighted the tank scene as an example of the movie's realism, noting that bullets create sparks when hitting metal, but do not spark when a bullet strikes stone.[7]

Audio[edit]

Ghost in the Shell's recording was done with a high-end studio to achieve superior sound throughout the film. A spatializer was used to alter the sound, specifically in the electronic brain conversations, to modify the voices.[7]

Composer Kenji Kawai scored the film. For the main theme, Kawai tried to imagine the setting and convey the essence of that world in the music. He used Classical Japanese in the opening theme "Making of a Cyborg".[7] The composition is a mixture of Bulgarian harmony[11][12] and traditional Japanese notes; the haunting chorals are a wedding song sung to dispel all evil influences. Symphony conductor Sarah Penicka-Smith notes that the song's lyrics are fitting for the union between Kusanagi and Project 2501 at the climax of the movie.[13] Kawai originally wanted to use Bulgarian folk music singers, but used Japanese folk singers instead.[11] "See You Everyday" is different from the rest of the soundtrack, being a pop song sung in Cantonese by Fang Ka Wing.[14]

The ending credits theme of the film's English version is "One Minute Warning" by Passengers, a collaboration between U2 and Brian Eno. The song appeared on the album Original Soundtracks 1, and was one of three songs on that album to actually be featured in a film.[15][16] Andy Frain, the founder of Manga Entertainment and an executive producer on the film, was a former marketing director for Island Records, the record label that publishes U2's songs.[4]

Releases[edit]

The film had its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October 1995, before its general release in November.[7]

The "2.0" version was released in theatres in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Sapporo on July 12, 2008.[17]

The film grossed $10 million in global box office revenue, but this fell short of the film's budget, thus failing to recoup production costs.[5] However, the film drew a cult following on home video, with the film grossing approximately $43 million in total box office and home video sales revenue.

Home media[edit]

In Japan, the film was released on VHS on April 26, 1996.[18] The DVD version was released on February 25, 2004 as a Special Edition release. For the 2004 Special Edition release, the film was fully restored and digitally remastered from the original film elements in 4x3 original fullscreen form and in 16x9 anamorphic letterboxed widescreen form, and the audio was digitally remixed in English & Japanese 6.1 DTS-ES and 5.1 Dolby Digital EX Surround Sound for superior picture and sound quality and for optimum home theater presentation. Ghost in the Shell was released on Blu-ray on August 24, 2007.[19][20] A special edition was released in December 2004.[21] The special edition contains an additional disc containing character dossiers, a creator biography, the director's biography, Ghost in the Shell trailers and previews.[22]

The film was released in DVD and Blu-ray on December 19, 2008, in Japan.[23][24]

In the United States, the film was released on VHS on June 18, 1996, through Manga Entertainment, and on DVD on March 31, 1998, by Anchor Bay Entertainment.[25][26] Like the much later Japanese "Special Edition", the DVD is a fully restored and digitally remastered cut with multiple language tracks, but unlike the Japanese release, it includes a 30-minute documentary on the making of the film.[27] Manga Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray on November 24, 2009; this version contains the original film and the remastering, but omits the audio commentary and face-to-face interview with Oshii, which are listed on its box.[28][29] Manga Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment re-released the film on Blu-ray with a brand new HD film print on September 23, 2014.[30] The release was met with criticism for its poorly-translated English subtitles and lack of special features.[31]

In August 1996, Ghost in the Shell became the first Japanese film to top the Billboard video sales chart, with over 200,000 VHS copies sold.[32] By 2002, the film's home video releases sold more than 1.6 million units worldwide,[33] including over 100,000 units in Japan and more than 1 million units in the United States.[34] At a retail price of $19.95,[35] the film grossed approximately $32 million in video sales revenue. In 2017, the Blu-ray release sold 26,487 copies and grossed $675,002 in the United States,[36] bringing the film's total worldwide video sales to 1.63 million units and approximately $33 million gross revenue.

Other media[edit]

Kenji Kawai's original soundtrack for the film was released on November 22, 1995.[14] The last track included Yoshimasa Mizuno's pop song "See You Everyday".[37] After the release of Ghost in the Shell 2.0, an updated version of the soundtrack was released on December 17, 2008.[38]

A Photo-CD of the film was released in Japan on November 20, 1995.[39] A spin-off novel written by Endo Akira, titled Ghost in the Shell: Burning City (攻殻機動隊灼熱の都市, Kōkaku kidōtai shakunetsu no toshi), was published by Kodansha and released on November 1995.[40] It was followed by a sequel, titled Ghost in the Shell 2: Star Seed (攻殻機動隊2: Star Seed), released on January 1998.[41] A book titled Analysis of Ghost in the Shell was released on September 25, 1997, by Kodansha.[42]

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 re-release[edit]

An updated version of the original film, titled Ghost in the Shell 2.0 (GHOST IN THE SHELL/攻殻機動隊 2.0, Gōsuto in za sheru / Kōkaku kidōtai 2.0), was made in celebration for the release of The Sky Crawlers in 2008.[43][44] The Ghost in the Shell 2.0 release features replacements of some animations with the latest digital film and animation technologies, such as 3D-CG while retaining sections of the original footage. It includes a new opening, digital screens and holographic displays, and omits several brief scenes.[45]

The original soundtrack was also re-arranged and re-recorded. Kenji Kawai remixed the Version 2.0 soundtrack in 6.1 Channel Surround. Randy Thom of Skywalker Sound reprised his role as sound designer, having worked previously on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.[43] In the new soundtrack, the Japanese voice dialogue was also re-recorded, with some variation from the original script to modernize the speech. Yoshiko Sakakibara replaced Iemasa Kayumi as the voice of the Puppet Master.[43]

Reception[edit]

The film was a box office hit when released in Japan. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 7.77/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "A stunning feat of modern animation, Ghost in the Shell offers a thoughtful, complex treat for anime fans, as well as a perfect introduction for viewers new to the medium."[46] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on 14 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[47]

James Cameron cited Ghost in the Shell as a source of inspiration: "The first truly adult animation film to reach a level of literary and visual excellence". Niels Matthijs of Twitch Film praised the film, stating, "Not only is Kokaku Kidotai an essential film in the canon of Japanese animation, together with Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky's Solyaris it completes a trio of book adaptations that transcend the popularity of their originals and [give] a new meaning to an already popular brand." (note that 2001 is not actually an adaptation). He ranked it #48 of his personal favorites.[48] Clark Collis of Empire opined that the film was predictable, but praised its production values.[49] Johnathan Mays of Anime News Network praised the animation combined with the computer effects, calling it "perhaps the best synthesis ever witnessed in anime".[50] Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies describes the film as "one of the best anime ever made", praising screenplay, an "atmospheric score", and adding that "action scenes as good as anything in the current Hollywood blockbuster are supported by CGI effects that can still astonish".[51] Roger Ebert rated the film three out of four stars, praising the visuals, soundtrack and themes, but felt that the film was "too complex and murky to reach a large audience ... it's not until the second hour that the story begins to reveal its meaning".[15]

Ghost in the Shell was the first anime video to reach Billboard's No. 1 video slot at the time of its release.[21] The film ranked as the ninth top selling anime DVD movie in 2006.[52] In February 2004, Cinefantastique listed the anime as one of the "10 Essential Animations".[53] It ranked 35 on Total Film's 2010 top list of 50 Animated Films.[54] The film ranked No. 4 on Wizards Anime Magazine on their "Top 50 Anime released in North America".[55]

Ghost in the Shell influenced a number of prominent filmmakers. The Wachowskis, creators of The Matrix and its sequels, showed it to producer Joel Silver, saying, "We wanna do that for real."[56] The Matrix series took several concepts from the film, including the Matrix digital rain, which was inspired by the opening credits of Ghost in the Shell, and the way characters access the Matrix through holes in the back of their necks.[57] Other parallels have been drawn to James Cameron's Avatar, Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Jonathan Mostow's Surrogates.[57] James Cameron cited Ghost in the Shell as a source of inspiration,[58] citing it as an influence on Avatar.[59]

Themes[edit]

One of the many interpretations of the film that critics and analysts have flocked towards is centered around sexuality and gender identity, and how they have interpreted the film's depiction of these concepts.[60] Sharalyn Orbaugh has noted that the opening scene of Ghost in the Shell begins with the "perfect paradoxical introduction to a narrative that is all about the nature of sex/gender identity and self-identity in general in a future world where sexual reproduction has given way to mechanical replication".[61] Motoko's female identity and appearance are countered by an autonomous subjectivity, resulting in a cyborg body without reproductive organs which cannot menstruate.[62][note 1] Orbaugh describes the juxtaposition of the opening scene depicting the creation of Motoko's body and to her lack of menstruation as setting the theme of "reproductive sexuality in a posthuman subject".[62][note 2]

The film depicts Motoko's identity and ontological concerns and ends with the evolution of the Puppet Master, a being without reproduction.[62] Austin Corbett characterized the lack of sexualization from her team as freedom from femininity, noting that Motoko is "overtly feminine, and clearly non-female".[64] In describing Motoko as a "shapely" and "strong [female protagonist] at the center of the story" who is "nevertheless almost continuously nude", Roger Ebert noted that "an article about anime in a recent issue of Film Quarterly suggests that to be a 'salary man' in modern Japan is so exhausting and dehumanizing that many men (who form the largest part of the animation audience) project both freedom and power onto women, and identify with them as fictional characters".[15] Carl Silvio has called Ghost in the Shell a "resistant film", due to its inversion of traditional gender roles, its "valorization of the post-gendered subject", and its de-emphasis of the sexual specificity of the material body.[65]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In the Japanese-language version, Kusanagi responds to a complaint, "there's static in your brain", with the remark that "it's that time of the month".[63] The English dubbed version from Manga Video changes the line to "Must be a loose wire". Orbaugh described this change as "sanitized".[62]
  2. ^ Orbaugh: "The juxtaposition, in the first five minutes of the film, of her reference to menstruation with the scenes of her cyborgian replication, immediately underscores the fact that this film's theme is the problematic of reproductive sexuality in a posthuman subject."[62]
  1. ^ Mobile Armored Riot Police: Ghost in the Shell (Japanese: 攻殻機動隊 GHOST IN THE SHELL, Hepburn: Kōkaku Kidōtai Gōsuto In Za Sheru)

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Further reading[edit]

  • (in French) Sébastien Denis. “L’esprit et l’enveloppe : De quelques personnages utopiques”, CinémAction 115 (2005): [whole issue].
  • William O. Gardner. “The Cyber Sublime and the Virtual Mirror: Information and Media in the Works of Oshii Mamoru and Kon Satoshi”, Canadian Journal of Film Studies 18, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 44–70.
  • Dan Persons. “Ghost in the Shell”, Cinefantastique 28, no. 1 (August 1996): 46–51.
  • Brian Ruh. “Ghost in the Shell (1995)”, in Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, pp. 119–140.
  • Joseph Christopher Schaub. “Kusanagi's Body: Gender and Technology in Mecha-anime”, Asian Journal of Communication 11, no. 2 (2001): 79–100.
  • Ueno Toshiya. “Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism”, Documentary Box 9, no. 31 (Dec 1996): 1–5.

External links[edit]