Length — 1hr 23 mins
What does it mean to be a human? In a world where the boundary between humans and machines has been blurred by the controversial procedure of body augmentation, we find ourselves coming back to the question over and over again.
The story follows the path of Major Kusanagi Motoko and his second in command, Batou in their journey through a futuristic megacity to find the mysterious Puppetmaster—a master hacker who has hacked numerous augmented humans—and in a deeper sense, the meaning of their own existences as cyborgs. Born human, turned machines, we gape in awe and astonishment, as the duo dives—a favorite sport of Mokoto—deeper and deeper into the collective consciousness of the great fabric of information connecting the city, deeper into the “Net”.
“Just as there are many parts needed to make a human a human, there’s a remarkable number of things needed to make an individual what they are”—Puppetmaster
Cyberpunk at its best, this genius adaptation of the manga by Shirow Masaume lays down a deep and convoluted story before us, often asking the hard questions about life and existence. They don’t provide the answers to them, nor do they try to. In that sense, it is extremely open-ended and up for interpretation. The answer, difficult for cyborgs, becomes incomprehensible for a being that is born our of the collective consciousness in the Net. One that did not have a body to begin with, but had a mind of its own. How does one classify such a being? Is it human? For it surely has the consciousness and mind of a living being. Or is it a machine? For it was born out of information and data, though vast and insurmountable as an ocean. We search in vain for the answer. However, the credit of GITS lies in maintaining a steady and balanced pace in spite of such deep philosophical questions. A unique blend of cyberpunk and philosophy, this masterpiece of an anime creates a deep impact, both on the spirit and on the mind.
To reproduce and propagate its progeny is the innermost instinct of every biological organism. But we cannot fathom the disturbance that an organism which is not biological faces in its course. Its is afraid of its own death, but it cannot reproduce. It cannot transfer its living information as we organisms do through our genetic code. Thus an omnipotent machine loses to even the simplest beings. Thus it seeks to merge with a living being. On the other hand, in the midst of a tumultuous evolving human society, Makoto moves through a polluted and heavily urbanised locality in search of the Puppetmaster, all the while fighting her own inner battles. When they meet, we see the birth of a trans-human affection, the love between a man and a machine. They finally merge, perhaps not in a physical sense, but their consciousnesses merge together to form something new. Thus perhaps, we see the first offspring of a human and a program. Just as humans are shells without their souls, a machine is a shell without its ghost or alternatively, its consciousness. That is the fundamental theory behind Ghost in the Shell.
The art and animation of the anime is old-fashioned which is of no surprise since it was made in the ‘90s. It is good, and depicts the characters clearly. For the uninitiated, I would point out that there is a little bit of nudity—though nothing serious and never over the top. There are a few action scenes in the movie. The directions and the screenplay were smooth as butter. I really liked the action scenes near the end, where Makoto battles with the tank. Her movements were fluid. Another great example of the great art was the thermo-optical camoflauge suits. The invisibility was depicted as a lenticular object. This was a great example of a difficult artwork, for such images are difficult to draw. Other than the usual action scenes, there were few scenes which depicted the city and the environment in general—which I really liked. All in all we can get a very good depiction of the city, the buildings and the life in general in the megacity. Bottom line is that the art was very polished, though a tad bit old.
The soundtrack of the movie really shined. The traditional Chinese theme of the OST really dissolved within the brilliant screenplay to bring out all those extra flavors in the film. They gave us the true feel of the city buried in technology. Other than the OST’s, the sound effects were great. The gunshots, the typing of the computers, the sound of traffic—all were very clear and vivid. The voice acting all was brilliant. On the topic of voice acting, Mokoto’s character was really brought out due to her voice. The voice of naturally cold Mokoto, softened during her conversation with the Puppetmaster to induce awe and affection. All of this is to the credit of precise voice acting and sound. But, I felt that the opening end ending songs could have been much better. A deeply thought-provoking story, I find it to be extremely intellectual and deep. In the minds of specific audience, this story is a gem, but this is not a simple story by any lengths. Cyberpunk and philosophy—two extremely difficult subjects have come together to create this very difficult movie. I personally think that this is neither a movie for the casual audience nor for a casual sitting. This movie asks some very difficult questions cocooned in its shell of cyberpunk, but does not attempt to answer them. A certain bit of philosophic outlook and maturity is needed to enjoy this movie, else it may seem to be cheeky and pretentious. But at the end of the day, there is one thing that the movie establishes thoroughly—a great philosophical teaching.
“There’s nothing sadder than a puppet without a ghost”—Mokoto Kusanagi