Yesterday: Ghost in the Shell (Oshii, 1995)
…Or, more accurately, Ghost in the Shell 2.0, which is not a sequel but a 2008 remastered version of the 1995 movie, offering upgraded animations on a few scenes and not much else (in fact the switch from 1995 2D cel shading to 2008 3D digital rendering and back again can be quite jarring at times).
It’s 2029 in the (fictional) Japanese city of New Port. Cybernetics has become so advanced and accessible that virtually every part of the human body can be replaced and/or augmented by a superior robotic simile, and almost everybody has at least some form of cybernetic enhancement. Major Motoko Kusanagi, a leading field operative for New Port’s “Section 9” public security division (a sort of cyberpunk FBI, if you like) has been enhanced with a complete state-of-the-art cyborg body - or “shell” - to such a degree that only her consciousness - or “ghost” - remains of her human form. Kusanagi and her team are on the trail of “The Puppet Master”, an incredibly dangerous cyber-terrorist who can hack into the augmented portions of peoples’ bodies and minds in order to force them to commit politically motivated atrocities such as assassinations and whatnot. But, the closer Kusanagi gets to The Puppet Master’s true identity, the further away he seems to get. One thing’s for sure, though: He’s after her, too.
I haven’t seen GitS for many years and, obviously enough, I’ve given it a run-out now in advance of the imminent live-action American remake starring Scarlett Johansson as The Major. I remember, before I’d ever seen it, being slightly intimidated; by anime in general - an intimidation which stayed with me for many more years - but more specifically by the movie’s reputation as a fairly inaccessible piece. It’s really not, though. In fact I don’t know if it’s because I’ve seen it a few times now or if it’s because I’ve seen a lot more anime in the last few years but, this time, I was struck by how relatively easy Ghost in the Shell is to follow. It’s keen on posing philosophical conundrums about the nature of what it is to be human, as so many sci-fi movies do, but its plot is quite straightforward. It’s only about 80 minutes long too, so if you’ve never taken the plunge, you should. It’s one of the finest films of its type. Hugely influential, too; you can see The Wachowski’s 1999 classic The Matrix in almost every scene.