Ghost in the Shell: Special Edition (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Release Date: Monday, September 22, 2003
What They Say
Mamoru Oshii's futuristic animated masterpiece, 'Ghost In The Shell', is the perfect film to experience on DVD. Seamlessly merging traditional cel animation with the latest computer graphic imagery, this stunning sci-fi spectacle has broken the boundaries of mainstream animation with its detailed artistic direction and uniquely intelligent story line.
Aided by an esoteric Kenji Kawai score, 'Ghost In The Shell' took the world by storm in 1996, introducing a new wave of Japanese animation through its mesmerzing cinematic expression. A movie that questions our own human existence in the fast-paced world of the information age, this remarkable, award-winning, cyber-tech thriller has gone on to become one of the leading Japanese animation films of all time.
One of the most renowned anime films in the world returns to DVD in a special edition that fixes the flaws with the original release.
For my review I watched the film with the English 5.1 track. The sound comes across really well with all the action scenes coming out very well with nice directionality, and Kenji Kawai’s excellent score just sounds brilliant here. I didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions on this track, nor the Japanese and English stereo tracks that I spot-checked. In fact, the Japanese stereo track is finally fixed; the main purpose of this release. The original release of the film on DVD had the Japanese track about half a second out of sync with the on-screen action, which was extremely frustrating for anyone wanting to listen in the film’s original language. Thankfully, there’s no longer a problem here.
The transfer for this new release appears to be essentially the same as the original release. It is good, but in some ways it’s showing its age as colours look ever so slightly washed out (it’s barely noticeable though), and there are a few occurrences of compression artefacts and occasions where you can see nicks and scratches on the print. Overall though, it is a very good transfer that’s easy to enjoy.
The subtitles on this disc are in a clear, yellow font that’s quite easy to read, if a bit too transparent at times.
This new disc follows the same trend as most Manga releases for the past couple of years, with a cardboard slipcover over the case featuring the original, classic image that adorned the original release. It features Kusanagi naked (you can only see her very upper-body), plugged in wearing shades looming over the city. The DVD case’s artwork is a different image of Kusanagi, holding a gun with wires coming out of her as she cyber-dives. The back of both the slipcover and the case feature three screenshots, a cast lust, a synopsis and some quotes from various people including James Cameron. There’s also a listing of the special features, which includes the technical specs.
The menu has a green theme, with the background being an array of numbers in green, with the show’s logo at the top of the screen. Clips from the film play through a series of shapes cutting through the background, and the four selections are at the bottom of the screen while music from the soundtrack plays in the background. Sub-menus are all static, with no music playing but in the same visual style as the main menu. The system is quite fitting with the film and very functional.
This disc has a nice selection of extras. The main attraction is a making of featurette, which covers pretty much every aspect of the films creation is brief spurts, from the computer technology used to the recording of the film. Also present is the theatrical trailer, a music video from Sly & Robbie, and a database containing some textual features like a glossary of terms and character profiles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If you’d even heard about anime back in the 1990s, probably being called “manga”, at least in the UK, then there were two films that undoubtedly you’d heard the names of - Akira and Ghost in the Shell. This film is arguably one of the most well-known anime movies ever-produced, probably even surpassing the likes of the Oscar-winning Spirited Away for name recognition alone. But why is this the case?
Ghost in the Shell came at a time when the anime boom was all the rage, certainly in the UK it was really starting to become popular, but it needed some iconic name, a film that was just synonymous with anime, that would take it that step further into the mainstream. And while Akira was the title that helped the initial penetration of anime this side of Japan, it was Ghost that took it to that next level and drove a market boom that would eventually lead to a market crash not to soon after. This is a movie that led anime coverage on mainstream television after all (every older anime fan will remember the Channel 4 anime blocks in their various guises). But enough of the history lesson, and more about the film.
There’s no denying that this movie is iconic in the Western world (where it’s enjoyed far, far more success than in its homeland), but it was a bit of a landmark in some other ways too, as not only did it feature a little bit of nudity and a fair bit of violence, but it was also cerebral as well. Ghost in the Shell explores some really philosophical themes in a way that makes you think, and that’s what makes it all the more enjoyable.
Set in the future, in a world full of cyborgs and advanced technology, the story focuses on a police team called Section 9. Headed by Chief Aramaki with Major Motoko Kusanagi his lead field officer, Section 9 is akin to a special ops team of the police, with several cyborgs working for them. After a minister’s interpreter has their brain hacked, Section 9 get caught up in a case revolving around a mysterious ghost hacker called “Puppet Master”. They end up tracking a couple of garbage men, one of whom was taught how to ghost hack by another un-named agent. However all the leads end up at mindless puppets who have no idea who they really are and have had false memories implanted in their minds.
Soon a cybernetic body is assembled at Megatech, the company that created Major Kusanagi’s body, and runs off into the night only to get run over by a truck. This is strange since, as Batou reveals, the body doesn’t even have a single brain cell, it’s entirely robotic. Section 6 quickly appears on the scene, and their leader Nakamura jostles for custody of the body with Aramaki. But as they discuss politics, the body comes to life claiming to be a computer program that achieved sentience, and demands political asylum. However Section 6 aren’t there to play it straight, and two camouflaged officers steal the body, leaving Section 9 to struggle to get it back and uncover the conspiracies behind the Puppet Master. All the while, Kusanagi, a cyborg herself, struggles with what it means to be human and questions her own existence.
The beauty of Ghost in the Shell, and what differentiates it from many other anime movies, is that it has a tightly woven, intricate story that raises some really interesting questions. The focal character of the story is Major Kusanagi, and it’s through her that many of the themes of the movie are explored. Most notably the questions that director Mamoru Oshii raises regarding what it means to be human, what constitutes existence and the meaning of life and death. He manages to successfully layer these questions over the over-arching Puppet Master storyline and, rather than bang answers over our heads or force them down our throats, the questions are raised in a way to really make you think and interpret things in your own way.
Through the other characters as well, similar themes emerge. Togusa at one point questions why he, as the only fully human member of Section 9, was put on the team. Batou is faced with answering some of Kusanagi’s questions about her existence. And naturally, the Puppet Master is used to explore when exactly a creation can evolve to be considered sentient life in itself. These themes are often found underlying the political machinations and action, but they’re there to provide food for thought, and that’s part of what makes the film so enjoyable. It’s not often you get a film like this, that sucks you in with an interesting story and raises some serious questions in a philosophical way, and while some might be turned off by this I think that in this movie, Oshii gets the balance between discussing the themes, moving the story along and integrating the two just right.
Of course, given that the film has a big budget, the animation is excellent. The character designs are a little simplistic (certainly compared to the more recent TV series), but the flow of animation is superb and there are several set pieces in the film that are breathtaking at times. Likewise, the film has a brilliant score, that sounds totally fitting to the on-screen action and yet is also quite unique. Kenji Kawai captures the spirit of the film completely, and this is definitely the sort of score that makes you want to seek out the soundtrack.
Ghost in the Shell is a film that most anime fans have likely seen, simply because of how accessible it is (from the amount of exposure it has received since release). It’s not the easiest film to get into, but it has an interesting bunch of characters that are used to explore some thought-provoking themes, which are wrapped up in a plot filled with action and intrigue. It’s great to have a UK release of the film that fixes issues with the original pressing, and I have no qualms about recommending the disc to anyone. Sure, not everyone will like it, but it’s a film that every anime film owes it to themselves to see.
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1 & 2.0),English Subtitles,Portuguese Subtitles,Danish Subtitles,Finnish Subtitles,Norwegian Subtitles,Swedish Subtitles,Making of Ghost in the Shell Production Report,Theatrical Trailer,Character Profiles,Creator Biographies,Music Video
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
Running time: 88
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ghost in the Shell