Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 96
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

By Dani Moure     February 27, 2006
Release Date: February 27, 2006

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
© Manga UK

What They Say
The first ever anime film to be nominated for the Cannes International Film Festival's highly prestigious Palme D'Or, Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence is a breathtaking technical and visual achievement four years in the making. A work that is as equally groundbreaking as its predecessor, it seamlessly combines 2-D and 3-D CG animation techniques to produce an action-packed, sci-fi fable of a solitary cyborg struggling to retain what's left of his humanity in a world where the human soul is gradually fading into obscurity.

It is the year 2032 and Earth is a world where the few remaining humans coexist with cyborgs, human spirits inhabiting mechanized bodies, and dolls, robots with no human elements whatsoever. A cyborg detective for the government's covert anti-terrorist unit Public Security Section 9, Batou is charged with investigating the bizarre case of a malfunctioning gynoid - a hyper-realistic female robot created specifically for sexual companionship - responsible for slaughtering its owner.

Delving deeper and deeper into the investigation, Batou and his partner, Togusa, are forced to confront violent Yakuza thugs, devious hackers, influential government bureaucrats and powerful corporate criminals. As they move closer to uncovering the mystery, it slowly becomes apparent that the truth behind the crime is far more shocking than anyone dared imagine...

Inspired by the literary works of Phillip K. Dick and the surrealist art of Hans Bellmer, Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence is a philosophical thrill-ride through the darkest regions of human - and inhuman - nature, combining full-throttle action, cutting-edge animation, and one of the most provocative storylines in recent memory.

The Review!
Years after the original movie, hot on the heels of the TV series, Mamoru Oshii went back to the franchise again to produce this follow-up to one of the most recognised anime movies of all time.

For my review I watched the film with the English 5.1 track. The sound comes across beautifully, with the heavy hitting action scenes sounding superb and Kenji Kawai’s score just exemplified by the track. I didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions on this track, nor the Japanese 5.1 track (or DTS tracks) that I spot-checked.

The film is undoubtedly beautiful and the transfer here only serves to showcase that fact. The anamorphic transfer looks brilliant, with colours looking extremely vibrant, and no noticeable aliasing or compression artefacts. There is a bit of grain but that’s to be expected with most films. It also appears to be a direct film transfer and not the usual NTSC to PAL conversion, as I didn’t notice any ghosting or artefacts as I was watching. This is the sort of transfer that allows you to just sit back and enjoy the movie.

The subtitles on this disc are in a clear, yellow font that’s easy on the eyes, and unlike the original US release, these are not captions for the hearing impaired.

This is another gorgeous aspect of the release. Like most newer Manga releases, it features an outer cardboard slipcover which features the movie poster artwork that you’ve probably seen associated with the film before, featuring one of the dolls and Batou’s dog over a white background. They also use the original logo which is nice, and the cover does look gorgeous though I’d rather not have all the quotes over it (though I can understand why they’re there). The inner sleeve features another interesting piece of artwork of the doll, over a yellow background along with the show’s quotes and logo, while the back cover is nicely laid out with some artwork, a couple of screenshots, a synopsis, the feature listing and credits. The reverse side features a nice wraparound image of one of the backdrops from the film (the discs are housed in a clear keepcase). A couple of things I did find interesting were Bandai Entertainment’s logo adorning the back cover (since they weren’t involved in the US release), and of course the quote on the cover that really makes the most of Studio Ghibli’s involvement as “co-producers”.

There is also a nice eight page booklet featuring a foreword from Jonathan Clements, which is nicely produced and contains some interesting comments on the film’s themes.

The menu layout is an interesting one, as writing and images from the film swirl around a spiral on the main menu, before it loops into screenshots floating into view in a futuristic manner, while one of the pieces of music from the soundtrack plays. Sub-menus are in the same theme, but are static. It’s actually a very simple but effective menu system.

Manga have done their best to provide a good selection of extras, and they’ve done a great job by all accounts. The first disc features a really interesting commentary with Mamoru Oshii and the animation director Toshihiko Nishikubo, which is of course subtitled. The disc also features a “making of” featurette which runs just over 15 minutes that talks with the cast and crew about various aspects of the film, as well as featuring clips from the premiere.

The second disc contains a “sneak peak” of episode 5 of the 2nd GIG TV series, which runs for five minutes in English only (I have to admit that while it’s fluff, it’s a nice cross-promotional thing to do). There’s also an exclusive face to face interview with Mamoru Oshii that runs over 20 minutes and goes into greater depth about his feelings and ideas behind the film (including thoughts on the creation of an English dub). There’s also the full-length Japanese trailer for the movie as well as trailers for other Manga releases (notable only for what I believe is the first appearance of a trailer for Karas).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s really hard to grade Innocence. Actually, it’s quite difficult to collect thoughts about the film full stop, because my views on it are a bit torn. So first I’ll talk about the release itself. In the US, Dreamworks picked this movie up and released the DVD without a dub, and with some other problems with the subtitles. All in all it was a pretty poor package, but when Manga picked this up for UK release, they knew they had their biggest franchise on their hands, and have really gone all out on this release.

Genuinely, you can only applaud Manga for this release, because the effort they’ve put in is above and beyond what we ever might’ve expected. For a start, they commissioned a dub for the series using the Stand Alone Complex TV series actors, and it’s turned out very well indeed. Richard Epcar adapted and directs as well as starring in the lead role as Batou, and while in a couple of places the script is a little loose, it’s only done in that way to improve the flow. And the dub flows very well indeed. If you’ve listened to the TV series dub, then you know what to expect, and it works very well. I watched the entire movie dubbed and couldn’t find any real problem with it which really allowed me to take in the film as much as possible.

In addition to the dub, Manga have gone all out with some nicely designed packaging, an exclusive booklet, some exclusive extras and place the whole thing in a two-disc special edition. It’s the sort of treatment I’d expect a movie of this calibre to get, and Dreamworks could really learn a thing or two from it, so Manga get huge praise from me for the effort they’ve put in to this release.

But getting back to the film, I’m writing this review having only seen it the once, which might not be entirely fair. It’s such a hard film to judge because there are things that I like a lot and can just marvel at, like the superb animation and sublime score, and other bits such as the rather linear plot and ridiculously verbose characters are a little bit annoying.

The story is set a couple of years after the first movie in 2032. Much of the world is now dominated by machines, with several people now made up almost entirely of synthetic elements. Batou is one such person, entirely robotic, and is the focus of the film. Several “gynoids” (female androids made for pleasure) have been killing their owners and then killing themselves in some dramatic fashion. In the opening scene of the movie, Batou heads down a dark alley to find one such gynoid, which pleads “help me” before ripping off its skin and self-destructing. Section 9 chief Aramaki sends Batou and Togusa to investigate the murders, and they naturally take the line of looking into Locus Solus (or Rox Sol if you watch the subtitled version), the company responsible for the creation and manufacture of the gynoids.

But the roads lead down several different paths, and see Batou and Togusa forming something of a partner relationship as they tackle a Yakuza gang, the government, hackers and more, all the while questioning why humanity wants to immortalise its image in dolls, and the very existence of the human nature.

I think a lot of my feelings about Innocence can be summed up by saying it is lacking a bit of heart. These characters are all quite quirky, and the TV series has really shown us different sides to them, Batou and Togusa in particular, who have the focus in this film. Here they lack personality at times, and it’s frustrating because you know there’s more to them than what is portrayed in the movie. Far too much time is spent on having them spew out philosophical or biblical quotes like there’s no tomorrow than having them develop or show some personality. If anything, it just takes that away from them and I have a hard time understanding what Mamoru Oshii was really going for here. I’d assume he wanted every line to sound really important and profound, but instead it backfires and makes the characters seem a bit like mindless drones at times, because everyone seems to have a quote for every situation. It says a lot that Batou’s dog probably has the biggest personality of all the characters in the film.

Oshii does heavily go for examining certain themes again though, through the dolls and how humans are trying to create ones that are as close to human as possible. Themes of suicide are brought up, as are many more that do raise some interesting questions and get you thinking, but on my first viewing I was distracted by parts of the dialogue to the point that I know I missed some of them. It can be too overwhelming at times, so much so that to fully appreciate Innocence I’m sure you need to watch it a few times (something I plan to do eventually).

Perhaps the most missing element of all in the film though is Major Kusanagi herself. She was the real focus of the first movie, and all the themes and questions that were explored and raised in that film were done so through her, and she’d often have a quiet moment or discussion with another character to provide some viewpoints that would really get you thinking, and unfortunately Innocence misses that because having Batou as the lead doesn’t work in the same way; there’s no “voice” as it were.

The plot is also very linear and quite predictable. While there are a few twists and turns, for the most part this is your bog-standard Section 9 investigation and there’s nothing that really makes it stand out or that would suggest it’s a story that couldn’t have been done within the TV series or something. Oshii is too preoccupied with all the character quotes and raising philosophical questions that he forgot to integrate them into the plot in quite the same way.

Having said all that though, there is a lot about Innocence that I did like and enjoy. While some of their dialogue is frustrating, Batou and Togusa form a good little team and form something of a buddy relationship, which is nice. The two play off each other well on a couple of occasions and the voice work of Richard Epcar and Crispin Freeman really adds something to the characters that helps you look over some of the flaws in the script.

As you’d expect with the film being high budget, it looks absolutely gorgeous. The backgrounds are rich and detailed, and at times I found myself wowed as I watched pans across some of the scenery. The animation is quite detailed and everything flows beautifully; there are some great set pieces, including several fight sequences, that look great. The soundtrack from Kenji Kawai is once again fantastic, and fits the visuals perfectly. The sound has both a futuristic and foreign feel to it, and helps set the scene splendidly.

In Summary:
Innocence is a film that will divide its audience, but there can be no denying that it looks and sounds superb. Mamoru Oshii’s script is just too involved and frustrating at times for its own good, and that can make the film a bit hard to get through, and also send some of the themes he raises right over peoples’ heads. Nevertheless, the package from Manga is superb and the film is one that I feel would be more rewarding on subsequent viewings. There’s a lot to like here, you just have to sit through some less eventful moments and pretentious dialogue to find some of it.

Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1 & DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1 & DTS),English Subtitles,Commentary by Director Mamoru Oshii and Animation Director Toshihiko Nishikubo,Making of Ghost in the Shell: Innocence,Sneak Peak at 2nd GIG Episode 5,Face to Face Exclusive Interview with Mamoru Oshii

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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