Ghost in the Shell: Innocence - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan
  • MSRP: 7,800
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

By Chris Beveridge     December 09, 2006
Release Date: December 06, 2006


Ghost in the Shell: Innocence
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan


What They Say
Blu-ray disc release of the hit animated film "Innocence" featuring the original "Innocence" release, "Innocece no Jokei" feature, and "Innocence International Version" all on one Blu-ray disc.

In 2032, the line between humans and machines has blurred almost beyond distinction. Humans have virtually forgotten what it means to be entirely human in both body and spirit, and the few humans that are left coexist with cyborgs (human spirits inhabiting entirely mechanized bodies) and dolls (robots with no human elements at all).

Batou is a cyborg. His body is artificial: the only remnants left of his humanity are traces of his brain and the memories of a woman called The Major.

A detective for the government's covert anti-terrorist unit, Public Security Section 9, Batou is investigating the case of a gynoid - a hyper-realistic female robot created specifically for sexual companionship - who malfunctions and slaughters her owner.

As Batou delves deeper into the investigation, questions arise about humanity's need to immortalize its image in dolls. Together, Batou and his partner must take on violent Yakuza thugs, devious hackers, government bureaucrats and corporate criminals to uncover the shocking truth behind the crime.

The Review!
Leaving all previous editions behind it, the second installment of the Ghost in the Shell theatrical franchise becomes even more of a technical and visual marvel.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this movie in its original language of Japanese. Though this is labeled an international edition, no English language adaptation is included. None was done for the US DVD release but the UK DVD release had one created. That said, there's no loss here when it comes to the beauty of the audio mixes. There are three language tracks included on the Japanese side; a 6.1 mbps 7.1 channel PCM track, a 640kbps Dolby Digital EX 6.1 mix and a 1.5 mbps DTS-ES 6.1 track. Our setup isn't capable of the 7.1 PCM mix though I drool at the potential, so we opted for the much warmer and full sounding DTS mix. It is considerably better than the Dolby Digital track and just feels like it packs more of a punch and has a fuller sound to it. The subwoofer alone provided more kick and overall felt more immersive. Though there are a lot of very quiet moments throughout the film, the big action areas are stunning while the dialogue itself is well placed as is the ambient sounds placed throughout to enhance the film.

Video:
Originally released to theaters in 2004, this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is encoded with MPEG-2 and has a resolution of 1080p. While we don't have a way of providing an average bitrate, when watching the film with the meter on it was very steady in the 37 mbps area, spiking to 40 and occasionally hitting 35. The DreamWorks DVD release that we'd seen was one that was just great looking throughout with the exception of one scene towards the end that showcased a lot of gradient issues with the red water viewed from below. This area is still a problem here though with the greater resolution and the visible film grain it's much more muted and smooth. The DVD release comes across as a bit cleaner but the higher resolution has allowed the grain to show through more clearly which gives it a great film like feel. Black levels throughout look fantastic, the colors are amazing rich and vibrant and the print is problem free from what I can see. The CG scenes do come across much cleaner and smoother than where other animation comes in, but this is just how it was done at the source level. The detail that's visible throughout this, in addition to the much greater color depth, provides an amazingly superior picture to an already great looking DVD release.

Packaging:
Using similar artwork to previous Japanese releases, the cover has the enticing image of Motoko in her doll form essentially with the wires reaching up into her as text floats in the background. With the dark background and the bright colors of her body, it's very eye-catching and distinct looking " and a far cry better than the DreamWorks release. The back cover uses similar artwork, one of the shots from the film of her backside during the opening sequence, with little else so it's fairly dark and indistinct. The summary is brief but decent and it provides a rundown of some of the staff and extras to be found on the disc. The technical grid is full of useful information and covers all that's needed. The rest is rounded out with basic copyright data and other minor technical areas. Naturally, all of this is in Japanese. The reverse side cover features a blue filtered version of one of the mansion hallways from the film so it fits in well with the blue case. The insert is a small single sheet that has a full color image of one of the alleys with the extras listed above it. The back side provides technical data about the Blu-ray format and its compatibilities " something that's very similar to how the first couple of years of DVDs were released in Japan.

Menu:
This release features both a top level menu and a pop-up menu feature. The main menu is a nice if quiet piece that plays scenes from the opening sequence to the film with the menu along the top, which is essentially the pop-up menu. The pop-menu is situated along the top when it is selected during the film. It's a very simple but well themed piece that essentially breaks it down to a couple of selections that are gold trimmed boxes with a red background that are linked together. The menus react very quickly and access times to each of the features is fast. The breakdowns for the submenus don't provide any pictures associated with them for the extras nor is any of the text in English which isn't a surprised. The scene selection submenu is nicely done with a strip that showcases a number of the chapters while swapping out the image above it as you move over that particular chapter. A nice plus with the design of the menu is that the jogdial allows you to move up and down through the menus without requiring an enter/ok button push, something some releases have required. I do have to admit I really like the way the extras expand to smaller boxes when needed for similar things. The Sights & Scenes feature provides a play button for it but also another button that brings up a breakdown of the chapters for it in detail with the music that plays along.

Extras:
The international edition of the film includes a few extras with it, similar to what was on the DVD release in Japan and are encoded for 480p. None of the extras include English subtitles which is unfortunate but not unexpected. Included is the commentary track that runs the length of the feature, a featurette that delves into the visuals of the film, a making of sequence and a number of trailers from its run. The making of is also included as well as a solid section on the theatrical trailers which are broken down nicely. Not all of these made it onto the US DVD release but what's here is fascinating to see but probably harder to watch due to the lack of subtitles. That said, getting the US DVD to see the extras is dirt cheap and easy. If you've seen them though, odds are you have little use for them again.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers and that some of it was originally written for the US DVD release)
Of all the titles initially announced for Blu-ray, this was the one I was the most excited about and yet dreaded at the same time. Visually, it is essentially the perfect film for which to showcase how stunning anime, especially high quality productions like this, can look in high definition. The story for it however continues to be in my opinion very weak and I found my feelings on it to be the same as when I viewed it back in 2005. Knowing the story this time, I was able to focus less on it and simply enjoy the visuals more and become completely engaged in its presentation.

The Blu-ray release for this is solid through and through. The clarity of the colors, the depth of the CG and its detail and the overall fluidity of this film shine even more. I adored the way the DVD release looked but it's plainly obvious just how much richer the presentation is here. Buena Vista Japan's release of it on a dual layered disc via MPEG2 has given it the room it needs to really excel, though I would certainly love to see what they could do with more space through another codec. But as has been shown repeatedly in the last couple of months, it's not the codec but a whole host of issues that can make an HD disc not look as good as it should.

Coming as long after the original movie and following it up along one vein, it's not quite the same as what's come before. Whereas that was a deep philosophical piece that had people like the Major questioning her humanity and what was left of it as she gave her life over to the mechanical side of things, this one has her long gone into the net and Batou not quite an unfeeling callous man without her but someone who isn't quite at home in dealing with others even more than he used to be. While she wasn't exactly human anymore, she was someone that could draw out the humanity in him, particularly his sense of humor. But with her now a part of the net itself, what little humanity he had seems to have withered away and he's simply a man doing his job for Section 9.

Naturally, when Togusa gets assigned to work with Batou on a case where a series of gynoid robots have been going crazy and killing their owners or whoever was nearby, he's not exactly pleased by it. Batou's not someone anyone else in Section 9 could work easily with on a number of levels, personality being a big one. In their initial research they learn of the robots that they're being built by a company who has almost seemingly come out of nowhere to achieve a reputation as quality work with some very addictive dolls. To ensure the sanctity of their operations though, they work out of a large ship that's kept in international waters so they're not kept to the same restrictions as a number of Japanese based companies. Batou's drawn deeper into things before he even knows about the case though when someone takes over his brain and causes him to shoot out his own arm and nearly kill a shopkeeper.

With their investigation being somewhat off the official record at first, Batou leads Togusa to finding an old friend of his from back in the war days that has gone into making himself a next level kind of construct where he's more than he ever was but also far less human. Figuring that his deep connections within the underworld and in the information layer of the net as well will give him some clues, it's another stop along the way to figuring out just what this mysterious off-shore company is really up to before the gynoid dolls can kill again. It's really a very straightforward plot that has Batou and Togusa doing what they do best in an investigative manner.

Why does it fall so short then? In watching this film with it's nearly two hour running time, why did I feel at the end that it was little more than a really expanded filler episode for the TV series and that the TV series has done far more interesting filler episodes? Don't get me wrong here though, the visuals for this film are simply amazing. The opening sequence does a beautiful job of showing how far digital animation has come in ten years by recreating the same opening we saw in the first film back in 1994 but with much more advanced and seamless techniques. It most definitely places that film into the dustbin in terms of visuals. Much of the meshing of CG and animation is fairly well done here, though some of it stands out poorly such as when the pair are walking through Kim's mansion and their movements are very awkward and don't blend well. But then you correspond it with scenes of the far east information city they go into with its spires and towers that are just gorgeous to look at. Or the festival moving through the streets that is so incredibly rich in detail and vibrant in its colors. It's such a visual feast that there is almost more to take in than possible with how its done. So no, it's no surprise that this film is for the most part a technical and visual marvel.

Where the real problem comes in is in the dialogue. Much of it is kept between Batou and Togusa as they perform their investigation, which really covers the first three quarters of the film. It's generally a slow paced piece which is more than fine, but it's filled with banter between the two where they're constantly quoting all sorts of religious or philosophical lines and using them as the way to advance the story. While I won't say that the dialogue between these two made me feel stupid nor lectured to by the pair, it did leave me watching a highly unnatural method of discussion between two investigators. It seemed like Oshii wanted to make each and every line, every word, have such great dramatic weight to it that it would come across almost like a Greek play or an opera in a way. If it wasn't for the incredible performances that Akio Ohtsuka as Batou and Kouichi Yamadera as Togusa put in with their distinctive natures this would have been even more difficult to get through.

And unfortunately, the film is difficult to get through. The plot is so linear in nature and easily projected from the get go that at times you feel like the characters are a couple of steps behind where they should be because of all of that dialogue. I didn't go into this looking for an action piece because the first movie was much the same in a way, but it also had the draw of the Major herself, someone who is very much missing from most of this film. Batou is a very interesting character and the writers of the TV series have managed to showcase that on several occasions, but I don't think he's a character that can carry a full length theatrical piece like this and with as heady a discussion as they all want to go on about here.

In Summary:
A visual and technical masterpiece that will certainly show off just how far anime has come since its predecessor, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence unfortunately is a very formulaic story that's so highly infused with religious and philosophical discourses that they seemingly forgot to put in dialogue for much of the plot. While the US DVD release was probably one of the best looking anime releases out for that format, the film reaches a whole new level here. Its animation style and approach is quite different from that of Brave Story that we saw recently but this one again shows that anime can look amazing here. Buena Vista Japan did a solid job with the presentation of this film and has provided materials from a multi-disc DVD edition on a single dual-layered disc that is quite simply the reference version of this film.

Features
Japanese LPCM 7.1,Japanese DD 6.1EX,Japanese DTS-ES 6.1,Japanese Subtitles,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Korean Subtitles,Taiwan (Traditional Chinese) Subtitles,Audio Commentary,Sights & Scenes of Innocence (38 minutes),Making Of (15 minutes), Innocence across international borders (44 minutes),Theatrical Trailers (11 minutes)

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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