Ghost in the Shell -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: C
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: Bandai Visual
  • MSRP: ¥10,290
  • Running time: 82
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

By Chris Beveridge     September 05, 2007
Release Date: August 24, 2007

Ghost in the Shell
© Bandai Visual

What They Say
2029: A female cybernetic government agent, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of "The Puppet Master," a mysterious and threatening computer virus capable of infiltrating human hosts. Together, with her fellow agents from Section 9, they embark on a high-tech race against time to capture the omnipresent entity.

The Review!
One of the biggest anime films gets the high definition treatment but ends up becoming the weakest of them all.

The audio mix on this release is quite weak, especially in comparison to some of the "fake" remixes done by Manga Entertainment in the last couple of years. This edition features the original Japanese 2.0 PCM mix done at 1.5 mbps and the English Dolby Digital 2.0 mix done at 640kbps. While the English mix obviously sounds better than the original stereo English mix, it falls short of the remixed DD-EX and DTS-ES 6.1 that we saw back in 2005. The Japanese track is a decent stereo mix that shows us exactly what the theatrical presentation was all those years ago but it comes across as quite muted and restrained, particularly in comparison to such aural treasures as Wings of Honneamise and the Patlabor movies. Ghost in the Shell is desperately in need of a proper "Sound Renewal" remaster.

Originally released in theaters back in 1995, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a resolution of 1080p. Though it's been twelve years since it was first show, I can't believe that these are the best elements there are for it. It's been nine years since I last saw it on DVD so I can't really do a comparison there but the presentation here is just poor looking. The main issue is that the film really looks like a poor mans theatrical presentation, filled with noise. There's hardly any macroblocking to it, even in the dark scenes, but it's just so overly filled with noise that it doesn't have anything that really shows off well in high definition. The AVC encoded film has a rather high bitrate in general as it seems to hover in the high thirties with several peaks into the forties. With a strong soft feeling to it combined with the noise, it certainly presents an atmosphere but not one that showcases what he film is really capable of. Similar to the audio, this one truly needs a remaster from the ground up for a true high definition presentation.

Bucking the trend of every other Blu-ray release out there, this box set release of the BD and DVD are done in standard thickness keepcases. The heavy chipboard box has a great design to it with the front cover featuring a soft image of Motoko with various circuit board style designs floating in front of and behind her. The back cover provides the same piece but as strict line work of the character design. There's a lack of any real information on the box itself though the back does have a brief blurb about the films setting but even more text about the film being such a bit hit in Amerca. All of the packages technical details are kept on the obi around the box as it has two technical grids to cover both the BD and DVD details. The Blu-ray keepcase has a great visual of Motoko with her glasses on done in green while set against a gray backdrop with the city. It's just so completely striking and unlike the boxart we've seen for US releases in terms of color design that it stands out strongly The back of the keepcase features a still of the mecha used at the end of the film with the same text from the back of the box. The bottom is rounded out with standard technical grid data and production information. The box set does come with a booklet that's got a lot of full color pictures in it and what looks to be a breakdown of the film and some sort of interview. It is of course all in Japanese.

The top level menu is rather basic with a static shot of Motoko from the side before she was about to do a bit of sniping. The colors for it are striking as there's illumination from the side that helps to balance it out and tie it into the navigation and logo colors The bottom has the standard navigation selections with a very simple design to it that doesn't really evoke anything from the film itself. The submenus load quickly but you do have to select them, you can't push up and have them pop-up above the main menu as they get swapped out instead. The pop-up menu works in the same way during the film with the exception of an extra button to close out the pop-up menu. The pop-up menu for this release does one other thing that I don't care for in that it brings up not just the bottom level menu but also the film logo from the top level menu. It takes you out of things more than it should to have that there.

Bandai Visual continues to skimp on the extras with their releases this year as we basically get a couple of trailers and that's it. The first trailer is a 50sec piece from the original theatrical run, done in English, which has a good sense of pacing to it. The second trailer is a two minute piece that goes into more aspects of the film with a completely Japanese narration. The third trailer, running three minutes in length, is the one that I believe was used by Manga Entertainment to promote the film back in the day. It's obviously all in English.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the biggest worldwide draws for anime, Ghost in the Shell has gained quite the mainstream audience over the years since the first film was released. With a second film that was picked up by DreamWorks and a pair of TV series that only gained it more exposure, the franchise has endured fairly well in the last twelve years. Time hasn't been too kind to this first movie however if you've come to love the TV series. Much of what makes the TV series so interesting is evident here but not utilized in the same way.

Ghost in the Shell takes place in the year 2029, a time when "people love machines" according to all the promotional pieces for it. The world is starting to change due to the number of people who can plug into the network and have cybernetic parts if not entire bodies. Coming at a time before the Internet itself had really started to make any kind of waves in the public consciousness, much of what was here was fascinating in that near-future plausibility sense. Coming into it now all these years later, it feels antiquated, as if time has past it by, particularly in comparison to the TV series which set itself a bit better with the technology. Section 9, a group within the government that handles some of the dirtier jobs, finds themselves embroiled in a battle with a mysterious person known only as the Puppet Master.

This fellow, presumably American, had been making his way across the European countries for awhile by getting involved in all sorts of criminal jobs. It's now making its way to Japan and may be tied to an issue that the Foreign Ministry is dealing with as a former dictator has sought asylum there. With the Puppet Master either there to help his case or hurt it, or just to use it as a cover, Section 9 has to unearth the mysteries of what's going on while explaining to the viewer how this near future technological Japan has evolved. Not unlike earlier Mamoru Oshii directed movies, Ghost in the Shell features a good deal of philosophy involved in the discussions. As the country was then preparing for the potential technological changes, asking these kinds of questions and having these debates are staples of the science fiction community. One need look no further than many Robert Heinlein books from the fifties and sixties to see what has come to pass.

Unlike the Ghost in the Shell: Innocence movie, the pretension is much smaller here and the philosophy less overwhelming. These feel like earnest questions that must be grappled with rather than characters carrying on quotations with each other. Of course, if you're connected to the net constantly and have all that available to you, being able to pull it to quote will certainly change the dynamic of any conversation. But that lack of pretension to this film helps to make it far more enjoyable than it would be otherwise. While it succeeds well enough as an action/mystery film, it brings much more to the table along the way. Enough so that it captivated people for quite some time and has sustained the manga, the two seasons of the TV series, another film and a direct to video film. As time goes on and such dreams become closer to reality, much of what we see here will feel the same as this movie does now. But it's that near prescient nature that makes it so engaging even now.

For the nitpicky side of things, this release does feature what appears to be a properly subtitled track as opposed to a dubtitle of the English language track. In addition, it also provides the original ending sequence instead of the one that the US releases have all had with the song from the Passengers.

In Summary:
Coming back into this movie after so long, I was quite curious to see whether I'd enjoy it more or not. I had liked it when I first saw it ages ago, but over time and with the taste Innocence left, the memories of it faltered. I avoided the US DVD reissue back in 2005 and essentially haven't seen the film in almost nine years. While the Stand Alone Complex series has made this harder to watch, I did have some new appreciation for the material and how it was presented. The audio and video presentation however left a lot to be desired, enough so that this really didn't feel like a high definition release but rather an upscaled DVD event. While there are areas that are certainly cleaner looking due to the high bitrate and space afforded it, the overall presentation was simply disappointing. Ghost in the Shell is in desperate need for a full on remaster and restoration before it can be properly presented in high definition.

Japanese 2.0 PCM Language,English 2.0 Dolby Digital Language,Japanese Subtitles,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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