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Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

  

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

DVD Region 2, released Feb 2006. 96 minutes.

Disc 1 = Making of, Stereo & 5.1 Surround Sound version

Disc 2 = DTS version, trailers and extract of 2nd GitS series, Episode 5.

Special Feature Information: ° The Making Of Featurette ° Commentary By Director And Animation Director ° Foreword By Jonathan Clements ° Manga Trailers ° Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Volume 2 Sneak Peak At Episode 5 ° UK Exclusive Face To Face Interview With Mamoru Oshii ° Japanese Trailer • Aspect Ratio: 1.85 Wide Screen

ASIN: B000BY9ALU

Classification: 15

For those who don’t know, the original Ghost in the Shell film is seen as a landmark of Japanese and World Cinema. Its theme of ‘souls in robots’ echoed and defined many manga features of the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Its detailed style led to the development of other highly praised animations – including Appleseed and Spirited Away. This is also seen in many of today’s non-manga films – including most obviously The Matrix – with the dark cybernoir atmosphere, slow-motion moments and rapid cutbacks style even filtering into today’s TV. It’s also evolved into an excellent TV series of its own – GitS – Stand alone Complex. All of these have effectively raised the standard of animated film.

Having made such an impact, with such a phenomenal following, with fans waiting for more, what do you do when you decide to produce a sequel?

Well, if you are Mamoru Oshii, then your answer is to make the next one as state of the art as possible, as complex and even more baffling than the first.

GitS 2 is set three years after the first film. It is 2032. As in the first, robots have become part of everyday life. Humans coexist with cyborgs and robots.

The new film starts with a gynoid (sex droid) that has murdered its owner and then self-destructs. It is one of a number, all from the same series, all loaned out on prototype.

Batou, the cyborg detective first seen in GitS 1, (and now separated from Major Motoko Kusanagi, who disappeared into the net at the end of GitS 1) is given the case to investigate by Section 9. Along with Togusa, the mainly human Section 9 operative from GitS 1, he investigates a case that draws on evil corporate business (Locus Solus), the Yakuza and the government, as well as a supercyberhacker called Kim.

The story of GitS 2, told mainly through Batou’s eyes, also involves looking at the idea of machine intelligence and evolution to a point where the division between human soul and machine memory become increasingly blurred.

So why watch this film? From the title credits, which are a mirror of the GitS 1’s construction of an cyborg, this is something to watch. Whereas the 1995 version had an (admittedly excellent at the time) 2D animated sequence, the new 2004 version uses 3D CGI. The film throughout is visually stunning, which makes the film worth watching. Computer animation is skilfully mixed with traditional animation, creating a depth of colour and image which is quite stunning.

The difference between the Region 2 version of this film and the Region 1 version is that the Region 2 version has an English dubbed soundtrack. The Region 1 version has just subtitles and the Japanese soundtrack.

Having watched both, I prefer the Region 2 version, which uses the cast of the GitS: SAC series. The DTS version is sonically outstanding, and in my opinion as good as it can get. The sound of the chimes from a huge mechanical clock, for example, are incredible.

The music (by Kenji Kawai) is, as ever, as important as the image. The music is used in subtle (and not so subtle) ways to highlight key points of the film. Like GitS 1 it is unsettling, atmospheric and beautiful.

On the negative side, although the soundtrack is fantastic, the script is rather obtuse. The story is so heavily laden with meaning, with almost each sentence being a quote from sources such as Shakespeare and Descartes; so much so that the story can become difficult to decipher:

"When persimmons are green and not quite ripe even the crows don’t pick at them. They only come round when they’re ripe, just like you two a**holes."

Or how about this one, one example of one piece of dialogue from a character:

"Children always deviate from human norms. If you define a human being as an autonomous self acting out its will, where are children in the gradation of human existence? Their inner state of being obviously differs but they have human form. When girls play with dolls it’s not practice for actual motherhood. They’re not practicing childcare. Games played with dolls and childcare may, however be similar."

Despite this, the film is in turns, beautiful, haunting and baffling. As The Puppetmaster of GitS 1 is replaced by puppets and dolls in GitS 2, the story becomes ever more complex, though the ending was both poignant and somehow right.

There are links to the first film, but what struck me most of all is how the character of Batou has evolved. This is a different Batou from the first GitS – older, more world-weary, and yet paradoxically, more human. His relationship with the other characters is rather aloof, yet his meeting with the Major is both touching and genuine and, though brief, I found to be genuinely moving. As too is Batou’s relationship with his pet, a basset hound called Gabriel – one of Oshii’s trademarks, but here used to show the relationships between humans and other things.

It is suggested, though not explicit, that although Gabriel acts like a living dog, he is in fact a simulacrum. And yet, Batou’s relationship is as real as any other: clearly one of the main points of the film. The dog acts like a living dog – where do we draw the line between machine and living thing?

A film to make you think, that dazzles the eye and, despite its feeling of melancholy, ultimately lifts the soul. In spite of the dense dialogue, which may not be for everyone, still recommended.

(And as a later note: a DVD soundtrack in 5.1 and stereo, using the music and parts of the film reedited to the music, has become available: Ghost In The Shell 2 - Innocence Music Video Anthology (ASIN: B000E0LCUI.) This may be suitable for those who wish to listen to the music, watch the animation but who do not wish to experience the dialogue!)

Hobbit © March 2006

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