Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai) directed by Manoru Oshii

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I have always been amused by the Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip regarding comic books. To paraphrase, it talks about cartoons as “low art,??? but paintings of cartoons are “high art.??? I feel the same way about comics: now we call them “graphic novels??? and treat them with archival respect, turning pages with tongs. Progressing on the same subject, Saturday morning cartoons are “low art;??? animé, “high art.???

This is the first animé film I’ve seen. I have to keep in mind that it’s almost eleven years old, so I should not be hypercritical of it, but… on more than one occasion, the movie used a “low art??? cheating tool. It is OK to use cheaters on Saturday morning but not on Saturday night. For example, there was an aquarium in the shot for at least a minute. All of the fish were on very short animation loops. I started losing track of the dialogue and watching the stupid loop. There were long dialogue scenes with the vantage point behind the characters so that they didn’t have to move their mouths. And my most loathed: the mouth would be yelling, but the rest of the face was stoic.

I would be remiss not to mention some beautiful animation. The cyborg cop is lying in bed, and her eyes change expression from sleepiness to full alertness. It’s subtle but very well done. Subtle animation is very rare!! There is a fight scene that takes place in about an inch of water on the street; the water play and the choreography are both wonderfully executed and engaging.

The opening credit sequence is the best part of the movie, with music and action reaching crescendo perfectly. The mood is set. Then, the terribly translated English- the actors sound just awful- the mood is broken. I wish I could watch the original film, but I don’t speak Japanese. This translation issue has improved since 1995.

While I’m perfectly aware that there are very few original stories left to tell, there were too many nearly exact plot devices as those in the book that preceded it by nine years, Speaker for the Dead , Orson Scott Card’s followup to Ender’s Game. Puppet Master conception:Ghost::Jane conception:Speaker.

Maybe I just don’t understand animé, but this film is not something I’m interested in seeing again. Not sorry I saw it. Wouldn’t recommend it.

[rate 2]

One thought on “Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai) directed by Manoru Oshii

  1. The English language voice-overs were about as bad as they could be. The voices were flat — devoid of emotion — with accidental Canadian accents popping out here and there. Spoken Japanese with English subtitles would have been much better.

    The opening sequence and the action sequence in shallow water are the highlights of the moive.

    I never really got the relationship between the two main characters (Major Motoko Kusanagi and Batô). I sensed absolutely no connection between them and have no idea why he helped her go against everything they were assigned to do — with no questions asked. That takes a huge level of trust and I got no sense it existed between those two.

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