Ghost in the Shell
(Kokaku Kidotai) (1995)
Directed by Mamoru Oshii

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * *

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Motoko Kusanagi, a cybernetic police officer living in the year 2029, is investigating a conspiracy involving a mysterious entity known as the Puppet Master. Her inquiries do more than reveal this individual, however. They lead her to question the nature of her humanity and to realize that even a machine may be able to become sentient.

Mamoru Oshii's animated science fiction film Ghost in the Shell is not a masterpiece, but it is a visually impressive, inventive, and intelligent movie filled with a variety of exciting adventures.


While Oshii lacks the aesthetic sensitivity of some other animators, such as Hayao Miyazaki, and Ghost in the Shell is not imbued with the same beauty found in the films made at such places as Studio Ghibli, the animation the director employs is, nonetheless, detailed and technically impressive, especially in its nearly seamless marriage of two dimensional and computer generated images. Furthermore, the world of the movie, though it resembles those of many other science fiction films, such as Akira, Cowboy Bebop, and Bladerunner, and lacks any real distinctiveness, is sumptuously realized, well drawn, and filled with a sufficient number of intriguing details to keep the viewer engaged. The character designs, unfortunately, are not always appealing. In fact, they are the movie's greatest visual weakness. The characters' faces, in particular, are rendered in a realistic and detailed style that occasionally gives the animation a wooden and amateurish feel. Whatever its faults, the animation is, it must be said, generally extremely well done, technically accomplished, and enjoyable to watch.

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Like its visual elements, the film's story is fascinating but imperfectly realized. The narrative is cohesive and the plot moves along quickly, but many of the themes introduced are not developed as thoroughly as they could have been. Although Ghost in the Shell is filled with interesting ideas, most of these are mentioned only in passing and are then ignored. Even those integral to the story, as issues of personal identity, of what constitutes being human, of man's relationship with technology, and of technological artifacts' potential for developing sentience, while constantly present, are never questioned in sufficient detail. A longer, more complex film could have brought out some of the richness of these elements and provided the viewer with a more rewarding experience. While the director never explores these issues satisfactorily, he does, however, intrigue the viewer with them.


Moreover, the movie is not solely concerned with these themes, and the action sequences with which Ghost in the Shell is constantly enlivened are certainly its greatest strength. All are absolutely exhilarating and many are combined with a remarkable sexiness, thanks to Kusanagi's athleticism and voluptuous figure. Despite a complex plot and the inclusion of numerous meditations on various topics, the frequent fights, chases, and struggles depicted keep the movie intoxicatingly frenetic and vibrant.


Whatever its faults Ghost in the Shell is an interesting, entertaining, and exciting film. It is certainly worth watching.

Review by Keith Allen


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