Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell (1995 film)
Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow, written by Kozunori Itō, directed by Mamoru Oshii with studio Production I.G.
Ghost in the Shell is a political, cyberpunk, action-thriller set in 2029 Japan. Technology has advanced to a point where the body can be replaced with cybernetic parts or the brain encased in a mechanical shell with network connectivity. We follow Major Mokoto Kusanagi, a full cyborg and leader of Public Security Section 9 of New Port City.
The film balances story and action exceptionally well, the dynamic sequences are short but have exceptional choreography. Though where it truly shines is the level of detail throughout, from the intricate cyber bodies to sprawling urban landscapes; the film gives you plenty of time to enjoy them. Some of my favourite moments are the simply observing the futuristic city.
While other iterations of Ghost in the Shell don’t quite match the perfection of this film, they are worth a look.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004 film)
Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow, written and directed by Mamoru Oshii with studio Production I.G.
Apparently, Innocence isn’t a sequel as much as a separate work, though it’s set after and references the original as well as parts of the manga. The plot isn’t as straightforward as the first film and leans heavily into psychological mystery. While looking like something from the Ghost in the Shell universe, Oshii has given Innocence a distinctly different feel. 3D and visual effects are blended with traditional techniques to produce a beautiful animation style. City scenes and Batou’s apartment are gorgeous, and the way reflective surfaces are treated particularly stand out. Despite the mixed reception, I like Innocence and feel it fits well into the overall series.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002–05)
Written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama with studio Production I.G.
The TV series includes two seasons and a bunch of specials which will take too long to cover here, but they’re worth watching if you enjoy the films. The character design resembles the manga a little more, and the animation quality is typical of a series. Personally, I prefer season one over two; I found storyline more engaging. The series also spends plenty of time telling the backstory of supporting characters as well as a fun side plot with Tachikoma.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise (2013–15)
Written by Tow Ubukata and directed by Kazuya Nomura with studio Production I.G.
Arise is the latest adaptation set two years before the original film and the formation of Section 9. On paper, the series order is a little confusing. Arise can be watched two ways; start with the five OAVs (Border 1–5) or the ten-part series (which is each OAV split into two episodes); then watch Ghost in the Shell: New Movie to wrap it up — see, confusing right? I don’t think Arise takes the series anywhere new, I found it underwhelming, and the character designs were a little bland — the Major, in particular, had lost her edginess.