Ghost in the Shell (GHOST IN THE SHELL/攻殻機動隊 Gōsuto in za sheru / Kōkaku kidōtai, lit. Ghost in the Shell / Mobile Armored Riot Police) is a 1995 anime science fiction film based on manga of the same title byMasamune Shirow. The film was written by Kazunori Itō, directed by Mamoru Oshii, animated by Production I.G, and starred the voices of Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka and Iemasa Kayumi.
Ghost in the Shell follows the hunt of the public security agency Section 9 for a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. With the assistance of her team, Motoko Kusanagi tracks and finds their suspect, only to be drawn into a complex sequence of political intrigue and a cover-up as to the identity and goals of the Puppet Master.
The overarching philosophical themes of the film include self-identity in a technologically advanced world. The music, composed by Kenji Kawai, included an ancient Japanese language in a wedding song that serves as a key piece of music leading up to the climax of the movie. Ghost in the Shell was received positively by critics, who praised its visuals, which at the time were the most effective synthesis of traditional cel animation and CG animation. It has served as inspiration for filmmakers such as The Wachowskis.[note 1]
In 2004, Oshii directed Innocence, billed as a separate work and not a true sequel to Ghost in the Shell. In 2008, Oshii released an updated version of the original film, titled Ghost in the Shell 2.0 that featured new audio and updated 3D computer graphics.
The world has become interconnected by a vast electronic network that permeates every aspect of life. Much of humanity, including the protagonists, has direct access to this network through cybernetic bodies, or "shells", which possess their consciousness and can give them superhuman abilities.
In the year 2029, Major Motoko Kusanagi, an assault team leader for the Public Security Section 9, is assigned to capture an elusive hacker known as thePuppet Master. Her team, Batou and Ishikawa, use triangulation to seek out the Puppet Master. Their suspect is a garbageman who believes he is going through a divorce and thinks he is using a program obtained from a sympathetic man to illegally "ghost-hack" his wife's mind to find his daughter. Kusanagi and her team arrest both the garbageman and the man who gave him the program, but they discover that both men's memories were either erased or implanted, which means they themselves were "ghost-hacked" by the Puppet Master, who remains at large.
Soon after, a facility is hacked and programmed to assemble a female cybernetic body. The body escapes but is hit by a truck; Section 9 investigates and examines the body. The completely robotic body seems to have a human "ghost" inside—perhaps the Puppet Master himself. Officials from rival agency Section 6 visit Section 9 and explain that the body was made to lure the Puppet Master's "ghost" and trap it inside. Kusanagi espies the conversation and decides to "dive in" the body and face the Puppet Master's "ghost". Before she succeeds, the "ghost" activates the body. Section 6 then storms Section 9 and takes the body away.
The information from the body leads Section 9 to uncover the mysterious Project 2501. Section 6 claims the project was created to catch the elusive hacker, but the project was initiated before his appearance. Section 9 speculates that the project itself created the Puppet Master, who then escaped, and Section 6 now wants him back. Daisuke Aramaki, the head of Section 9, suspects that the project and the Puppet Master were tools of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The escape might lead to the revelation of secrets that could embarrass both Section 6 and the Ministry.
The getaway car carrying the Puppet Master meets up with another, and they split off. Batou stops the original car, which turns out to be a decoy. Kusanagi follows the second car to an abandoned building, where she is ambushed by a spider-shaped armored vehicle that was deployed to stop her. Batou arrives in time to save the badly damaged Kusanagi. With Batou on guard, Kusanagi now faces the body stolen by Section 6. The Puppet Master reveals himself and says that, in Project 2501, Section 6 created him to hack "ghosts" illegally for specific individuals and for Section 6's own self-interests. In time, while wandering various networks, The Puppet Master became sentient. After becoming self-aware, he thought about his own mortality, and it troubled him that he would be unable to reproduce or die and become a complete life-form. His curiosity of Kusanagi was piqued due to the variety of networks she accessed. He was forced to obtain a physical body to escape Section 6, due to the fact he could not crack Section 6's attack protection, and thus would be unable to locate Kusanagi in order to merge with her ghost and create a new, more complete being. As a result of the merging, he would be able to experience mortality, and Kusanagi would live on with his "ghost" and the vast information he has obtained. Batou tries to disconnect the dive, but he is subsequently ghost hacked and halted by the Puppet Master.
Helicopters from Section 6 approach the building with orders to destroy everyone inside to cover up Project 2501. The Puppet Master disrupts their targeting systems. When he starts merging with Kusanagi, snipers blow their heads off, along with Batou's arm.
Kusanagi wakes up in a child-sized cyborg body in Batou's safe house. Batou says her original body was destroyed in the fight. He recovered her head intact and attached it to the new body. Police Chief Nakamura is questioned and the Foreign Minister resigns in the aftermath. As she is about to leave, Kusanagi acknowledges she is now neither herself nor the Puppet Master, but a combination of both. Batou says he will always be there for her. She exits the house and gazes out over the city, pondering the possibilities for the future.
Director Mamoru Oshii stated, "My intuition told me that this story about a futuristic world carried an immediate message for our present world. I am also interested in computers through my own personal experience with them. I had the same feeling aboutPatlabor and I thought it would be interesting to make a film that took place in the near future. There are only a few movies, even out of Hollywood, which clearly portray the influence and power of computers. I thought this theme would be more effectively conveyed through animation." Oshii expanded on these thoughts in a later interview, noting that technology changes people and had become a part of the culture of Japan. He commented that his use of philosophy caused producers to become frustrated because of sparing use of action scenes. Oshii also acknowledged that a movie with more action would sell better, but he continued to make these movies anyway. When Oshii went back to make changes to the original Ghost in the Shell to re-release it as Ghost in the Shell 2.0, one of the reasons he gave was that the film did not resemble the sequel. He wanted to update the film to reflect changes in perspective.
Hiroyuki Okiura, the character designer and key animation supervisor, designed a more mature and serious Motoko than Masamune Shirow's original portrayal of the character in the manga. Okiura chose to depict a physically mature person to match Motoko's mental age, instead of the youthful twenty-something appearance in the manga. Motoko's demeanor lacks the comedic facial expressions and rebellious nature depicted in the manga.
Oshii based the setting for Ghost in the Shell on Hong Kong. Oshii commented that his first thought to find an image of the future setting was an Asian city, but finding a suitable cityscape of the future would be impossible. Oshii chose to use the real streets of Hong Kong as his model. He also said that Hong Kong was the perfect subject and theme for the film with its countless signs and the cacophony of sounds. The film's mecha designer Takeuchi Atsushi noted that while the film does not have a chosen setting, it is obviously based on Hong Kong because the city represented the theme of the film, the old and the new which exist in a strange relationship in an age of an information deluge. Before shooting the film, the artists drew sketches that emphasized Hong Kong's chaotic, confusing and overwhelming aspects.
The Hong Kong setting is obviated by the scene wherein the characters are drinking San Miguel Beer a cultural staple of the East Asian megalopolis.
Ghost in the Shell used a novel process called "digitally generated animation" (DGA), which is a combination of cel animation, computer graphics (CG), and audio that is entered as digital data. In 1995, DGA was thought to be the future of animation, which mixed traditional animation with the emerging use of computer graphics, including digital cel work with visual displays. Editing was performed on an AVID system of Avid Technology, which was chosen because it was more versatile and less limiting than other methods and worked with the different types of media in a single environment.
The digital cel work included both original illustrations, compositions and manipulation with traditional cel animation to create a sense of depth and evoke emotion and feelings. Utilized as background, filters like a lens effect were used to create a sense of depth and motion, by distorting the front background and making the far background out of focus throughout the shot. Ghost in the Shell used a unique lighting system in which light and darkness were integrated into the cels with attention to light and shadow sources instead of using contrast to control the light. Hiromasa Ogura, the art director, described this as "a very unusual lighting technique."
Some special effects, like Motoko's "thermo-optical camouflage", were rendered through the use of TIMA software. The process uses a single illustration and manipulates the image as necessary to produce distortions for effect in combination with a background without altering the original illustration. The effect is re-added back into the shot to complete the scene. While the visual displays used in the film were technically simple to create, the appearance of the displays underwent numerous revisions by the production team to best represent visual displays of the future. Another aspect of the CG use was to create images and effects that looked as if they were "perceived by the brain" and were generated in video and added to the film in its final stages.
The opening credits of the film were produced by the CG director, Seichi Tanaka. Tanaka converted code in a computer language displayed in romanized Japanese letters to numbers before inserting them into the computer to generate the credits. The origin of this code is the names of the film's staff as written in a computer language.
Animation director Toshihiko Nishikubo was responsible for the realism and strove for accurate depictions of movement and effects. The pursuit of realism included the staff conducting firearms research at a facility in Guam. Nishikubo has highlighted the tank scene as an example of the movie's realism, noting that bullets create sparks when hitting metal, but do not spark when a bullet strikes stone.
Ghost in the Shell 's recording was done with a high-end studio to achieve superior sound throughout the film. A spatializer was used to alter the sound, specifically in the electronic brain conversations, to modify the voices.
Composer Kenji Kawai scored the film. For the main theme, Kawai tried to imagine the setting and convey the essence of that world in the music. He used the ancient Japanese language of Yamato in the opening theme "Making of a Cyborg". The composition is a mixture of Bulgarian harmony and traditional Japanese notes; the haunting chorals are a wedding song sung to dispel all evil influences. Symphony conductor Sarah Penicka-Smith notes that the song's lyrics are fitting for the union between Kusanagi and Project 2501 at the climax of the movie. Kawai originally wanted to use Bulgarian folk music singers, but used Japanese folk singers instead. "See You Everyday" is different from the rest of the soundtrack, being a pop song sung in Cantonese by Fang Ka Wing.
An updated version of the original film, titled Ghost in the Shell 2.0 (GHOST IN THE SHELL／攻殻機動隊 2.0 Gōsuto in za sheru / Kōkaku kidōtai 2.0), was made in celebration for the release of The Sky Crawlers in 2008. The Ghost in the Shell 2.0 release features replacements of the original animations with the latest digital film and animation technologies, such as 3D-CGI. It includes a new opening, digital screens and holographic displays, and omits several brief scenes.
The original soundtrack was also re-arranged and re-recorded. Kenji Kawai remixed the Version 2.0 soundtrack in 6.1 Channel Surround. Randy Thom ofSkywalker Sound reprised his role as sound designer, having worked previously on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. In the new soundtrack, the Japanese voice dialogue was also re-recorded, with some variation from the original script to modernize the speech. Yoshiko Sakakibara replaced Iemasa Kayumi as the voice of the Puppet Master.
Kenji Kawai's original soundtrack for the film was released on November 22, 1995. The last track included Yoshimasa Mizuno's pop song "See You Everyday". After the release of Ghost in the Shell 2.0, an updated version of the soundtrack was released on December 17, 2008.
A Photo-CD of the film was released in Japan on November 20, 1995. A spin-off novel written by Endo Akira, titled Ghost in the Shell: Burning City (攻殻機動隊灼熱の都市 Kōkaku kidōtai shakunetsu no toshi), was published by Kodansha and released on November 1995. It was followed by a sequel, titled Ghost in the Shell 2: Star Seed (攻殻機動隊2: Star Seed), released on January 1998. A book titled Analysis of Ghost in the Shell was released on September 25, 1997 by Kodansha.
The film had its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October 1995, before its general release in November. In Japan, the film was released on VHS on April 26, 1996. The DVD version was released on 25 February 2004, and the Blu-ray on 24 August 2007. A special edition was released in December 2004. The special edition contains an additional disc containing character dossiers, a creator biography, the director's biography,Ghost in the Shell trailers and previews.
The "2.0" version was released in theatres in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Sapporo on July 12, 2008. The film was released in DVD and Blu-ray on December 19, 2008, in Japan.
In North America, the film was released on VHS on June 18, 1996 through Manga Entertainment, and on DVD on March 31, 1998 by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Manga Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray on 24 November 2009; this version contains the original film and the remastering, but omits the audio commentary and face-to-face interview with Oshii, which are listed on its box. Manga Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment re-released the film on Blu-ray with a brand new HD film print on September 23, 2014. The release was met with some criticism for its poor translation of english subtitles and the lack of extra features.
The film was a box office hit when released in Japan and received positive reviews from film critics. It holds a 95% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 31 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "A stunning feat of modern animation, Ghost in the Shell offers a thoughtful, complex treat for anime fans, as well as a perfect introduction for viewers new to the genre."
Niels Matthijs of Twitch Film praised the film, stating, "Not only is Kokaku Kidotai an essential film in the canon of Japanese animation, together with Kubrick's2001 and Tarkovsky's Solyaris it completes a trio of book adaptations that transcend the popularity of their originals and [give] a new meaning to an already popular brand." He ranked it #48 of his personal favorites. Clark Collis of Empire opined that the film was predictable, but praised its production values.Johnathan Mays of Anime News Network praised the animation combined with the computer effects, calling it "perhaps the best synthesis ever witnessed in anime". Helen McCarthy in 500 Essential Anime Movies describes the film as "one of the best anime ever made", praising screenplay, an "atmospheric score", and adding that "action scenes as good as anything in the current Hollywood blockbuster are supported by CGI effects that can still astonish".
Ghost in the Shell was the first anime video to reach Billboard's #1 video slot at the time of its release. The film ranked as the ninth top selling anime DVD movie in 2006. It ranked 35 on Total Film's 2010 top list of 50 Animated Films. The film ranked #4 on Wizards Anime Magazine on their "Top 50 Anime released in North America".
Much critical attention has been paid to the film's focus on sexuality and gender identity. Sharalyn Orbaugh has noted that the opening scene of Ghost in the Shell begins with the "perfect paradoxical introduction to a narrative that is all about the nature of sex/gender identity and self-identity in general in a future world where sexual reproduction has given way to mechanical replication." Motoko's female identity and appearance are countered by an autonomous subjectivity, resulting in a "male" cyborg body which cannot menstruate.[note 2] Orbaugh describes the juxtaposition of the opening scene depicting the creation of Motoko's body and to her lack of menstruation as setting the theme of "reproductive sexuality in a posthuman subject."[note 3] The film depicts Motoko's identity and ontological concerns, ending with the evolution of a being with full subjectivity, through a new form of reproduction with the Puppet Master. Austin Corbett commented on the lack of sexualization from her team as freedom from femininity, noting that Motoko is "overtly feminine, and clearly non-female." Carl Slivio has called Ghost in the Shell a "resistant film", due to its inversion of traditional gender roles, its "valorization of the post-gendered subject", and its de-emphasis of the sexual specificity of the material body.
Ghost in the Shell influenced a number of prominent filmmakers. The Wachowskis, creators of The Matrix and its sequels, showed it to producer Joel Silver, saying, "We wanna do that for real." The Matrix series took several concepts from the film, including the Matrix digital rain, which was inspired by the opening credits of Ghost in the Shell, and the way people accessed the Matrix through holes in the back of their necks. Other parallels have been drawn to James Cameron's Avatar, Steven Spielberg's AI: Artificial Intelligence, and Jonathan Mostow's Surrogates.