Ghost in the Shell box cover

© 1995 Masamune Shirow, Kodansha, Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment


Available on VHS and DVD from Manga Entertainment.
90 minutes
Science Fiction
Version I Watched: English dubbed
Objectionable Content: Graphic violence, nudity

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Ghost in the Shell

There's a lot of hype surrounding Ghost in the Shell, and it's easy to start believing that this is one of the best anime out there. After reading a dozen or more glowing reviews praising this title in almost every respect, I had my hopes pretty high when I rented this movie. Not to mention the fact that I already owned the excellent manga, and an anime based on it could only be a good thing, right?

I should have seen it coming. There was no way in hell this movie could have possibly lived up to the inflated expectations I had set for it. First of all, it's based on the rather lengthy manga by Masamune Shirow (renowned for his complex stories). I don't care how talented the screen writers are, there is absolutely no way to cram the entire manga into a one-and-a-half hour movie and have it retain its integrity.

The second mistake was the inordinate amount of hype surrounding this movie. Being the first mainstream anime to hit theaters in North America, naturally expectations would be a bit high. However, a flawed anime in theaters is still a flawed anime.

The beginning of Ghost in the Shell featured the best and most innovative opening credits I've seen. Beautiful animation graced the screen, wonderful special computer effects enhanced its beauty, and my eyes were spellbound. If you want eye-candy, Ghost in the Shell has the best.

I'll admit that this movie does a good job of conveying the fundamental story from the manga. In the distant future, technology has reached a point where people are almost complete cybernetic constructs and the lines between flesh and metal are blurred. A mysterious hacker known only as the "Puppet Master" surfaces, and a special government organization called Section 9, led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, must investigate.

There are lots of philosophical elements to be found here, mostly dealing with what it means to be human, so if that's your cup of tea then you're set. However, the manga was many times more complex, and everything here seems too shallow in comparison. This was punctuated by the lackluster ending. Since this movie didn't build itself to an overly exciting climax, the ending felt a little empty.

The characters, though, were the movie's weakest point. Most of the same characters from the manga are found here, albeit with some physical differences (Motoko actually looks like a real person). Unfortunately, the strong character depth which made the manga so compelling isn't to be found here. Motoko is completely devoid of emotion (she actually smiled in the manga), and her lackluster voice actor doesn't help in the slightest. Batou tended to overshadow her, both in voice acting and personality. The dialog tended to consist of various monologues, which is reminiscent of the manga, but wasn't very enthralling in this movie.

If you've never read the manga, then Ghost in the Shell is worth a watch, if for no other reason than to see what all the fuss is about. Fans of the manga should probably stick to the manga, though.

The Verdict: * * * (average)


Ghost in the Shell image
Ghost in the Shell image
Ghost in the Shell image
Ghost in the Shell image

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