Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Which is more important: The ghost or the shell?
Jim Omura · September 16, 2004 | Unfortunately, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is a really great movie with some superb graphics and a thought-provoking story. What is unfortunate about it is that one way or another, I can see that it is going to end up costing me a lot. Either I will pay a lot to repeatedly see it in theaters on a big screen, or I will have to upgrade my TV.

Innocence is a fairly accessible movie, even in its subtitled form, but it has breadth and depth that cry out for research and, yes, seeing the movie again and again. The plot of the movie, stripped of its technological and philosophical adornment, is a mystery. It is 2032 and experimental robots designed for adult entertainment are apparently malfunctioning and killing people. Why is this happening? Cyborg security officer Batou sets off to find the answer with his new partner Togusa, who will, thankfully, require some explanation along the way. This is especially appreciated since reality itself will, at times, become doubtful.

One possible reason is that the robots are protesting their obsolescence. This opens the door for speculation on the nature of sentience and the essence of life. In the end, the answer to the mystery will be that survival was at stake. But that will open up even more moral questions, without really answering any of the others. Along the way, Oshii has created a fusion of elements, influences and technical achievements that will appeal to a wider range of audiences than just the Philosophy 201 crowd.

Visually, Innocence is more heavily a product of computer talent than the sweat of traditional animation artists. There are scenes that are filled with travelogue beauty which is best appreciated on a very large screen, and others with the filth of ancient back alleys, a staple of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. This is one of the minor problems of the film. There is so much computer work that despite the effort to make it all graphically harmonious, one must wonder why Oshii bothered to leave in any hand-drawn art. The usual reason would be that facial expressions in particular are more easily done in painted or drawn art, but the movie is emotionally understated. Batou is particularly portrayed as deadpan. After the 2001 release Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within, and works such as Reboot and the new Spider-Man there is little doubt that full computer generation could have been used in this movie.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Production IG/Go Fish Pictures, 2004
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
99 minutes

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Although the title and characters are nominally based on the work of Shirow Masamune, and the plot itself is a reworked version of one found in the original Ghost in the Shell manga series, Innocence seems almost as closely related to the aforementioned Blade Runner and Philip K. Dick's original 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The main character, Batou, seems to have the obsession for a live pet that Philip K. Dick's characters had—one that was not in Shirow's manga and only hinted at in Blade Runner. Batou in the film is very different from the character in the manga. His more intellectually diverse and introspective behaviour is explained as a change that has come since his former partner Major Kusanagi disappeared. Actually, the character seems so different from the Batou of the manga, it probably is not worth trying to explain it. It is simply Oshii's Batou vs. Shirow's Batou, just as Ridley Scott's story and characters were not really what Philip K. Dick had written. Some Shirow fans will find this disappointing, but Oshii has brought so much to the story that it can be forgiven.

In Galaxy Express 999 the living bodies of people who are given machine bodies are kept frozen on an icy plain in case one decides to revert. But few people claim them back, and as time goes on, they seem to get less and less human. Shirow does not feel this is necessarily the outcome. With humour and exuberance he embraces the beneficial possibilities, though not without a tempered, considered caution. Oshii's Innocence appears to be more pessimistic about the future, as were Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott, but does not really appear to come to conclusions. We are left with little more than whatever optimism or pessimism we came in with.
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