This capsule on Ghost in the Shell (1995) commemorates the 25th anniversary of the release of Mamoru Oshii’s film in Japan.
Who am I? What makes me human? How can we define the soul or consciousness? These philosophical questions about identity have occupied the minds of leading thinkers throughout history, and this conversation seems even more pertinent than ever in the 21st century, where technological advances are slowly leading humanity to a new existential crossroads, between the desire to improve ourselves to transcend the limitations of organic life, and the fear of losing everything that makes us feel ourselves.
In 1995, the acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii turned his adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, the work of the famous mangaka Masamune Shirow from 1989, into one of the most influential films in contemporary science fiction, anticipating a near future where man-machine integration and artificial intelligence are a reality, and modified humans can remain directly interconnected through an electronic network that permeates almost all aspects of life, with all the benefits and risks that all these technological advances imply.
At the center of the story is Major Motoko Kusanagi, who managed to successfully transfer her consciousness, her “ghost”, into a completely cybernetic body, but she grapples with the conflict of not feeling like a human being anymore and begins to question her own existence. She commands the forces of Public Security Section 9, an intelligence department under the Japanese Ministry of the Interior, which specializes in operations against cyberterrorism. His new mission is to stop a mysterious hacker known as “Puppet Master”, who has manipulated the memories of countless cyborgs to commit all kinds of atrocities without leaving a trace. As the Major begins to get involved in this case, she discovers that “Puppet Master” is the only one who can confront and bring clarity to the complex questions that have plagued her.
Continuing with the approach that he had already deployed in film franchises such as Urusei Yatsura [2: Beautiful Dreamer] and Patlabor [2: The Movie], Mamoru Oshii deliberately decides to depart from the more commercial and superfluous elements of the source material, drastically reducing the action, comic tone, and erotic content of Ghost in the Shell; in favor of a gloomy atmosphere, enhanced by the iconic Kenji Kawai soundtrack, to emphasize philosophical themes, based on visual metaphors, iconography taken from art and religion, as well as direct allusions to Cartesian dualism, reductive materialism, The paradox of Theseus and the dogma of the ghost in the machine by the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle, which would motivate the book The Ghost in the Machine, by Arthur Koestler, and in turn, this would be the source of inspiration for the title of Masamune Shirow’s manga .
Although the feature film by the also director of Angel’s Egg (1985) was a commercial failure in theaters, Ghost in the Shell had a resounding success in the video market and its cult status was not reversed in the West, as it was the first animated film. Japanese to reach the top spot on Billboard magazine’s video sales chart and thus become part of a select group of productions from the 80s and 90s that would fuel interest in anime around the world.
Among his most ardent fans within the film industry are, of course, the Wachowski sisters, who borrowed numerous visual and narrative elements from Ghost in the Shell for the creation of The Matrix (1999); as well as James Cameron, who would describe it as “an impressive work of speculative fiction and the first animation made truly for adults to reach a level of visual and literary excellence.”
The impact of Mamoru Oshii’s masterpiece would mark the beginning of a franchise that, throughout the decades since, through multiple iterations in series and movies, including the stylized Hollywood version starring Scarlett Johanson in 2017, continues to explore new ones. thesis on the same fascinating questions that he first explored in the mid-90s. Evolved just like Major Motoko Kusanagi, along with the medium that he helped drive and redefine.
Ghost in the Shell is available in streaming through Netflix and Prime Video. The movie can be purchased on Blu-ray / DVD from Amazon.
Original title: 攻殻機動隊 (Kōkaku Kidōtai)
Year: nineteen ninety five
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Actors: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka, Iemasa Kayumi
Release date:November 18, 1995 (JPN)
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Gustavo Pineda I write about film, television and anime at Cine PREMIERE