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Production IG and Dreamworks SKG

Official Site

Director: Mamoru Oshii

Producers: Mitsuhisa Ichikawa and Toshio Suzuki

Written by: Mamoru Oshii, based on the manga and characters created by Masamune Shirow

Cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Koichi Yamadera, Tamio Oki, Naoto Takenaka, Yutaka Nakano


About eight years ago, Mamoru Oshii’s visionary breakthrough anime film, Ghost In The Shell, was released in the U.S. and became an instant cult classic among film fans and otakus, becoming even more popular in the states than in its country of origin, Japan. Ghost In The Shell has enjoyed a resurgence of late, thanks to a new, extremely entertaining television series “Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex” (a prequel of sorts to the first movie) and its second season “2nd GIG”. (AN: “Stand Alone Complex” is now being released on DVD in region 1 and is set to air on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block in November.) If you want to know where the Wachowski Brothers got much of their “inspiration” for The Matrix films, look no further than Ghost In The Shell.

And now here we are, nearly a decade after GITS’s original release with Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. In 2003, Joel Silver claimed that the sequels to The Matrix would raise the bar so high, that “there is no bar.” Well lo and behold they did not, but where those crappy Matrix sequels failed, Innocence succeeds. And it very well should, since Production IG spent over four years producing the anime, which is far superior to and well above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen in animation. That includes Disney, PDI, and yes… even Pixar. The animation seamlessly and perfectly mixes 2-dimensional, hand-drawn characters with 3-D backgrounds, landscapes, and settings. The visuals in this movie are simply staggering, and need to be seen.

2032, about two or three years after the events in the first movie, Major Motoko Kusanagi (Tanaka) is still missing after the Puppet Master incident. Kusanagi’s former partner, the cyborg Batou (Otsuka) and the “mostly human” Togusa (Spike “OI SPIKU!” Spiegel himself, Yamadera) continue to work for Public Security Section 9. To those wondering, PSS 9 is an elite military police unit comprised mostly of cyborgs, which handles just about anything related to cybernetic crimes or cyber-terrorism. Batou, who has grown increasingly more stoic, dejected, and lonesome after the disappearance of the Major, is in the midst of a murder investigation in which sex-doll androids are killing their owners. The trail leads Batou and Togusa to Japanese Yakuza and an enigmatic corporation, Locus Solus, which made the androids.

Just as in the first film, Innocence depicts how rapidly advancing technology gradually strips away our utter humanity—and the souls that distinguish us as humans. In the world Shirow and Oshii have created, the line between man and machine grows ever thinner, and humanity’s continual obsession with recreating itself eventually leads to the obsolescence of little things such as love and the spirit. Even though his body is entirely synthetic and artificial, Batou’s mind contains his human soul (AN: ghost is the term used for the soul or spirit in the anime), and Innocence is basically Batou’s story of trying to fight and keep what humanity he has, even though his behavior suggests he could end up like the Major.

The image of the basset hound—a motif in the first film—recurs in Innocence in the form of Ruby, Batou’s pet, who seems to be the main source of the cyborg’s doting affections. Writer and director Oshii, actually owns and loves basset dogs himself, and uses Ruby as a device for Batou to express a form of love and humanity.

All the original voice actors from the movie and television series reprise their roles, including Yutaka Nakano as PSS 9 investigator Ishikawa, and Tamio Oki as Section 9 Department Chief Daisuke Aramaki. The absence of the Major is a welcome change, since it brings great characters like Batou and Togusa to the forefront, developing their wonderful characters, fleshing out their arcs. Even a minor character like Ishikawa gets his fair share of cool moments. Despite his despondency, Batou has retained some of his sarcastic and eccentric sense of humor. Togusa, another interesting character, is the only human officer in his department, and he opts to use old-fashioned revolvers instead of high-tech weaponry.

If there’s one thing the movie probably didn’t need as much of, it’s the saturation of quotes from literature, philosophers, proverbs, and the Old Testament in Oshii’s script. The characters expound to a degree that appeared as if they were trying to parody a typical anime convention, but I’m not sure. Oshii definitely could have exhibited some restraint there, but all in all it’s a minor qualm.

Kenji Kawai’s original music for the movie is superb. He builds upon and re-uses some of the older and classic themes he created for the first movie, and it works. The music is primarily traditional, and thankfully contains “none of that techno shit” as Guillermo Del Toro would say and NO POP MUSIC OR CRAPPY ROCK AND ROLL BANDS! Hollywood, I’m looking at YOU! However, I admit that I prefer the soundtrack of my true musical love, Yoko Kanno, in “Stand Alone Complex.”

Innocence is set to have the biggest theatrical release for any anime ever released stateside, so do your best to take advantage of that. Oshii and Production IG have created something truly special, and it should be seen in a movie theater. If you are not a big Ghost In The Shell fan, know that Innocence is ultimately a much more complete and satisfying cinematic experience. The worst thing I can say about the movie: no Tachikomas!

“No matter how far a jackass travels, it won’t come back a horse.”


—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

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