Movie Reviews
4:45 pm
Tue September 14, 2004

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

It's sure not "Tom and Jerry."

The difference between Japanese anime and US animation is the difference between the rest of the world's films and American films: Many other nations value reflection, dialogue, and philosophy; the US emphasizes technology. In the new anime called "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence," sequel to the 1995 hit of the same name without the "Innocence," the visuals are predominantly flat with some 3D background and 2D characters in front, but the story is loaded with musings about humanity and death.

While the U.S.'s Dream Works studios animate with a reality that counts the hairs on Shrek's arm, its international operation has director Mamoru Oshii with visuals almost abstract, or at least unrealistic, concentrating the on the philosophical underpinnings of thinkers such as Buddha, Descartes, and Milton. In the year 2032, part Cyborg detective Batou searches for the force behind the recent spate of murders by gynoids programmed to be sex dolls but suspiciously evidencing human characteristics. Don't even think for a second that there could be any comparison with last year's Will Smith vehicle "I, Robot," where the need of robots to experience being human was a textual but hardly thematic concern.

In fact, Batou has largely become robotic but has a soul; the world has become so mechanized that the crossover between robot and human is common. The yearning of nonhumans to experience human emotion, and concomitantly suffer death, has been an interest of Mary Shelley ("Frankenstein"), Robert Browning ("Calaban"), and Fritz Lang ("Metropolis") to name only a few of my favorites. And it has been a subject of most reputable science fiction writers and filmmakers. Director Oshii said, "Humans can only confirm that they are humans by reconstructing themselves into something else."

The visual effects echo the bleak world of "Blade Runner" and Gothic architecture in general with much of "Metropolis" in both the look and the anime penchant for philosophizing and preaching, be it through obvious social commentary or allegory. Pascal could have been describing the half humans of "Ghost in the Shell" when he exclaimed, "What a chimera, then, is man! what a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a prodigy!"

"Ghost" is worth seeing several times, first for its sci fi ambience and understated doom, subsequently for deconstructing the numerous scholarly references. It's sure not "Tom and Jerry."