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"Ghost in the Shell 2.0" Blu-ray Review

There are certain anime movies and shows that every self-respecting beginning otaku (Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, or video games) is expected to have seen: Akira, Cowboy Bebop, and 1995's Ghost in the Shell which was updated in 2008 by director Mamoru Oshii to Ghost in the Shell 2.0 - not to be confused with his 2004 sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Confused? Let me explain.

Oshii has gone back an redone several sequences with CGI animation meaning shots of helicopters and the city and computer screens and the Major's iconic strip-naked-turn-invisible-jump-off-building-kill-people scene are buffed in in 21st Century drag. The problem is that when we revert to the 1995 hand-drawn animation, it's jarring. Purists may hate it, but I liked it.

It's been ages since I've seen GitS and it was probably on VHS so I thought this new Blu-ray looked and sounded terrific. However, in looking up some info on it, I discovered there is some controversy involving the new footage, the color timing changes to make it look like the sequel (this I tend to agree with now that I've seen the comparison), and the voice cast. This guy's video review goes into quite a lot of depth with his criticism (do yourself a favor and skip to the 4:00 mark to get to the pertinent info; the intro is simply stupid and screams, "I'm a nerdgin!") and illustrates his beefs with the update.

It should be noted that the original cut is included on this disc, though it's apparently an uprezzed version of the DVD master and opinions are generally negative toward it. The above-linked video talks about how a proper BD of original version is available via import, but a glance at Amazon's Japan site shows it's about $125 for the three disc set! Pass!!

At the core of Ghost in the Shell is a story about the tenuous grip on humanity a person who is basically a cybernetic vessel encasing her spirit (or "ghost" as they call it) may have and how other A.I. constructs may feel about their existence. It frequently gets dully philosophical, but it's not as talky as the sequel was. For all of Innocence's striking beauty, it was mostly characters quoting philosophers at each other like college students one-upping each other.

Ghost in the Shell was never a flawless movie - though unlike Akira, it doesn't utterly fall apart in the end - and the updated visual bits don't change the ultimate story, but it should be seen by all seeking to have a well-rounded appreciation for disparate forms of entertainment. If you've never seen (or don't remember) GitS, then this 2.0 version is fine if you can rent it or get on sale someplace for $10 or less.

Score: 7/10. Buy it if you're a fan and can get it cheap.


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