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Kôkaku Kidôtai

Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995) Movie Poster
  •  Japan / UK  •    •  83m  •    •  Directed by: Mamoru Oshii.  •  Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ôtsuka, Kôichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tamio Ohki, Tesshô Genda, Namaki Masakazu, Masato Yamanouchi, Shinji Ogawa, Mitsuru Miyamoto, Kazuhiro Yamaji, Shigeru Chiba, Hiroshi Yanaka.  •  Music by: Kenji Kawai.
        It is the year 2029. Technology has advanced so far that cyborgs are commonplace. In addition, human brains can connect to the internet directly. Major Motoko Kasunagi is an officer in Section 9, an elite, secretive police division that deals with special operations, including counter terrorism and cyber crime. She is currently on the trail of the Puppet Master, a cyber criminal who hacks into the brains of cyborgs in order to obtain information and to commit other crimes.


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Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
Image from: Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
"Ghost in the Shell" is without doubt an incredible achievement in animation, and stands as a classic of its genre. An adaptation of a beloved Manga source material, director Mamoru Oshii's 1995 film is often a powerhouse of keen visual design, true-to-life motion and subtle, heady themes. And it most definitely deserves to be celebrated and beloved. It's a pretty great film, with a lot to enjoy both on the aesthetic surface and in the provocative ideas below. And it also deserves special commendation for being one of the first true breakout anime hits for many Western audiences, paving the way for Anime to take the world by storm. I remember being blown away by it the first time I viewed it about ten years ago, and I hold it in a pretty high regard.

I just don't think it's quite as perfect as it's oft made out to be.

Please! Put down the torches and pitchforks and hear me out, because I know that statement is going to anger a lot of people who hold this film high as an example of perfection. I'm not saying it's a bad film. From from it. But in the grand scheme of anime and the Science Fiction genre, I do think this type of story has been done a bit better on several occasions, and that the film does have a small handful of wonky moments that don't quite work, mainly pertaining to a few minor weaknesses in the writing and storytelling. It's a great film. Heck, I'd still call it a classic myself. But it's also a mildly flawed one.

In a near future where technology has so advanced that the human body can be augmented or even replaced completely by cybernetic material, an entity known as Section 9 operates to protect key secrets and eliminate potential threats, without having to be constrained by corporate or political red-tape. At the head of it all is a cyborg known as Major Motoko Kusanagi, who serves as the leader of Section 9's assault team. When a mysterious cyber- terrorist known as the "Puppet Master" shows himself in a serious strange and bizarre incidents, Section 9 is on the case. However, probing into the matter, Major Kusanagi comes to find a treacherous web of political deceit and morally ambiguous circumstances that will leave her questioning her loyalties and just what it means to be alive...

One of the greatest things about the film is also the source of one of its more noticeable weaknesses... that being the story. It's a very well thought out and generally solidly structure tale that lends itself well to analysis and deeper pondering. With complex and very rich themes of sexuality, gender identity and the concept of what constitutes "life", the film has many great talking points, and there's also plenty of fascinating twists and turns along the way to supply entertainment for those who are looking more for a traditional film. That being said, I can't help but feel the movie is fundamentally trying to do too much, too quickly and that it's pacing and handling of key dialog can be suspect from time to time. It's strange... the film often alternates between two key issues that I have with complex story lines... those being that it often holds the audiences hands a bit too much with blatant exposition dumps, while also being needlessly vague at other times. In a way, I'd compare it to the original entry in the "Matrix" franchise for that same reason. It wants to be a cryptic and masterful philosophical exploration piece... but every couple scenes it grinds to a halt so they can dump about five minutes of expository dialog that comes out and states what we should be thinking about instead of just letting us think it. But it doesn't do this consistently, and sometimes the ideas at play are vague to the point of being almost completely lost without frequently repeated viewings. It's a good story with great ideas... it's just a bit too... uneven to rise to the level of perfection.

But beyond the story, the rest of the production is pretty much a top-notch affair all around. Characters are well-established, generally quite likable and lend a lot to the story being presented. I could just watch 90 minutes of Major and her friendSection 9 accomplice Batou shoot the breeze, they have such a good dynamic. The visual design of the film is absolutely spellbinding and holds up incredibly well. It's beautifully conceived and expertly realized. The action, though limited, is very well-choreographed and very much leaves you on the edge of your seat. The bizarrely (and bizarrely good) experimental musical score will stay with you long after you turn the film off. And the animation is absolutely gorgeous. It's smooth. Fluid. Nails the right balance between realism and stylization. And has left its mark in the worlds of both Science Fiction and anime.

"Ghost in the Shell" is a phenomenal film that's held just shy of perfection, and it's OK to admit that. Admitting its minor flaws does nothing to tarnish its outstanding legacy or its generally exceedingly high quality. It's influence is still felt to this day and it remains one of the most widely beloved works of its genre. And you can't deny that.

I give it a fantastic 9 out of 10.

Review by MaximumMadness from the Internet Movie Database.


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