This boxset contains the original ground breaking Ghost in the Shell anime movie and it's sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. With the Ghost in the Shell 2.0 movie being released on DVD and Blu-Ray later this year this is a great time to watch these movies in preparation; especially if like me you've been putting off watching them.
I prefer it when boxsets save space rather than just being a slipcase for the original DVD cases, but this boxset is nothing more than a nice slip case surrounding the original releases of both films.
Ghost in the Shell was a movie which changed the genre forever with it's amazing use of both cell based animation and CGI effects - it was the first of it's kind. As the movie opens we are introduced to the principal character, Major Motoko Kusanagi as she is spying on a people discussing the defect of a programmer. She is then given her orders to continue with her mission and we see the police force interrupt the negotiations with what turns into a gun fight. After the suspect pleads diplomatic immunity we see Motoko assassinate the diplomat and then escapes using therm-optic camouflage.
During the title sequence which follows we see the process by which a normal human being is turned into a cyborg with enhanced abilities and a metal body - there is very little left of the person they were before. It then ends the sequence with us seeing the finished cyborg getting new skin and bursting through some liquid into the open air - something which is symbolic of a rebirth. This is technically true, they are no longer human after they have gone through this transformation, they are a cyborg - part human, part machine. So what they go on to describe as setting cyborgs and humans apart from machines is that they have a ghost; hence the title Ghost in the Shell is referring to their human ghost (what makes them who they are) residing inside a metal shell. The only problem here is that it's possible to hack a ghost to alter memories, which then leads us into the main plot of their hunt for a villain known only as the "Puppet Master".
The film then proceeds to follow the hunt for the puppet master and we gradually learn a little more about Mokoto Kusanagi, even though it does not evolve the character a great deal - she always seems distant and unblinking as though she herself is but a puppet. When a a cybernetic body is hit by a car it is then revealed that this body was built without a brain, yet there are signs that the body does indeed have a ghost - something which could then bring into question whether it is possible for an artificial intelligence to gain sentience and whether that would have it's own "ghost". It makes Kusanagi question whether her own memories are real or whether they could be ghost-hacked and she is determined to "dive in" to the shell to find out about this ghost they detected.
Before Kusanagi can dive in to the shell though the cybernetic body comes to "life" and introduces itself as the Puppet Master, a being which has come into existence on the Internet and has no body. Meanwhile, Togusa comes to realise that a third person entered the Government facility using therm-optic camouflage (something which he comments is illegal to do) and reports it back to them just as someone manages to steal the body containing the Puppet Master. Of course Kusanagi gives chase, and tracks them down to a warehouse where a spider-like tank is protecting the car with the stolen body in.
In the battle that ensues Kusanagi disables the tank but damages her own body in the process with her arms torn from her body. She then orders Batou to go ahead with connecting her to the Puppet Master's body so she can "dive in". It is here that the Puppet Master explains his plan, and the quote that Kusanagi had paraphrased from the bible earlier is now used once more by the Puppet Master. He explains that his plans were to merge with Kusanagi to become a single, different being. The quote from the bible which is paraphrased is:
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known
This quote is talking about the change in a person after having a revelation and coming to believe in something new. This is significant as it symbolises the rebirth of Kusanagi as someone else, she is no longer herself, nor is she the Puppet Master - they are now one being whose eyes have been opened to the vastness of the net. The problem with this is that if like me you're not a Christian you may not get the importance of this when the verse is first quoted and it may not have the same impact later in the film either. Fortunately I've heard this quote in other films and I know it to be from the Bible because of them.
It is quite an enjoyable film with plenty of action, and it makes me wonder how the redux version will stand up to this when it is released on DVD and Blu-ray shortly. The animation is of a good standard and is comparable to any other Anime of the time. The English vocalisation isn't too bad, and is certainly better than some of them I've heard. However, the soundtrack I found wasn't that memorable - it could be though that it was just that I was a little tired when I watched it.
Ghost in the Shell rating: 4 stars