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Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

By Arpad Lukacs • April 28th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (MOVIE)
Manga Entertainment

Original release: March 6th, 1994
Running time: 100 minutes

Country of origin: Japan
Original language: Japanese

Director: Mamoru Oshii
Writer: Mamoru Oshii
Composer: Kenji Kawai

Voice cast: Richard Epcar, Crispin Freeman, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, William Frederick Knight

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

It took animator Mamoru Oshii almost 15 years to follow his renowned classic Ghost Ghost In The Shell with a sequel. With the original having unprecedented worldwide success that elevated it to one of the most famous animated features ever made in Japan, Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence was one of those releases that inevitably fall into a sea of expectations. In some ways, Oshii’s approach to the film as a sequel is reminiscent to that of Ridley Scott’s with his recent science fiction Prometheus (2012). Innocence is meant as a stand-alone feature, but is also linked to the original so that the creators could have a little leg room to be creative without the excessive constraints of conventional sequels.

The most telling feature that puts daylight between Ghost In The Shell and its sequel is the decision to remove the original’s trademark protagonist from the film. While Motoko Kusanagi (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) has a constant presence as her ghost moved into the Net after she merged with the Puppet Master, her closest ally and colleague from Section 9 takes the leading role in Innocence. To have Kusanagi be a part of the narrative in such a way is an ingenious move; she hovers above every scene, guiding her friend Batou (Richard Epcar) through the obstacles of a deeply unsettling case. I do admit though, the devoted fan of the original inside me never forgave Mamoru Oshii for sidelining my favourite protagonist of all time.

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

Innocence also has a massive visual shift that makes the viewer think it takes place in a different world from the original. The overarching visual theme is undoubtedly neo-noir, with the characters driving cars of classic design from the 1950’s and we sometimes see Batou and his partner Togusa (Crispin Freeman) doing “creative interrogation” of lowlifes while strolling desolate streets, alleyways and staircases. The film is also aided with CGI sequences merged with traditional anime and certain scenes that overlook this beautiful but nevertheless depressing metropolis remind us of another classic that Oshii himself has noted when discussing his influences:

“Of course I have memories of many films I have seen in my life and I assume I am influenced by those films without realising it. I cannot name one in particular. However, I don’t think any films set in the future can be free from the influence of Blade Runner. For those of us who make such films, Blade Runner is something that we cannot surpass.”

The story continues to explore the idea that complex machines could become sentient beings and claim rights that we have so far granted to humans only. Batou and Togusa partner up to investigate a series of murders committed by female androids that were created to be sex dolls for wealthy customers. One of these gynoids encounter with Batou in the film’s opening and right before he terminates her/it the android whispers: “Help me”. As they look deeper into the case, Batou and Togusa begin to understand how LOCUS SOLUS – the company making the gynoids – developed an illegal Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocencemethod of making the androids more life-like. In a pivotal scene, they talk to police forensic specialist Dr Haraway, who’s named after and is a lookalike of Donna Haraway, author of the Cyborg Manifesto that uses the cyborg metaphor in a feminist framework. The scene is beautiful and poetic with truly profound ideas and us being in the shoes of Togusa; a human whose core beliefs about the concept of life are challenged by synthetic beings.

Although Innocence is a remarkable film and an invigorating challenge to the intellect, it isn’t without flaws. Philosophical exploration is inherent to the narrative just as it was in the original, but certain necessary changes needed to be made. While pondering about the nature of all things came only from Motoko Kusanagi in the first film, her removal meant that ideas had to come from different sources. Kusanagi’s internal search has a beautifully natural flow in Ghost in the Shell, but in her absence, Oshii had to transfer this uniquely inquisitive trait to others in Innocence. The problem is that he transferred it, by and large, to all of the characters. So we have Confucius, John Milton, the Old Testament, Buddha, Richard Dawkins and many, many others quoted directly by whoever happens to be in the scene. This often gives the film an arbitrary and somewhat self-indulgent feel. Kusanagi wanted to understand ideas with the practical goal of understanding herself and her true origins in Ghost In The Shell, but Innocence seems to do so only for the sake of it at times.

This is not to put anybody off however, the core plot of the film and the surrounding exploration will do no less than overwhelm your mind. After having seen it three times, I’m still certain that Innocence has depths I have not yet managed to explore. The film may not have succeeded in delivering profound content surpassing the original, but Mamoru Oshii once again created a highly complex animated classic that takes a respectable place amongst the works of science fiction.

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

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