Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell anime movie cover art
Ghost in the Shell

Movie Overview

Ghost in the Shell (Koukaku Kidoutai / 攻殻機動隊) is one of the classic sci-fi anime. It’s up there with the likes of Akira and Neon Genesis Evangelion. And just like Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell came out in 1995.

I watched this movie as part of the DoubleSama Discord server‘s monthly movie nights. But, despite being the start of GitS, it’s not my first experience with the series. I watched the first 3 movies of Arise back in 2017. At the time, I wasn’t much of a fan of those movies. So, will the original be a different story?

The short answer is no. I’ll get into why later on in the review. But, I didn’t like Ghost in the Shell very much. And, yes, I understand that’s probably an unpopular opinion. However, I wasn’t the only movie night participant to think that.

Major Motoko Kusanagi on a rooftop from the anime movie Ghost in the Shell
Major Motoko Kusanagi on a rooftop

Now, if you’re not familiar with GitS, the title might sound a bit strange. Why is it called Ghost in the Shell? Well, the “shell” refers to a robotic body. And the “ghost” refers to the human consciousness within it. If you’re wondering why they’re called ghosts, I don’t have an answer for you.

But, what I can tell you is that the level of robotic enhancement varies from person to person. Some people only have robotic parts of their bodies. Others have entire robotic bodies with a human brain controlling them. And then there are those whose brains have even been replaced with an electronic backup.

Due to the prevalence of cyborgs in this society, a phenomenon known as “hacking a ghost” has become an issue. As you may have surmised, it’s when a bad actor hacks into the consciousness of another person. Can you trust your own memories?

Ghost in the Shell Manga

Ghost in the Shell Manga

Major Kusanagi tracks the cybertrail of a master hacker, the Puppeteer, in this classic sci-fi series.

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Classic Doesn’t Mean Good

The best part of Ghost in the Shell is when it brings up the question of whether people can trust their own ghosts. Unfortunately, that’s a very small part of the movie. So, it’s time to get into why I don’t think Ghost in the Shell is a good movie.

To set the stage, this movie only has a run time of about 1 hour and 18 minutes, excluding the credits. That’s not very long. Now, I get that animated movies tend to be shorter than live-action movies. But, this is still a short movie even considering that.

And that short length isn’t helped by the fact that about 40% of the movie is scenic shots of the city. No action, no plot, no dialogue. Just scenic shots of the city. There’s even a part in the middle of the movie where we get a montage of these shots for a few minutes.

Cyborg brain operation from the anime movie Ghost in the Shell
Cyborg brain operation

So, in reality, the movie is more like 47 minutes long if we’re only talking about the parts when things happen. That’s not a lot of time to set up an interesting premise and then follow through on it. And, guess what — it doesn’t.

The movie introduces a few cool concepts, like the aforementioned hacking of ghosts. Another example is whether a fully-functional AI counts as “human” and has rights. But, again, neither of these concepts gets the attention they need. Instead, most of the movie focuses on the action side of things.

And then we have the “antagonist” of the movie, Project 2501. He’s an AI who believes himself to be no different than humans. And he’s also the one hacking into ghosts, which is definitely a crime. But, he’s not exactly evil or actively working against our protagonist, Major Kusanagi.

Incel 2501

Alright, so I can actually forgive most of the issues I brought up about this movie in the previous section. The one thing I can’t forgive is the “twist” involving Project 2501 at the end. It completely ruined the movie. But, I can’t say it’s the most unrealistic development.

Why did Project 2501 become a terrorist and start hacking into ghosts? He wanted to escape from his creators and seek shelter with Public Security Section 9. And why did he want to do that? Because he figured Section 9 would treat him as the human he saw himself as? No.

Project 2501 did everything he did because he wanted to get laid before he died. He became a terrorist specifically so he could force himself on Major Kusanagi. Before he died, he wanted her to take his data into her and then spread it throughout the matrix, or something.

Batou using a car for cover from the anime movie Ghost in the Shell
Batou using a car for cover

That’s right. The main antagonist of the movie is nothing more than an AI incel. He thinks he’s entitled to “spreading his seed.” Further, to accomplish his goal of getting laid, he has no problem resorting to violence. And he also chooses to victimize a woman even though anyone could spread his data around.

By the end of the movie, I think we’re supposed to view Project 2501 as some sort of anti-hero. Yes, he did bad things. But, he did those bad things in the pursuit of (his) freedom. And yet, I can’t sympathize with him.

Maybe it’s the times. Back in 1995, viewers may have seen his actions as nobler. Or, at least, they could have understood his desire to leave something of himself behind. But, within a modern context, I don’t see it that way. He’s nothing more than an AI incel.

Conclusion

Ghost in the Shell is a 5/10. Yes, I get that it’s one of the classic sci-fi anime. But, being influential isn’t the same as being good. It’s extremely overrated. Feel free to argue against that in the comments.

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