Ahead of its controversial live action remake, the original anime version of Ghost in the Shell comes to Blu-ray in a steelbook edition featuring exclusive Mondo artwork. It’s impossible to overstate the influence that Ghost in the Shell has had over pop culture, inspiring the Wachowskis’ work on The Matrix and even the shot composition behind the John Wick movies. Director Mamoru Oshii brought the manga by Masamune Shirow to the screen in a manner that blended traditional cel animation with the emerging computer technology of the time, presenting a revolutionary vision to the screen unlike anything that came before it.
Revisiting this anime classic for the first time since its initial release, I was stuck by just how complex its plot is, but at the same time struck by how prescient it was. It’s 2029, Major Motoko Kusanagi is on the hunt for the Puppet Master, an elusive hacker wreaking havoc in New Port City. Motoko occupies a “shell,” which allows her consciousness, or “ghost,” to inhabit a cybernetic body capable of an array of superpowers. With her partner Batou, Motoko must follow a trail of clues as to the secret identity of the Puppet Master and the vast conspiracy that has empowered this master hacker.
There’s something that is incredibly modern about the interconnected world of Ghost in the Shell, and the way that Motoko and the agents of the Public Security Section 9 monitor the movement of their targets employing this connective technology. If anything, it seems as if 2029 was an incredibly conservative estimate as to when this type of future might be a reality.
The biggest problem with Ghost in the Shell is that its plot and universe is so complex that’s it’s hard to clearly convey every little nuance of this world. That, obviously, must’ve been the key factor in preventing a big budget live action version of the story from landing on the screen sooner. There are just so many moving parts and pieces to this world that the movie doesn’t take the time to explain in great detail. But that’s not a bad thing, as Ghost in the Shell progresses it allows the audience to get a feel for all of the odd corners to its world without deadening the film with endless exposition.
The real main attraction of Ghost in the Shell are the eye-popping visuals. The technological advances that Ghost in the Shell made over 20 years ago still are vibrant on the screen, that great blend of digital and traditional animation. All the animated mayhem on display brings to mind the various movies that it has influenced. You can see where aspects of The Matrix originated as well as countless other recent science fiction films.
Unfortunately, there are no special features on this Blu-ray edition of Ghost in the Shell, though you can choose between the original Japanese version or the dubbed English version. As we approach the opening of the Scarlett Johansson-led remake, there will be an uproar of protests about the issues of cultural appropriation surrounding the project. Underwhelming or inadequate remakes are just a part of pop culture, and Ghost in the Shell isn’t somehow going to be diminished because of a remake starring a white woman. However, on Blu-ray this animated classic has never looked better, as the revolutionary technology that brought Ghost in the Shell to life looks even better today than when most of us first saw it on VHS.