Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell. A name synonymous with introspection, robots, hot chicks and of course…Anime. But just how much do you really know about this series? Did you miss the Fuchikoma’s in the film version? Do you even know what a Fuchikoma is? Want to know the technical specs of one? This review will go through everything Ghost in the Shell. The movie, the series, the manga, and the myth. Is that a whispering in my ghost I hear?
Publisher: Kodansha / Bandai Visual / Production IG/ THQ/ Manga Entertainment
Genre: Action/ Drama/ Sci-fi
Episodes: One Movie, 26 episodes, One manga collection, one video game and a whole new complex to worry about.
To cover the series better I have divided this into various sections, as well as provide a short set of terms for the techno-confused.
Ghost in the Shell:
In the near future the line between man and machine has become blurred. With the onset of advancing technology the boundaries of the world are crumbling to an age of “limitless” connectivity. However in this era of Global connectivity new threats and new problems have arisen. To counter this, Special forces and organizations have been formed to help enforce the boundrys of information. Motoko Kusanagi and her team is one of the elites. Section 9, a tactical force centered in Japan and dealing with informational terrorism and other acts of the age. Even they however soon find themselves drawn into all manner of conflicts, as they begin to raise questions on themselves and the world around them…
Section 9 is called in to deal with growing threats of Informational terrorism and other acts against the state of Japan. Soon however they find themselves pulled into a new web of conspiracys and terror, when they are called onto the case of the “Puppet Master”. A highly sought after and terribly efficient information terrorist, who has never been caught or even seen before. Who is he, and why is he so important. Who is trying to keep his secrets? What is “life” and who delineates it and the rights it deserves. Motoko and her team will soon be searching for these answers themselves.
How is it Related?:
The movie is a very excellent conversion of the original manga work. It is almost a direct retelling with some changes to story, mostly due to time constraints. Emphasis is not changed so much as it is highlighted more effectively on the main story of the Puppet Master. Details are not readily changed, so much as moved around and replaced, again to more efficiently highlight the main story.
How does it Compare?:
A direct retelling can only translate so much over to the bigscreen. As much detail as is kept, not everything can remain in the conversion. One major change is the direct removal of “Fuchikomas”. This removal works well with the movie, as it retains a very realistic feel to it. The art style and the cutting edge technology make it a softer more real life movie tone to the whole thing. Side storys and plotlines are dropped from the manga, but the core story and its message remains the same. The movie boasts some of the best CG from its time, becoming a staple and idol for future anime. This could be considered the movie that started the trend of modern anime movie making as we know it.
~Ghost in the Shell:Stand Alone Complex~
The same world, the same problems, new storys. Stand Alone Complex offers us some wonderful new stories and some older “remixes” in this new “offshoot” tv series. Like its name implys, the series stands apart from its brethren as a new story device. Similar yet different storys appear(rampaging Fuchikoma’s, love dolls going strange), and new twists and situations are all glimpsed through the eyes of familiar yet unique characters. Each story pulls you along for a trip in this familiar yet new world. And it’s a welcome ride.
How is it related?:
The same time, the same world. Another dimension of storys and adventures. Everything is similar yet different. The same organizations and people, just dealing with whole new situations, this is the key focus of Stand Alone. Not really related directly to the manga or Movie, except as a direct spin off of the universe and its characters.
How does it compare?:
A fresh new approach to everything Ghost in the Shell, and it succeeds brilliantly. Not that ghost in the shell needed such a revamp, but an approach like this certainly only helps to broaden its work of love. Moves away from the feel of the movie, to go back towards a fast paced sci-fi approach, similar to the manga. It is well done, a result of Production IG work and a more direct working from Masamune Shirow(the Mangaka of Ghost in the Shell). Continuing with the tradition it began on the movie, it combines beautifully rendered cg with cells to produce some high quality animation. The characters themselves have changed slightly, mostly in cosmetic appearances. Motoko has dropped somewhat that 80’s mop of a hair style so it looks more natural, and Baitou has grown himself a fashionable lil ponytail. The Fuchikomas return but are called Tachikoma’s and some new characters are thrown into the team. Paz, Borma and Saito join section 9 along with the familiar faces of Aramaki, Togusa, and Ishikawa. It is a new Ghost, but with all the familiar traits of the old.
~The Manga: The Original Ghost~
Publisher: Kodansha/Dark Horse
Mangaka: Masamune Shirow
Visuals: Excellent visuals, representative of Shirow’s early work and technique.
Story: To prevent a repeated er…repeat of the basic story lets just assume you know the general layout by now. However the change(or the original one should say) in the manga is different from the others that sprung from it in sidestory and subtlety context. There are far more unrelated but interesting side storys to the main story of the Puppett Master. From the creation of a cyborg body, to love dolls going beserk. Each shot is another glance into a new aspect of the world that would have been missed in the movies. From Dolls, to “interesting” relationships, to backstory on characters, it has all the foundations as to explain why so many hit items have been produced from this story and world.
How is it related?: The original and progenitor of everything to come in the Ghost world. The manga is the collection of work on the foray into Tokyo’s crime in the information age, and is wonderfully done. The movie takes the main story line and uses it, the series takes the characters and world details from the manga to show new storys and situations, and the game takes the action of Section 9 and the characters to a new series of Tokyo crimes. Everything has its seed in the manga.
How does it compare?: Well being the Genesis, it has a certain flair to it that is hard to ignore and difficult to separate for a fair evaluation. It is good work, but rough at some times. Shirow however has a killer eye for technical details and sheer power. Be it sexiness, strength or a flow of calm, he captures it brilliantly. It has his original manga stylings, so isn’t as smooth as Stand Alone or realistic looking as the movie. However the video game uses this styling in its cutscenes so that remains familiar.
Easter Eggs: Well I cant reveal all of them, or else reading and finding them yourself wont be as amusing or challenging. I’ll mention the most blatant but enjoyable, where a certain pair of characters from another of Shirow’s popular works*cough cough Appleseed cough cough* makes a rather tidy lil appearance.
~Ghost in the Shell: The Video Games~
One at a time lets cover this. The Orginal game for the PSX is a direct play from the movie/manga. It was an action game focusing on Section 9’s work with a new rookie, your fuchikomas and trying to stop a terrorist from doing nasty things. There is a new game in development based off Stand Alone Complex as well now. Another action game, this time it focuses on two main characters, Motoko and Baitou. Action seems to focus around stealth and intense combat, as you can blow them to bits with your guns or some martial arts mayhem. Let start with the first game.
Ghost in the Shell – Playstation
Rating: 8 of 10
General Overview: We open with a VERY excellent scene of Fuchikoma combat, making you realize just how badass those oil drinking lil think machines are when used properly. This goes to show you how the game will go, because from here on out its all about the Fuchikoma’s baby.(a welcome but not neccesary apology perhaps for the loss of them in the original movie?). The main idea is that you the player, are the newest inductee into Section 9 and its activitys. This certainly pleases Togusa who is no longer the “rookie” of the team.After going through some standard training with your new Koma, your thrown into action as various terrorists activitys and threats pop up over the city. Each mission is a nice full world full of baddies who are trying to shoot you, and you trying to shoot them and achive your various mission goals.(which is usually killing something. Welcome to Section 9 baby, you know how we roll) One of the biggest attractions to the game is the various animated cut scenes. Most of them are story or fanservice, but there are a number that you have to unlock by accomplishing certain times and scores on levels in training and such. Memorable scenes include the Fuchikoma’s all rejoicing in unison after some tough training covered in band-aids as well as some random appearances by a very scantily clad Motoko to the chagrin of Togusa. A fun game, nothing you have to think about, and easily beaten. However the rewards as a fan of the series are far more than the sum of its meager gaming parts, thus making it a excellent addition to your gaming library.
Ghost in the Shell:Stand Alone Complex- Playstation 2
Developer: Production IG
Rating: Wish i knew i cant play it on my as of yet unmodded ps2..er i mean my fiancees ps2…^_^0
General Overview: Grooving off the success of Stand Alone IG pulls out this lil gem. Unlike the first you are not limited to a Fuchi or Tachikoma as the case may be here. The two main characters seem to be Motoko and Batou and the emphasis is on stealth and covert action as you track down an illicit arms trade group. There appears to be much more than your standard shoot em/bond type action here. With martial arts action, and some other stealthy tricks like hacking and so forth, this promises to bring the immersion of the Ghost in the Shell world even farther. Already out in Japan, lord only knows when anyone else will see it. More info as i steal it, track it down.
~The Future and more~
The manga that will prolly never be for us silly non japaneseerpeople….yes. Ghost in the Shell 2:Man Machine interface was released June 28th, 2001. In japan of course. Aside from that i am in the dark on its story, etc. There was a rumor or idea that Darkhorse was translating it in english, but last i heard on that was over a year ago and ive long since stopped holding my breath. Grab a copy from a import shop if ya can. Speaking of running high off success…Production IG is in the process of putting out the 2nd season of Stand Alone Complex. It promises more of the same, and the level of detail and work has not seemed to change one bit. And riding its coattails is the universally anticipated release of the second and DIRECT sequal(dont shoot me on this part, its what ive gathered and heard but until i see more than the 5 trailers i will not retain that as 100% true) Ghost in the Shell Movie.
Innocence seems to focus heavily into Batou and the style of the animation is moving back towards the original movie. Its more softer, a lil less like Stand Alone Complex of which it is jumping out of. Both these announcements certainly makes IG look very pleasing in the coming times, as well as the close link and working relationship to the mangaka and the new stories is promising. Throw in a lil thing like a completely new rendition of Appleseed and you damn near make it impossible to not love being a sci-fi/mecha/ Shirow fan at the moment. The future…is so bright.
~Characters, Technical stuff, and all the things that didn’t fit~
What more could i possibly add you ask? Well i will tell you of course, oh loyal reader and dare i say…*gulp* fan. It’s all in the details as we know, and here i will cram you with more details than you could possibly need, or ask for, nor even want perhaps. In any case you can skip all this, you know. Just ignore all the hardwork i put in, gathering scraps of info and experience together to make this feast for your eyes…*sniff*
Onto the characters.
“Major” Motoko Kusunagi- The leader of Section 9(in combat, essential number one to Aramaki’s Picard), and the heroine of the series. Almost all background info about Kusanagi is unknown. She is an expert on unlawful activity, secret intelligence, and demolitions. She is nearly 95% cyborg, with a small retaining of her original brain all that keeps her from being a machine. She has an early 20’s cyborg body, but actual age is estimated at being in her late 30’s. Her sub-brain can hack into computer networks easily. Her own connections with her “ghost” and her unique situation make her a irresistable force. Very little stops her in combat when she puts her mind to it.
Batou- The easy going joker to Motoko’s straight game. His connections with Motoko run deep, but are not entirely clear or detailed. Needless to say he is her backup and a solid member of the team. He has adjusted cyborgnetic vision which he has kept to look more robotic and less human, as well as his right forearm entirely cyborgnetic. He like Motoko is an expert in many fields of combat, and surviellance as well as many other “shady” activitys. Has a tendency to “pick” out his fuchi/tachikoma from the others and treat it with natural oil(much to the maintenance crews “joy”) as well as other odd quirks. The closest member of the team to Motoko he is perhaps the only one to truly call her friend.
Togusa- The rookie and oddman out of the group. Togusa has just enough cybernetci implants to allow him to work and interact with the team but no more. This extends to basically some brain alterations, which allow him to keep into contact with whisperings, as well as access networks, etc wirelessly. He is the only one with a real personal life, and has a children and wife. He transferred in from the Police Department handpicked by Motoko herself, and he wonders what exactly he had that brought this about. Has a quirk about carrying and using a old outdated firearm from his policeforce work but is otherwise completely normal.
Ishikawa- The second oldest member of the team(only behind Chief Arimaki) and cool headed tech specialist. Unlike the others he doesnt get down and into the dirty of it, unless you count sneaking into places hes not supposed to be and hacking info for the team. He spends his time gathering info and tech for the team, and is also a cyborg like most of the others.
Paz and Borma- Agents from the Stand Alone complex series only. This pair from sectino 9 work well together to put much of the foot and groundwork of the cases into action.
Saito- Also a Stand Alone Complex only. Saito is a cyborgnetic member like the rest, but with a unique specialty. He can uplink his rght eye to an orbiting satelite allowing him to snipe with unnerving accuracy and damage if needed.
Aramaki- The boss man, Chief of Section 9. It is his genuis and skill that brought Sectino 9 together and keeps them that way. He fights in battles both internal and external, over all affiars of Section 9. He loathes to muck himself in the politics and intrigues of his country but when needed is a competant manipulator as well. Looks somewhat like a monkey…leading to some interesting nicknames. It is often his behind the scenes work which makes or breaks the teams cases.
The Puppet Master- Standard to the original storyline and all that follows that. A well known and highly succesful terrorist. He has never been seen or caught before and is responsible for a myriad of crimes. Ghost-hacking for his own goals, and acts such as adjusting the stockmarket and political maneuvering. In reality he was a one of a kind program created by American scientists as the perfect weapon in the new age. However he broke from his confinement and gained “conciousness” and in so doing his life, which he was adamant about protecting. Codenamed ‘Project 2501’ he raises questions on the existence of life and conciousness that society is ill faced to answer and he pays for it.
Nakamura- Nakamura is the chief official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the head of Section 6. At section 6 he investigates various mysterious cases. In the course of solving the case of “Project 2501” he frequently locks horns with Section 9 and especially Arimaki. Nakamura’s territory is different from Section 9, however he still launched a secret operation, trying to out-maneuver Aramaki and Section 9. He is a by the book man, who views Arimaki’s methods as outright wrong, and is extremely distrustful of Section 9 as a whole.
Fuchi/Tachikoma- Ok not a character persay, but an entity nonetheless. Koma’s are actually a “collective” as it were, a group of individual robotics linked to a single system. In theory they should all hold a single attitude, etc. In practice some instances have arisen where Fuchikoma’s seem more and more like lil children attending to their favorites or their feared(Motoko has threatened to strip them all down for junk a few times). In the case of Batou his special treatment with a single fuchikoma allowed it to develop a quasi sense of self. In the end they are vital peices of the team and damaging weapons in the hands of capable users. Though they are just as easily busted for trying to sneak some Natural oil(which is tasty but not good for them as it gunks them up) as they are for kicking ass.
Tech stuff– A list of a few definitions to make the lingo of the anime a bit easier to grasp and some odd peices of equipment used by 9 and others.(in no particular order)
Cyborg- A human who has undergone some sort of varying machine modifications. In the new era of technology, such concepts as grafting a new arm in place of your old one is as common as earrings or nose peircings. From modifications as simple as brain interface, to complete body overhauls the new era offers no limit to the process.
Hacking- The process of “breaking” into a program through less utilized methods. Often illegal hacking has become high on the new ages list of information crimes. Technology has both helped and hindered on both sides the law in this matter.
Ghost- A Ghost is the idea thrown around in this new age of ones “soul”. With so much machine and so lil human, the idea of ones “ghost” becomes a prevelant idea and a way to enforce your own humanity. It is also a generic term used to identify peoples brains in certain actions, like with whispers and Ghosthacks.
Ghosthacks- A ghost hack is the ultimate in information terror. It is the process by which a hacker literally takes control of an another human being to use him to his own benefit. It is very difficult for both sides, and has proven fatal at times. It is a process by which another gains acess to your mind and has been used in many acts such as assasination and political intrigues. It also makes for implanted memories, wiped minds, and the like.
Doll- A complete “machine” or robot made for varying levels of interaction. The most popular forms of dolls are Love dolls, which are created and modeled for sexual interaction. The degree of intelligence and emotional workings of these dolls is so complex that it constnatly pushes the limits of man and machine.
Whispering- A common slang term for the mental communication people use across a mutual network. Section 9 keeps in contact with Whispers as well as many other people. Motoko mentions many times feeling anothers whisper in her ghost of all places. A idea that her humanity keeps calling to her.
Dive- The process of entering anothers ghost or electronic brain to retrieve information, etc. Similar to Ghosthacking but requires physical contact and is more perilous and direct than hacking.
Optocam- A light reactive material that renders the wearer invisible. Highly illegal and hard to get, used often by Section 9 to accomplish its goals. While it renders the user invisible to most spectrums of light, it does not make them vanish. Things like pressure sensors and the like will give one away regardless of sight.
Fuchikoma- An all terrain vehicle capable of gripping to any surface like a spider. Can fire super strength high tensile ultra thin wires from its rear for added mobility and extra action. Comes with mandibles to handle objects as well as integrated machine guns and grenade launcher(if needed). In essence is a personal tank, as the pilot rests in the enclosed body of the Fuchikoma and manipulates it through both physical and mental interaction.
HA-3- An old fashioned virus used to extract and manipulate information from electronic brains.Very much outdated.
FN P90- The P90 is a blowback operated, selective fire weapon. It is fed from 50-rounds box magazines, made from transluscent polymer. The magazine is being located above the barrel, with the cartridges being aligned at 90 degrees to the barrel axis. Each magazine has built-in ramp that rotates cartridge to align it with the barrel prior to chambering it. P90 is built in bull-pup configuration, with polymer stock, and features built-in reflex collimator sight with 1X magnification and reticle automaticaly ajustable to the light level, as well as a set of the backup open sights. P90 may be equipped with special silencer, that should be used with special, sub-sonic variant of the 5.7x28mm cartridge. It is this versatility that makes it a standby for most actions of section 9.
- In the english version of the manga, we see Batou punch himself in the eye for interupting Motoko’s virtual vacation with some friends. In the original version its far worse and explains the pained eye he receives. Motoko’s virtual vacation is essentially a lesbian threesome with her two lovely friends(no names), and she doesnt take lightly to Batou for watching her for a lil bit when he trys to get in contact with her.
- Also before those edited/removed pages, we have the jumping motoko over her two friends sunbathign in swimsuits. In the original the girls are naked and having lesbian sex.
- Motoko’s new body at the end of the manga, which she recieves from the ill fated theives who attempted to bust into Batous safehouse makes a mention of being a woman…but not being a woman. A sort of shocking lil joke in the end on the female cyrborg body being more…”equipped” than neccesary.
- Togusa is fond of his oudated firearm, but it proves disastrous on many occasions. Misfiring and the like when a more reliable weapon would have done. Motoko never lets him live this down, despite his impressive firearms skill with weapons.
- Motoko’s cyborg body is immensely heavy. As a result she can not swim, and for special missions with water (as we see in the manga) she is outfitted with special “bladders” on her suit to allow her to compensate for the immense weight of her body.
- Batou’s cybernetic arm is functionally in use limited to his forearm down, but extends fully to reach his shoulder and joints. This is done for a simple reason. His cybernetic arm allows him to easily lift great weight, however this weight while being easily handled by the forearm would not work with the human joints holding the cybornetic parts. In essence he may rip his arm off. Much of the cybernetics of the world have to be handled and customized to fit each person that way.
- Stand Alone Complex has MANY MANY easter eggs from all parts of life. Too many to list, but watch carefully through each episode and you will see something each time.
- Masamune Shirow has never been photographed. In fact thats not even his real name.Masamune Shirow (as we know him) was born in Japan on November 23, 1961. On press conferences and such cameras are prohibited. He has never allowed himself to be photographed. He lives in Hyogo, Japan and he enjoys reading and keeps a numerous spiders as pets. Or so he would like us to believe, he also always draws himself as very ugly and such in his author comments in his books. It has been rumored, theorized that he is or was a teacher. But that like much about him is unknown.
- The anime cost 6 million US dollars to produce and had a simultaneous theathrical premiere in Japan, US and Europe winter 1995.