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Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2005)
15th Feb 06
It's 2032, 3 years after the original film, and Section 9’s cyborg Batou and his human partner Togusa return to investigate a series of homicides involving sex androids known as gynoids.
Suspicions of a conspiracy are aroused when a string of out-of-court settlements mean no litigation proceedings are brought against the gynoid manufacturer, Locus Solus; a company whose manufacturing headquarters are set in international waters (a clue if ever I saw one). So with the help of a certain female Major, Batou and Togusa slowly unravel the mystery of the gynoids’ violent malfunction and the reasons behind an apparent collusion between the Yakusa, computer hackers and government bureaucrats.
Most people’s first response after seeing Ghost In the Shell 2: Innocence is that it is indeed a beautiful and visually stunning film and its nomination in 2004 for the Palme D’Or is well deserved. It has to be said, though, that it does take a while to get used to the amount of CGI in the first few moments, but I soon forgot about it and actually came to the conclusion that it aided the story telling, although not as much as watching the film using the new recommended English dub. I had been warned that watching the English subtitled version would be too much like hard work, and this proved to be the case! Thankfully the English dub is very good and the fact that the original American cast is involved helps add to the continuity between the two films.
And GITS2 certainly needs help in that department.
The opening credits mirror that of the original film, this time showing the making of a gynoid robot instead of showing the construction of a cyborg, and the music and visual styles are also similar, which helps get you back into the Ghost in the Shell (GITS) universe after a long hiatus. But in comparison to the original, this film seems to spend more time philosophising than it does doing anything else, fine for philosophy students I suppose, but perhaps not for your average action-hungry anime fan. Even more bizarre is that apparently the Italian subtitled version actually gives you references to the source material, helping you find the right passage in Milton for instance. For those of you that don’t understand Italian, this is no help whatsoever, and I did spend some time going “What the...?”
Compared to the original at least, Ghost In the Shell 2: Innocence feels slow-paced and meandering at times and there seems to be an air of sadness pervasive throughout. Batou seems lost without the Major and Togusa seems insecure about his position within Section 9. There are frequent references to the Major, but since she is such a major part of the franchise I’d expect nothing less. At one point Batou talks about a cyborg that he knew who liked to dive (a certain death sentence if a problem occurred due to the immense weight of the cyborg body), plus when Batou and Togusa are exploring Kim's mansion, Batou finds a figure that resembles the Major’s appearance from the end of GITS, along with a row of numbered cards reading ‘2501’. In the original Ghost in the Shell, Project 2501 was the code name given to the Puppet Master project that became the code Batou and the Major agreed to use when they wanted to contact one another. I'm not sure this took place during the brain e-hacking incident in the shopping market, where Batou gets a warning, but the diminutive hooded figure leaving as Batou enters is suspiciously familiar. Then again I think the warning might have been a ploy to make Batou more susceptible to the brain e-hack – I’ll have to watch the film a few more times to figure that scene out completely – it’s compelling and confusing at the same time!
The biggest complaint, however, must be that this film is almost a completely separate entity from the first. There is no further development of the characters and, although the story is interesting, I would have liked to have found out more about the Major, about her transition, whether she takes on a permanent cyborg form again properly or not, and what has happened to her in the 3 years that she ‘left’ Section 9. I did spend a lot of time wondering when the Major would make an appearance, and when she does it’s a breath of fresh air, although it is for far too brief a time and as such I was disappointed.
I think the film makers really enjoyed themselves with the mixture of 2D and 3D animation, sometimes too much so. There are a few panoramic shots that seem to be put in to showcase their obvious talents; the shots showing a flock of birds flying was brilliantly done and added to the sombre mood. Similarly, the transportation montage sequences from the original are back, and as such you’ve probably never seen a more beautifully animated helicopter than the one that transports Batou and Togusa to Kim’s mansion, and with such an appropriately beautiful score too.
Like most anime, I think this film needs and deserves repeat viewings, if only to make sense of a few confusing key scenes (the e-brian hack at Kim’s mansion being the stand out mind-blower) and to spot other cinematic references (the gynoid saying “Help me” before her guts explode out of her screams of Aliens). I’m sure that over time, the dialogue and plot will make more sense, particularly if you stay wide of the Japanese subtitles.
Saying that, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, as a piece of anime in itself, is good, but suffers from the age old problem of sequelitus – not as good as the first.
Versions The UK version is the way to go as it includes the spanking new UK dub. This is a lot more accessible than the subtitled Japanese version which you might have seen in the cinema.
And just because we're extra nice, here's a bunch of short clips from the movie for your viewing pleasure. Just choose your connection speed.