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Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence

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Genre: Action
Company: Production IG/Bandai Visual
Format: 1 movie
Dates: 3/6/2004

Batou and Togusa, two cops working for Section 9, are sent to unravel a mystery regarding a series of murders. Of course, as life in the future would have it, these are not ordinary murders. The culprits turn out to be robots, and it is up to Batou and Togusa to find out who (or what) is controlling them. But where can one look when the boundaries of reality and technology are infinite?

summary by Ender

 

Reviewed: 02/02/2005 by
Grade: 78% av-Ender

Highs: Gorgeous animation and art; music; intrigue abound

Lows: Confusing story; very little character development

Oshii Mamoru has always offered a mixed bag. There is no denying the man’s craft as a filmmaker and visual story-teller, yet when it comes to directing films based on other people’s works, in this case Shirow Masamune’s Ghost in the Shell, then things become rather awkward.

Throughout the movie, I was reminded less of the original Ghost in the Shell and more of Blade Runner. The opening shot, the technological canyons of the city, the mix of traditional Asia with William Gibson technology and the story (do androids dream of electric sheep?) all had my attention from start to finish. However, intrigue often gave way to frustration. As I sat watching this film, I realized that a movie couldn’t do the story justice. Much like Shirow’s manga, this is a cop drama at its heart, but Oshii loads it up with his philosophical questions and intricately woven plot points. This, coupled with the copious amounts of techno-babble, will guarantee a head-scratching audience. Of course, all this symbolism and intelligence within the story still manages to look over the characters. When the movie was over, I did not feel that any of the characters had come to any realizations or grew in any way.

One thing must be said, though: this film has some of the most spell-binding visuals I have ever seen. Accompanied by Kawai Kenji’s moody and haunting music, it led me to desire extra ears and eyes just so I could soak it all in. I would watch this movie again for the visuals alone. And Oshii does wonders with imagery to tell a story. A particularly creepy sequence in a “morgue”, an odd parade sequence and a shoot-out in a convenience store were some of the many highlights.

Innocence is definitely a film that must be seen by fans of cinema, if anything for the visuals alone. Still, the overly ponderous story may drive some people up the wall. I would recommend multiple viewings if one were to go into the logistics of it all, though that might be infuriating to some. If all else fails, just turn off the sound and open your eyes.

 

Reviewed: 02/02/2005 by
Grade: 69% av-Kain

Highs: Satisfying continuation of story; extraordinary melding of 2D and 3D; hypnotizing theme song…

Lows: … that was played far too often; poor explanation of theories; useless scenes

If you’ve seen the previews for Innocence, you may erroneously be led to believe this anime is all about action, when in fact its story is just about entirely dialogue-driven. This doesn’t bother me any, considering some of my favorite anime have very little action in them.

The difference here is that the dialogue in Innocence is a contrived mishmash of psycho-babble mixed in with heaping handfuls of double-talk. Oshii Mamoru’s script is particularly weak in its inability to convey his message through the sequence of events; far too often he resorts to having his characters stop suddenly and quote The New Testament, Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, Rene Descartes and Confucius… over and over and over. Like a comedian explaining a joke after delivering the punchline, the emotional impact of various scenes are muted by Oshii’s regard, or lack thereof, for the audience’s intelligence and his narcissistic lust for hearing his own thoughts spoken aloud.

But his intentions are good, and most of my grievances were nullified by the amazing visuals and Kawai Kenji’s rhythmic theme song. But again, problems with execution were unearthed here, as well. As an example, one glorious scene of a parade in and of itself puts just about every anime to shame from an eye candy perspective… but as a crucial component of the story, it holds no water. Likewise, Kawai’s aforementioned theme was driven into the ground like Little Red Riding Hood in Jin-Roh.

I must admit that Oshii Mamoru has assembled a fairly entertaining film that falls right in place into Masamune Shirow’s original story. I can’t ignore the fact, however, that while the ingredients were well chosen, the chef overcooked this potentially tasty dish.

 

Reviewed: 02/12/2005 by
Grade: 73% av-Liegenschonheit

Highs: Beautiful art; haunting music

Lows: Confusing story; overuse of quotations

If any anime ever exemplified eye candy, it’s this one. Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence is slick and clean, combining flawless CGI with traditionally rendered art to create a truly Gibson-esque world of stylish technology and retro-cool.

A first impression of this anime is one of awe. Dramatic, saturated color and attention to detail are what makes the art of this anime really stand out. Settings and backgrounds are intricately beautiful and blend seamlessly with the amazingly rendered CGI. Though technology is at the core of this futuristic setting, it is integrated with the traditional to create a fully fleshed and believable world. The mood of this anime pervades even the action sequences, where hauntingly melodic music adds a dreamlike quality to the smooth, clean animation.

With such elegant and flawless visuals, it’s tempting to let your brain go to autopilot and just soak in the eye candy. You may be better off doing just that. With a plot that brings to mind Blade Runner, this anime makes an attempt at philosophical depth. A little passed the halfway point, this anime abandons its carefully honed realism in favor of the surreal, and things start to get confusing. Employing a dialogue-driven story and endless amounts of religious quotation, Innocence begins to suffer from soundbite syndrome. Instead of conveying a unified message, these quotations only serve to make the themes seem disjointed and incomplete. And unlike Blade Runner, it’s hard to care about artificial life forms that are unnaturally pale and creepy.

As yet another victim of style over substance, Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence isn’t a total loss. Despite its flaws, it is still well worth the watch, if only to soak in all of its amazing beauty. With its effective use of CGI technology, if this anime is any indication of the future, things look very bright indeed.

 

Reviewed: 04/14/2005 by
Grade: 66% av-Kjeldoran

Highs: Drawn art is as crisp as it gets; interesting themes

Lows: Loses focus; extremely lingering; CGI occasionally unbefitting

I guess it is hard to learn from your mistakes when concerning a commercially successful anime. The sequel to Ghost in the Shell explores the same, interesting concept of man’s distinction from machines, promising at least an opinion or theory on computerized thoughts. It starts off well enough as an investigation with intelligent dialogue and insight of an Isaac Asimov-inspired Patlabor movie. But it does not right the wrongs of its antecedent, and thus ends up going in circles.

Oshii Mamoru has been known to ruin the endings of would’ve-been-great anime, but he seems to have messed up earlier in this movie than usual. He does so this time not with mindless action but by forgetting where the story was going. Substance and style only walk hand in hand for the first 20 minutes until the arguments and dialogue get repetitive and sleep-inducing.

The computer-generated graphics used as background with drawn characters are something we see more and more of in newer anime. I must say, although it is very different, I really enjoyed the way they melded together in Innocence. Where things go wrong is in the few, all-CGI sequences. Looking completely out of place and being so long, these scenes seem to have been added only to showcase the computerized animation in general.

Graphics can only extend one’s patience for a little while. Ghost in the Shell II lingers and avoids key issues for too long. After a while, all it has left is its beautiful 2D/3D animation sitting on top of a mountain of untapped potential.

 

Ghost in the Shell II: Innocence can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.


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