Ghost in the Shell: 25th Anniversary Edition

When American radio announcer Herbert Morrison stood watching the Hindenburg disaster unfold before his eyes, he tearfully exclaimed, “Oh, the humanity!” I coincidentally had the exact same thought while watching Ghost in the Shell again for the first time in 20 years—but for a much different reason. I saw this film when it first came out, and I remember having a difficult time identifying with it. I finally figured out why: There’s no humanity in it.

Welcome to Tokyo, 2029, where technology has advanced to the level of cybernetic enhancements in humans for better or worse. There’s scarcely a person alive who hasn’t undergone some kind of mechanical alteration, and if you’re a cop charged with the job of hunting down computer hackers and cyber terrorists, it’s practically a requirement. The more cybernetic alterations you have, the more effective police officer you are. It also means you’re irretrievably detached from your own humanity and more susceptible to be hacked by those same cyber-terrorists. Quite the paradox.

For the first time, the original cut of the film is available in HD. The transfer has been upgraded to 1080p from the previous version’s 1080i video transfer, and it’s a marked improvement. Images are sharper and more detailed, though there are still slight blemishes here and there. I was stunned to find out that the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio applies to the English dubbed version only. The original Japanese language audio track, which should be the preferred viewing choice, has been rendered for a miserable Dolby Digital 2.0. Shameful. Adding insult to injury, they consistently find the absolute worst voice actors to dub the English dialogue, and this title is no exception. Maybe the actors were instructed to be as flat and lifeless as their characters.

Typically, an anniversary release of a film on Blu-ray implies that the film in question has the notoriety required to merit the milestone in the first place. Second, it’s also assumed that the commemorative edition would be loaded with extras, but there are no extras whatsoever on this edition.

The creative minds behind Ghost in the Shell have merged mankind’s evolution with its frenetic love affair with technology and made a chilling prognostication with this parable. Impressive visuals aside, this film is a joyless experience to watch. Maybe that’s the intent. Good or evil, there’s no humanity on either side. Pray it never comes to pass.

Studio: Achor Bay, 1995
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 82 mins.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Director: Mamoru Oshi
Starring: Mimi Woods, Richard Epcar, Crispin Freeman

utopianemo's picture

I liked Ghost In The Shell well enough, but it wasn't a fantastic film. Maybe it was me at the time, but a naked cyborg floating on the sea philosophizing about the nature of humanity wasn't my cup of tea. There was a LOT of philosophizing in GITS, and while I accept and love that commonality of Mamoru Oshii's films, there was just too much here for my tastes.

Much better are his Patlabor 1 and 2 films, and especially Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Not only was the animation better than anything that had come before it, but the philosophical questions bandied about in 1 that came off as ponderous and academic actually took hold in 2. It actually made me stop and think about the central question of the film: How do we know we're even here? What if we're hooked up to a computer in a lab somewhere, running an elaborate simulation?