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Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell: ARISE
Ghost in the Shell: ARISE
Anime Review

Reboots, reimaginings, and remakes are all the rage these days, and Ghost in the Shell is no exception. Ghost in the Shell: ARISE is the most recent take on the popular cyberpunk anime, divided up into 4 50-minute direct-to-video episodes set in a brand new continuity. If you wanted more of the old story, tough luck. This is a whole new Makoto Kusanagi.

Well, not completely. ARISE takes a lot of from previous incarnations of the story, and acts as an origin story as well. The first episode is set in 2027, when Makoto's mentor is gunned down by an unknown assassin, while bringing to light allegations that he may have been involved with arms-dealing and bribes. Of course, Makoto believes none of this and sets out of solve the case herself.

Ghost in the Shell: ARISEFans of the classic Ghost in the Shell series and films will want to brace themselves, as while much of the content is familiar, there are also many changes. Characters encounter each other sooner and story plot points are altered to suit the continuity. That said, the story is still exactly what you'd want from a Ghost in the Shell film. It's very cyberpunk, no worries there.

What's definitely most appealing is that while this is an origin story, it doesn't fall prey to the typical issues plaguing such tales. Rather than the stereotypical "let's get the crew together" mantra, each character (Batou, Togusa, etc) has their own mission or mystery they're hunting down, and the story brings them together naturally. Some of the character introductions aren't so solid, and expect you to know them already, but they way they eventually meet up works well.

This series is Kazuchika Kise's first time directing (he's been animating for Production I.G. for a long time though), and while it is competent, nothing really strikes the viewer as creative. It's very by-the-numbers, and while that's fine and unoffensive, given the pedigree of this series, one would hope for something a bit better than just 'good.' You want 'great.'

Ghost in the Shell: ARISEThe characters animate well - you always can tell what's going on. The fights that occur are solid and have some creative uses of the cyberpunk world (hacking during a battle, etc). The CGI is perfectly serviceable, but as always, has yet to quite blend in with the traditional animation. Thankfully it is limited generally to cyborgs, robotics, and Logicoma.

It's hard to not compare this to previous versions of Ghost in the Shell. While it's a bit unfair given that this is a direct-to-video release (and probably has a smaller budget), the hope is that the content is respected. That's why with hesitation this reviewer states the faults of Ghost Pain. It stands on its own two feet, but shakily so.

That's why after all the outrage over changes in the voice actors, the new composer (the excellent Cornelius), and changes to the story, perhaps it's more impressive that ARISE episode 1 is still fairly solid and entertaining. It's still standing. Production I.G. also has three episodes to go (with the next arriving in November), so there's room for improvement as the series continues. The fun and focus of the original is still there, and with any luck, the rest of the series will impress and entertain as we follow Major Kusanagi.

Reviewed by Ben Huber, August 2013

Ghost in the ShellGhost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell
Manga Review

We've done many reviews for this particular franchise, but somehow the manga never hit our radar....until now.

Well, there's no way this one could have missed, just by the sheer size alone. Kodansha Comics, now publishing in the USA (where they essentially rule in Japan), is making a big splash by publishing in a large format.

Not those paperback-novel sized mangas, this sucker is about 8x10, and more than 350 pages! And a good thing too. Shirow's art needs to be seen big to be appreciated. Essentially pulled straight from the pages of Young Magazine, it includes the introductory color pages of each chapter. But the book also contains copious notes from the author (in the back (and in other panels and in sidebars)) to help explain the world he has created. In short, place it on your "must-have" list.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2010

Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd Gig
Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd Gig
Anime DVD Review

I've been getting too bleary-eyed, waiting for GitS:SAC to run at 1:30am on Cartoon Network, so, the boxed set was a joy to behold. It allowed me fully appreciate the intricacies of the complex storyline while I was fully awake. Taking place after a World War Four, Japan escapes relatively unscathed (only Tokyo was nuked), but has to deal with refugees, world politics, terrorists and a whole slew of new nonsense relating to the blending of the virtual and reality based environments.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd Gig 2nd Gig also benefits from a superior opening title sequence (while the CGI of season one was nice, it's interesting to note that the Japanese can make a better looking title sequence by hand), and of course, the continued presence of Yoko Kanno's awesomely awesome soundtrack.

The boxed set is worth having for the Individual 11 story arc alone, which is probably one of the finest dramas I have ever seen on TV. Period. End of sentence. This groundbreaking sci-fi thriller has made me re-think everything I thought I knew about how we're going to deal with the future. Not since Max Headroom has there been a series that more accurately portrays the problems we're going to have to deal with as we evolve into a computer/human hybrid culture.

And of course, the series looks like a million bucks. Movie quality animation on a TV budget. How do they do it?

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, December 2007

Ghost in the Shell Solid State Society
Ghost in the Shell
Solid State Society

Anime DVD Review

The television movie Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, helmed by Kenji Kamiyama, continues the adventures of the cast of Stand Alone Complex, the TV series based on Mamoru Oshii's watershed feature.

GitS:SAC:SSS is the ongoing saga of Public Security Section 9, a select counter-terrorist and crime prevention detail in the year 2034 specializing in cyber-war, now comprised of 20 field operatives with Togusa serving as the unit's leader. It's been two years since Major Kusanagi left Public Security Section 9 and struck out on her own, and Batou pursues only investigations that interest him.

Ghost in the ShellMysterious suicides by several agents of the scattered Siak Republic confound Section 9, until they catch up with one of the Siak operatives. After a failed hostage-taking, the operative forebodes the arrival of an ultra-hacker calling himself 'The Puppet Master', before taking his own life.

More feigned suicides are discovered, confirming the involvement of this wizard who is bent on hacking into Siak cyberbrains and directing them to take their own lives. This sets the stage for a thrill-filled unraveling of events that push the resources and will of Section 9 to the brink.

This film takes political science fiction to new heights, and the action is well-complemented by a totally immersive, believable near-future world where the technology aspects, police work, and political backstabbing are all integrated. Not since they pulled out the concept in the first GIS movie that the build up of information at nodes in the sea of information could result in a self maintaining/regulating entity have I been so blown away by an idea in an Anime film.

The Limited Edition includes a music CD and a second DVD of extras, among them notes on designing the futuristic vehicles in the film, and an interview with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G., all packaged in a collectible metal box.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2007

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. 2
Ghost in the Shell:
Stand Alone Complex Vol. 2

Anime Soundtrack Review

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. 2Yoko Kanno hits the mark again with this spectacular soundtrack. Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex season 1 suffered from trying to do too much with few resources (we never liked the title sequence, it's a sad day when computer animation looks worse than hand-drawn), but season 2 (aka 2nd Gig) kicks ass on every level and the music here is a definite keeper.

Although not as jazzy as some of her other soundtracks, this keeps to the cyberpunk theme of the show, heavily relying on electronica, and more of a techno feel, using very few "organic" instruments. However, because she's simply such a brilliant composer, what might be seen as a drawback she makes into a strength, and flies with the limitations to create mood music that matches the intensity of the episodes perfectly. This second season has a much darker mood to it, and the music captures that, augmenting the visuals and creating the atmosphere needed to tell the story. The frantic, desperate pace of "Rise" foretells of the darker themes of this season, while "I Can't Be Cool" is a haunting theme that you'll carry in your head forever.

Ghost in the ShellOn this BGM you can expect to hear songs that sound like a mix of what you heard in the first Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex Soundtrack Album, as well as a few of the Cowboy Bebop OSTs (cuts 3,4, and 6 in particular). Track 11, "What's it For?" and track 13, "Pet Food" even bear a resemblance to music from the Wolf's Rain OST 1. But hey; often producers request music that sounds like a composers previous works all the time. Derivative doesn't mean repeat. And Kanno is enough of an artist to know what to re-use and what to discard to create something entirely original.

Overall, this album is even more enjoyable to listen to than the first season's Ghost in the Shell soundtrack, and that was awesome — so Kanno is in a mode where she is now continually topping herself. All we know is that we're digging 2nd Gig on Cartoon Network, and this soundtrack is a big part of that!

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, June 2006

Ghost in the Shell: Cyberpunk Anime!
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Ghost in the Shell
Anime DVD Review

Don't worry about the plot, just look at this film. Every dollar spent is on the screen. Even six years after it's release, Ghost in the Shell remains the best-looking anime film ever made. Some of the sequences are just so jaw-droppingly amazing you won't believe that the majority of the film is hand drawn animation. Incredibly choreographed actions sequences, fantastic music (the eerie, haunting title track will stay with you forever), and the dead-on film direction of Mamaru Oshii make this one of the greatest anime films of all time. To say this is a "must have" is an understatement. It's one of the ultimate cyberpunk films, and it's visuals were definitely an inspiration to the Wachowski brothers when they created the blockbuster "The Matrix" — just the opening sequence alone is a dead giveaway of that fact.

The character designs blend very well with the rest of the look.This is one of those movies that requires multiple viewings to take it all in. There's so much on screen that your first two viewings will probably leave you not even caring about the story. Then, on your third of fourth viewing, you'll start to understand the complex plot, and understand what a "ghost" is — and why it's so critical to the action at hand. For the uber-geek, this film is filled with cool-looking high-tech gadgets including some cleverly designed big guns, a six-legged tank, camouflage like "The Predator", and just some amazing art-direction that just won't quit making your eyes fall out of your head. Ghost in the Shell presents a dark and realistic view of the future, where mankind as we know it will soon be replaced by his own creations.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2002

 Ghost in the Shell 2 - Innocence
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Ghost in the Shell 2:

Anime DVD Review

Mamoru Oshii's landmark Ghost in the Shell re-defined anime as a whole and heavily influenced The Matrix. This long-awaited sequel features jaw-dropping, stunning CGI loaded with imaginative style and unique vision that is trademark Oshii.

Ghost in the ShellHowever, the American release of this masterpiece has a rushed, and botched feel to it, being subitled only, with no special features. Regardless, the film is so good we're willing to ignore the problems. The breathtaking visuals alone make this a must-have.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2005

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
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Ghost in the Shell:
Stand Alone Complex

Anime DVD Review

This TV series (based on the characters created for Momaru Oshii's groundbreaking movie) is an astounding and eye-opening joyride through a cyberpunk universe of human-prosthetic hybrids and cutting-edge military technology. Masamune Shirow's elegant and frightening vision of the near-future is compelling and extraordinary, his work is on-par with Blade Runner and William Gibson, and Stand Alone Complex culls more from his seminal manga than the movie was able to.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Despite the limitations of television and budgetary constraints, the animation never ceases to be fluid, and there's plenty of computer enhanced imagery to go along with the hard-hitting action. Yoko Kanno's amazing soundtrack adds to the flavor and helps catapult this series to super "must-have" status.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, October 2004

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell Website Links:

Ghost in the Shell Official Site

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

Stand Alone Complex

Ghosts of the Past (Ghost in the Shell fan website)

Ghost in the Shell Screenshot Gallery
(Ghost in the Shell fan website)

Anime Secrets - Ghost in the Shell (Ghost in the Shell fan website)

Ghost in the Shell (movie) entry
at Anime News Network

Ghost in the Shell (manga) entry
at Anime News Network

Below: Scene from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Scene from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Below: Scenes from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Scene from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Scene from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Below: Scenes from the first Ghost in the Shell.

Scene from the first Ghost in the Shell.

Scene from the first Ghost in the Shell.

Ghost in the Shell : Stand Alone Complex (PS2)
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Ghost in the Shell:
Stand Alone Complex (PS2)

Anime Video Game Review

A high octane third person action shooter set in a vast gaming world faithful to the original anime TV series. Use the Major's incredible fighting skills and firepower against deadly cyborgs - multiple high-tech firearms, graceful fighting moves, wall-jumping techniques and even thermal camouflage. Gameplay is fluid and beautiful, with moves and combos drawn straight from the anime series and stunning slow-mo graphical presentation of killer moves.

Ghost in the Shell: Now on your Playstation...The machine world is at your disposal here — jack into security cameras to see enemy positions, control tiny robots to reach areas you can't enter and much more — The ability to hack into the minds of an enemy's brain and temporarily control them lets players launch devastating attacks from within the enemy ranks and makes for incredibly original gameplay.

Laying waste to an unsuspecting host of opponents by controlling the mind of one of their own kind is an exhilarating experience, and even when they realize and gun their assailant down, the connection simply closes and control reverts to the player's chosen character who remains completely unharmed. Cool!

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2005

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
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Ghost in the Shell:
Stand Alone Complex

Anime Soundtrack Review

Yoko Kanno's amazing soundtrack to the awesome TV series that continues the characters and events from Maramoru Oshii's groundbreaking film, based on the Masamune Shirow's manga. Whew!, that's quite the family tree, containing a who's who of anime.

Kanno's fresh take on the cyberpunk genre is dark, textured, gothic techno fused with the blues, jazz and rock influences that so defined her work on Cowboy Bebop, it becomes easy to feel that there's something for everyone on this album, and each track contains some series of notes that compel you to concentrate more intently the next time around. Good listening.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, May 2005

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