Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence – Review

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Ghost In The Shell 2: Do Androids Ever Have Nightmares About Electronic Incontinence?

I’ve just got the idea recently from one of the comments to simply have another one of those reviews that have nothing to do with the current season. It’s just a nice change of pace and more than that, it’s not just my spontaneous opinion on something I’ve watched a couple hours ago. And so I’ve figured I would talk about the second Ghost In The Shell movie, the one that’s wisely called just “Innocence” in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad movie but it’s the kind you delve into. You don’t just watch it and leave it behind. You probably will need to do some research to understand the depth of this movie. And so, I will open with a few researched explanations of this movie’s content before I move on to my actual review. Seriously, it’s necessary… and it’s kinda frustrating. This movie became more enjoyable by actually giving it more attention than the one I had given it just watching it, but at the same time those very revelations showed off one of the bigger flaws of this movie. It’s a complicated movie, to make it short.

Synopsis:

Release-Date: 2004
Running Time: 99 minutes
Synopsis:

The heavily cyborged police officer Batou, newly partnered with the mostly-human Togusa after the diappearance of Major Motoko Kusanagi, is assigned to investigate a series of murders committed by prototype “sexaroids”—female androids created for sex. – ANN

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The Disappearance Of Decadence – Or How Oshii Mamoru Was Inspired By Dolls

It’s safe to say that the 1995 movie Ghost In The Shell is one of THE classic anime-movies in the history of that medium. The movie was a popular as well as a critical success and so you’d figure that a sequel might have been a good idea. In the end, though, it took nine years for a sequel to come out.

The biggest reason is Oshii himself, of course, who was either too busy for a sequel or still was in search for some inspiration regarding the theme of that new movie. The real inspirational moment was for Oshii to witness an exhibition of Hans Bellmer’s works. Also, the technology to animate things had evolved and while that made it easier to create more impressive visuals it also meant a lot more work to get to that point. In the end the movie had been in production for three years before it actually came out.

You would think that Oshii wouldn’t have to do that much thinking considering how his two movies are an adaptation of Shirow Masamune’s great manga-series. But one thing that has to be said about Oshii’s two movies is that they are only VERY loosely connected to their source-material. Sure, the manga provided the framework for those two movies but the first movie and especially the second movie are concerned with intellectual issues to a far greater degree than the manga. In fact, as far as adaptations go the Stand Alone Complex series is a more accurate portrayal of the tone and sort of stories Shirow Masamune wrote. It’s more than appropriate then that in Japan the title of this movie was just “Innocence” and nothing more.

Looking at Robot Rondo’s plot and its themes, the chapter this movie was based on, it seems far pulpier and more like a typical sci-fi-procedural. One thing that’s very striking is of course the portrayal of Motoko Kusanagi. Her aloof personality is one of the things that came from Oshii’s version of that character and the franchise from that point on stuck to that portrayal. Shirow Masmune’s version of Motoko is more like some belligerent, hard-boiled super-cop. In one dialogue-scene between a shifty colonel and Aramaki the colonel asked whether Motoko is also just an android like the half-naked maids that constantly surround him. Motoko meanwhile just stands at the door and flips him the bird saying loudly “Screw you!”. On the other hand, this version of Motoko also had a cute side where she’s this sort-of loudmouthed-girl-stereotype you often see in animes. Like at the end where she exclaims loudly how happy she is that they’ve closed the case and how that meant she would have a chance to take a paid holiday finally. Not only is she then also not joining in when Aramaki began to philosophize but in the end her wish for a paid holiday has the punchline that Aramaki is going to send her to a 2-month-training with the SAS. All of that would be unimaginable with Oshii’s version.

The way Motoko’s character had changed in Oshii’s version is very indicative of how different his take on Ghost In The Shell is compared to Shirow Masamune’s. It’s not even a question of better or worse as those two are simply too different for such a simplistic comparison. Shirow Masamune’s version really was just this cyberpunk-procedural that had a pulpy, adventurous feeling and what set it apart from similar stories were less the tropes that were used but the inspired ways in which they were used. Oshii Mamoru’s take on the same tropes is, to describe it with one word, brainy. There isn’t any ambition for entertainment in Oshii’s Ghost-In-The-Shell-movies as they are all about ideas, concepts and how these are presented in the movie. And even though, Oshii had said that he had gone away from only using his brain for making a movie like he had done with the first Ghost In The Shell, it can be easily said that this second movie is even more ambitious in terms of its braininess.

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After The Long Goodbye: Crime-Fighting, Moping And Dogfood

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I really feel like Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence gets overlooked fairly regularly whenever the Ghost In The Shell franchise is discussed. It always feels like you have this big classic movie from 1995 and then there’s the Stand Alone Complex series. Innocence never really had the same lasting impact that the 1995-version had. And maybe it starts with the ambitious fact that this movie has a Prequel-novel that actually sort-of contextualizes a lot of things in the movie.

After The Long Goodbye was basically just promotional material for the movie. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Its chapters were released as a series in the Animage magazine. And that was hardly a coincidence either, since this magazine also published Oshii’s manga-series “Seraphim: 266,613,336 Wings” that he wrote in collaboration with Satoshi Kon. In addition, that magazine had a monthly column where Oshii talked about movies. So, the place made sense, having a promotion for the second Ghost in the Shell movie made sense but then there’s the fact that “After The Long Goodbye” had been written by Yamada Masaki, a genuine Sci-Fi-author.

If you get a chance to read “After The Long Goodbye” you will quickly realize that Oshii probably had handpicked that guy for the job. Yamada’s writing-style is the perfect fit for an Oshii-movie. In the book we follow Batou who, while trying to get his dog back, gets involved with a criminal conspiracy and so… he deals with it, that’s all there is to it. That’s what essentially happens in this book – although there’s a little more that has nothing to do with the plot.

Let’s start with the title of the book: After the Long Goodbye is a reference to the Philipp Marlowe book “The Long Goodbye” by Raymond Chandler. And the book certainly takes a lot of inspirations from that book or actually it seems more like the 1953 movie of the same name had served as an inspiration here. Philipp Marlowe had lost his cat and went looking for it while Batou had the same dilemma with his dog – although Batou seemed to be more concerned about that detail than Philipp Marlowe was.

But all that is really just on the outside of this novel. The actual core, the stuff this novel is really concerned about gets expressed in lengthy existentialist musings that are for example expressed by Batou dreaming of a son he never had. What happens plot-wise really is just background-noise for Batou as he thinks about all sorts of things like the fate of Motoko, his place in the world and what the world is like. Naturally the word ‘innocence’ gets thrown around – a LOT.

Interestingly the book by itself is well-written but just okay entertainment-wise. The plot and story have their moments but overall nothing really compelling happens. Where the book becomes curiously engaging is once you realize that some moments in the movie actually make more sense once you’ve read this book. For example, at the beginning of the book Batou is on a sort-of quest for perfect dog-food. And the investment Batou here forms completely explains why his discussion with Ishikawa about that topic becomes a point of contention between them. And also in regards to the movie’s theme of dolls, the novel helps you to understand what’s what with remarks like “an empty doll is much more innocent than what people attached to the illusion of ‘human-ness.’ ”

That’s sort-of Batou’s favorite song in After The Long Goodbye. Naturally it references his relationship with Motoko.

The Secret Ingredient Of Dolls Is People – And Vice Versa

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The original story by Shirow Masamune was one about how decadence resulted in cruelty which led to even more cruelty as the victims lashed out. It was a story about how people got so caught up in their worldly desires that they never even thought about what exactly they are doing and how wrong that is. It’s a nice, little message for the straightforward adventure that it is (although there’s one VERY inspired plottwist in the end with the girls’ culpability). The interesting thing, though, is that Shirow Masamune’s story concentrated on the humans in that story. But it really seems like Shirow Masamune himself wasn’t completely aware that in the end the true victims of the story, the androids, became a bit of an afterthought. Even though, Ishikawa mentioned at one point how maybe the androids were lashing out because they got discarded so quickly thanks to new models coming out so fast (that line made it into the movie as well).

So what Oshii has done in his movie is to reverse that emphasis using the same story. The movie completely focuses on the androids and he goes even further by even questioning whether there’s a human side to this story to begin with. From an entertainment-perspective it seems almost unimaginable not to go with the human side since it’s humans who watch/read the damn thing after all. Why wouldn’t you want the audience to relate to what you’re presenting in an effort to entertain them? And the answer to that is what fuels this movie. Instead of simply showing characters that fight against the flaws of their human peers to stop the crimes they commit, this movie wonders about the nature of the dolls and how it actually had led to this situation.

But how do dolls and humans relate to each other? What is their connection? The really interesting thing about this movie is how it doesn’t go for some “vs.”-comparison in that regard. Instead, this movie purports the idea of both being different sides of the same coin. Where on the outset you would normally expect a big line separating the two, the movie instead goes for the estranging feeling of the uncanny.

The uncanny is a major element of this movie as it continuously tries to discomfort the audience by making the familiar seem unfamiliar and to question the distinction between a doll and a human. Rather than showing how different they are or to simply say they are one and the same due to technological possibilities, the movie shows blurred lines based on the uncertainty that you don’t know where one really begins and the other ends.
In that regard, the movie also repeats a skeptical remark in that vein from the first movie as there Batou said to Motoko: “Virtual experiences, dreams. . . . All data that exists is both reality and fantasy.” That sentiment echoes strongly when later at the mansion Batou tells Tosuga: “Do your wife and daughter, waiting for you at home, really exist? . . . Your family exists only in your mind.” That last remark is especially poignant if you remember that in “After The Long Goodbye” Batou had a son who actually DID exist only in his mind. And it also serves as a reference to the first Ghost In The Shell movie where a garbage-man had falsely implanted memories of a family, even though that he had lived alone all his life. The whole certainty that you as a person exist is called into doubt in a world where such things can be fabricated without you noticing the difference. Kim, the hacker, says philosophically on that topic at one point: “Humans are nothing but the thread from which the dream of life is woven.”

And in connection with this, one of the most important quotes of this movie needs to be mentioned. It appears multiple times throughout the movie and it underscores the uncanny when Togusa reads that quote on a plate in front of a temple at one point but then sees it repeated when Kim, the hacker, dies. The poem goes like this: “Life and death come and go like marionettes dancing on a table. Once their strings are cut, they easily crumble.” The poem is from a noh playwright and actor named Zeami and its title is “Mirror Of The Flower”. Essentially what this poem actually is doing is giving advice to noh-actors. And the poem likens actors to marionettes who are pulled by the strings of the play creating the artifice of the fictional drama on a theater-stage. But if they don’t let themselves be controlled by the artifice of the play, they fail as actors.

And this artifice of characters playing other roles and not having complete control is shown off perfectly by the incessant quoting in this movie. There’s a sense of ventriloquism to it when so often the characters in this movie become mouthpieces for other people’s words. They’re like talking dolls at that point and less than talking as individuals they just express cultural, philosophical etc. sentiments of the world they live in.

But Togusa would still regard himself as human despite the way his individuality disappears in the swamp of ideological influences that surround him. This very fact is called into question, though, as the confrontation with Kim happens. The uncanny was more or less just an undercurrent that was only expressed by the dolls, but it’s something that Togusa and Batou have to actively face once they enter Kim’s mansion.

The uncanny gets expressed in four ways here. The first one is the sense of déjà vu, that Togusa and Batou have all done this before. And as the sequence in the mansion progress, they do indeed repeat the same experience over and over again. It calls into question the notion of reality as you’re uncertain at the end whether any of the shown scenarios had even happened for real.

The second uncanny-produced uncertainty is the one of life and death. Motoko was in the entrance-hall and reminded Batou of the Golem-Myth but even setting that aside, there’s a definite uncertainty whether Kim is alive or dead whenever Togusa finds him in each scenario. Since Kim seems like an automaton it’s hard to tell whether he’s actually alive or not. He muses philosophically at one point: “Alternatively, the doubt that a lifeless object might actually live. That’s why dolls haunt us. They are modeled on humans. They are, in fact, nothing but human. They make us face the terror of being reduced to simple mechanisms and matter. In other words, the fear that, fundamentally, all humans belong to the void.”

And the third point regarding this movie’s view on the uncanny also gets explained by Kim: “In this age, the twin technologies of robotics and electronic neurology resurrected the eighteenth-century theory of man as machine. And now that computers have enabled externalized memory, humans have pursued self-mechanization aggressively, to expand the limits of their own functions. Determined to leave behind Darwinian natural selection, this human determination to beat evolutionary odds also reveals the very quest for perfection that gave it birth. The mirage of life equipped with perfect hardware engendered this nightmare.” It’s the simple fear that at some point humans and dolls become indistinguishable. Due to Kim’s appearance he might be a something mechanical that appears human or something human that appears mechanical. The difference between the two becomes almost invisible and it’s that uncertainty that creates the sense of the uncanny.

The last form of the uncanny that gets portrayed in that mansion is the doppelganger-effect. In one of the scenarios Kim ends up looking like an automaton-Togusa and then later he looks like a Batou-automaton. But it doesn’t end there. In the last sequence before Batou saves Togusa, an offshore-ship attacks the mansion which leads to Togusa getting hurt – only for his chest to turn into the kind an automaton would have. It just shows further proof how the individuality disappears as Togusa isn’t this defined individual anymore. He has a doppelganger in front of him who both shows him the immortality of his self not disappearing because there’s another self just like him right there and the death of his self because if someone just like him exists, what does that say about the existence of his self? In the end, a doppelganger would just prove that he’s just as lifeless as a mass-produced doll.

It’s also poignant to realize what all these scenarios say about Kim who transferred into a doll-like automaton to become immortal. It really seems like his sense of self has simply disappeared as he’s more than ready to ape Batou’s and Togusa’s appearance instead of staying with his natural appearance. Also, that despite looking like Batou and Togusa, Kim is never able to shed himself of his now doll-like appearance. For all intents and purposes he might as well have become a thinking doll.

So what about the dolls? How do they figure into this equation? The first substantial hint comes when Batou investigates the crime-scene where Jack Volkerson, the shipping-inspector of the Locus Solus, was killed. While looking through a book-case, he finds a Japanese edition of Hans Bellmer’s book “The Doll” and in it he finds a holographic photo of the girl which hints at the truth behind the gynoids. In the same way, Hans Bellmer’s book about dolls contains a photo of an actual girl, the actual dolls in this story contain the minds of girls by using the ghost-dubbing-technology. It symbolizes the society’s desire to favor the ideal of artificiality over the fickle variation offered by individuality.

And the movie goes even further in explaining how the relationship between humans and dolls has been influential even before humanity had gotten the technology to turn itself into dolls. At one point Togusa and Batou visit the Coroner Haraway (the name’s based on Donna Haraway, author of the “Cyborg Manifesto”).

And just as a curious aside… Haraway is voiced by Yoshiko Sakakibara, the same voice-actress who voices the android-Chief in Psycho-Pass. The chara-design of Haraway and the Chief she plays in Psycho-Pass are fairly similar as well. I assume, that was real type-casting in action and more than that, they probably had developed the character with that very voice-actress in mind.

Anyway, Haraway says something very important about the relationship between humans and dolls:

“The dolls that little girls mother are not surrogates for real babies. Little girls aren’t so much imitating child rearing, as they are experiencing something deeply akin to child rearing. . . . Raising children is the simplest way to achieve the ancient dream of artificial life.”

Rather than to go with the traditional assumption that girls play with dolls to experience something similar to naively roleplaying a mother, this movie assumes what happens here instead is that the doll becomes an ideal for the girl as to how a person should look like. In that way humans consider the artificial beauty of such dolls as the ideal they long for and because of that the gynoids came into existence. But more than that, this means that the notion of “human” itself just becomes an artificial construct in how it derives from the artificial ideal of dolls. But Togusa replies to Haraway’s explanation exasperated: “Children aren’t dolls!” In the next moment Batou explains, though: “Descartes didn’t differentiate man from machine, animate from inanimate. He lost his beloved five-year-old daughter and then named a doll after her, Francine.” More than just showing how similar dolls and humans are, the movie shows the human element in the mechanic and the mechanic element in the human.

Oshii has said in interviews: “to ask what the difference is between an adult raising a child and a girl playing with her doll” is “not an immoral question, nor does it indicate some kind of regression.” Rather, it is quite simply “the only way we can understand the nature of human existence.” Human existence isn’t merely something that models the inanimate doll in its image but the inanimate and animate influence each other.

This is especially true for the cybernetically enhanced people in the Ghost In The Shell universe. When such a person like Batou looks into the mirror it just sees what that person has already projected as a human. Instead of being naturally human, he’s just the artificial construct of a human as far as his appearance is concerned. Togusa quotes Meiji-period satirist Saitō Ryokuu as he talks with Batou about this topic: “The mirror is not a tool of enlightenment, it is a tool of obscuring the truth.” It’s just like Nietzsche said: “The human intellect cannot avoid seeing itself in its own perspectives, and only in these,” since “we cannot look around our own corner.”

So, up to this point the movie is all doom and gloom in that regard. Humans lose their humanity in making dolls who are human while humans themselves become more doll-like. And the solution that Oshii proposes here is kinda obvious, if you think about it. The solution is – innocence.

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Gabriel, The Savior And The Lack Of Innocence

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So, where can innocence be found in this movie? I’ve talked about now how humanity fares in this movie’s universe and it’s not as peachy as you’d like things to be, of course. But if you look at the movie’s plot, then the first logical assumption would be that the girls who are victims of ghost-dubbing represent the innocence in this story.

It’s an effective culmination theme-wise to find out how the girls end up being trapped in dolls in an effort to make those dolls seem more lifelike. The doll has become so much more desirable to human society that nothing but the ideal artificiality of it is enough to satisfy the people who got those gynoids.

And it’s no wonder that Oshii kept this element from the original Robot-Rondo-chapter because it’s a very effective plot-twist that’s way more brutal than the original story even gives it credit for. What I’m alluding to is the revelation that the girls were more than happy to be saved at the expense of those who had brought them into this situation and anyone close to those people (and it didn’t matter to them how innocent the latter were). The girl at the end complains that she didn’t want to be a doll but Batou responds angrily that he’s sure the doll didn’t want to be human either. Rather than being innocent, the girls (with the help of the shipping-inspector) methodically and aggressively orchestrated their rescue with total disregard for the dolls they used in the process and what they made them do.

The other element of possible innocence is Batou’s guardian angel, Motoko Kusanagi. She has helped him in Kim’s mansion and in the final battle as Batou is about to be overwhelmed by the attacking gynoids, one of the gynoids becomes an avatar for Motoko which enables her to help Batou in his battle. A very important tidbit is what Yamada (the author of After The Long Goodbye) said at the premiere of the movie in a discussion about the movie with Oshii: “The reason Batou goes into enemy territory isn’t really because he wants to rescue someone, nor is it really because he wants to solve the case. He just wants to meet his angel, Motoko. It doesn’t really matter whether their relationship is a conventional romance or not. You see, their love might seem cold to humans, but what is between them is no longer human, and now very innocent.”

And that’s really truer for that novel than the movie actually. After all, in the movie Motoko is hardly a romantic partner for Batou no matter how innocent their romance may be. In fact, she really works more like a deus ex machina whenever she appears. And it’s important to note that her name is Motoko Kusanagi and that Kusanagi is basically the name for the Excalibur of Japanese folklore. It was given once as a gift to a warrior named Yamato Takeru to defeat his enemies. Knowing that, it seems far more fitting to think of Motoko as a weapon Batou can grab onto whenever he’s in need of help. And after she has given the necessary amount of help, she will disappear once again. There’s nothing even remotely romantic about her relationship with Batou. She just comes and goes as she pleases and works in a very pragmatic manner to ensure his survival.

So, it’s not the girls in the gynoids, nor is it ephemeral Motoko. The real symbol of innocence in this movie is Gabriel (Gabu), Batou’s dog. It’s important to note here that Oshii has basically inserted his own dog who’s also named Gabriel into the movie. And it’s that dog that is ultimately the most innocent being in this movie.

One way to become more than human is transcendence by either doing something like Motoko and just become this ephemeral being. But there’s a second version as noted by Oshii:

“Another option is to communicate with dogs. Once you discard anthrocentrism, you have to take animals into consideration. Dogs provide a much better contrast against robots or dolls than humans do. . . . Dogs became unique creatures by interacting and living with humans. . . . By communicating with dogs, I thought humans might realize something about themselves.
So I wanted to contrast humans against dogs, rather than simply against artificial intelligence.”

The relationship with the basset Gabriel is the most innocent of the relationships in the movie. Gabriel isn’t just this symbol of primitive animal-instincts but there’s a very companion-like relationship that leads to Bato and the basset sharing everything which in turn influences their behavior. In this relationship Bato doesn’t become more animal-like but rather it creates a space where the line between human and animal gets blurred without making the two indistinguishable like in the relationship between humans and dolls.

Instead of following the egocentric obsession the association with dolls leads to, Oshii sees more value in associating with something other than oneself and that’s of course an animal like a dog. By relating to something that isn’t human like a doll, a person can escape the cycle of egocentric obsession.

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Review:

The theme-song of the movie composed by Kenji Kawai with the very on-the-nose name “Song Of The Puppets”.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence can be safely described as a movie with two identities. On the one hand you have its philosophical side that is either at the forefront of the movie or becomes the subtext of a moment. I have already described at length how rich in meaning this movie is and really it’s hard to miss the movie’s ambition to be meaningful while watching it. The other side of the movie is what makes it Ghost In The Shell, it’s essentially the plot, the glue that holds it all together.

And here’s where the movie struggles in remembering where its priorities lie. One of the things that made the first movie so great despite its ambitious philosophical connotations was how it still remained a fairly coherent experience. The first movie actually made use of all its elements and delivered an experience that transcended its source-material in its depth and artiness. And the best way you can describe the second movie is to say that it’s doing the same thing the first movie did – except with twice the intensity.

I’ve talked about how meaningful the intertextuality of this movie is and how meaningful even that endless quoting is but while watching the movie, it simply seems not very pleasant. It’s less that quotes were used and more that they didn’t have much of a subtext in most cases. Maybe it’s just me but most of the quotes there just seemed douchy. Those quotes weren’t necessary and yet the characters resorted to quoting rather than to find their own words. It creates a very strong sense of detachment that maybe is something the movie wants to evoke but that’s the sort of artsy thing you only want to experience if you’re in the mood for it (if even that…).

Oshii may have said that he has changed his approach when making this movie in contrast to the first one but in the end that approach has turned this movie into an emotionally far colder experience than the first one. And you may argue giving its theme it’s naturally so. By focusing on dolls this movie rightly feels as detached as it does. And there are moments in this movie that are intellectually very compelling and indeed make you think about how the movie’s proposed relationship between dolls and humans reflects on today’s society.

At this point, it’s also really important to note just HOW important the visual elements of this movie are. First of all, the movie looks great. It’s the best animation-technology could deliver at the time but rather than just making things look pretty, there’s a real sense of style to the visuals in this movie. For example, when Batou is in the store buying dogfood and gets ghost-hacked, the whole scene has a very strong sense of three-dimensionality. Batou’s situation actually seems like an event that’s unfolding within a certain space and it’s not just this directed, limited perspective you get in most animes. That’s really one of the main-archievements of the movie behind just simply looking good: There’s a real sense of depth and space to the shots in this movie.

So, it’s an intellectually intriguing movie and the visuals kick ass but why then isn’t it as good, or maybe even better, than the first movie? It’s one word: plot. I really believe that it isn’t a coincidence that the movie got released with the title “Innocence” in Japan without the appropriate addendum that it’s part of the Ghost-In-The-Shell franchise. Sure, there IS a plot in this movie and yep it has a beginning, a middle and an end but hell, is all just perfunctory.

The movie starts with a sort-of whodunit-mystery as these gynoids have attacked and killed people suddenly and now Batou and Togusa have to find out why this has happened. Indeed, that’s the plot-trajectory for the whole movie and yet it feels very hard to follow the plot of this movie. Why? Because the movie really doesn’t give a shit about its own plot. The plot is essentially just a way to get the characters from one situation to another that would give them a chance to further the philosophical message of the movie. What this movie is doing to its plot is simply too intellectual to be effective on an emotional level. Every scene is used to get as much philosophical bullshit out of it as possible without really considering the more basic notions of drama that would make those scenes actually come alive.

The movie distances itself from the audience even further by pulling references out of its ass that don’t really enhance the experience of the movie than rather make it impossible to follow the movie in every regard without somehow miraculously getting those references. Being philosophical and intellectual is one thing, having big ambitions about the message of the movie is one thing but all that that happens in isolation without even thinking of the audience is a totally different thing. The whole thing becomes even more subjective as there’s no one purely evil t, Io report on, I guess I eel like.

We aren’t watching a Ghost In The Shell movie anymore, we are watching Oshii Mamoru’s mindscape. There’s nothing wrong with that per se but the problem is that the movie doesn’t really work without having an access to that mindscape. And really, that mindscape even includes Yamada’s prequel-novel “After The Long Goodbye”, so it’s likely that most Western viewers already start with a disadvantage in terms of accessibility while watching this movie.

It’s kinda weird, even if you understand all the references and the subtext, to think of this movie as having a plot. The events in Innocence feel very loosely connected even though there’s a logic to the order in which the events transpire. It’s just that the action always feels incidental and more often than not simply gets buried by all the philosophical musings and quotes present in most of the scenes. What remains the subtext in most movies and series becomes the text here and the stuff that actually should seem relevant takes a backseat in favor of musings and quotes.

And the movie gets the bill for that treatment by having a rather weak ending. It’s actually poignant on an intellectual level by showing Togusa giving his daughter a doll as birthday-gift and ending on an image where Batou is holding his basset Gabriel. But the one thing this movie can’t make heads or tails of is the girl they find at Locus Solus who’s as much a culprit as the people who got her there in the first place. Granted the original story by Shirow Masamune didn’t know what to do with these girls either except to reprimand them for what they’ve done.

But for a movie that is SO deeply concerned about everything else, it seems strange how it hasn’t an answer ready for why the girls were ready to commit atrocious murders in order to be rescued. In the original story by Shirow it seemed like a plottwist without any deeper meaning except for being the effect of the evil situation those girls have found themselves in. And for the pulpy level that story worked on, that was enough. But Innocence works on such a more complex level that you kind-of feel let down by its simple interpretation of this being merely an issue of empathy (Motoko says in reaction to the girl “We weep for a bird’s cry, but not for a fish’s blood. Blessed are those with voices.”). And after all the philosophical bludgeoning the movie had enacted in regards to how superficial the meaning of “human” actually is, such a sentimental point seems kinda banal. After you have called the whole human nature into question, you don’t get much of a reaction out of asking the audience why humans don’t give much of a shit about something. At that point that’s just par for the course. But a finale and a conclusion of a movie should be some sort of climax theoretically. I mean, that’s just some standard and it’s not like a movie has to follow that standard but it does exist for a reason and this movie certainly didn’t subvert that standard.

Really, the movie works on an intellectual level just great. The way it treats its themes and subtext is extraordinary! And it looks great while doing that! Except you have to realize that everything else kinda takes a backseat, more than that the plot of this movie seems kinda flat as it’s simply gets squashed by this movie’s philosophical baggage.

Rating: 8.5/10

Random Thoughts:

  • Full Disclosure: For all the parts regarding the prequel-novel and the interpretation of the movie, I did my fair share of researh. Since this is primarily a review and not really about interpreting this movie, I actually didn’t go into too much detail regarding its thematic intricacies. Still, I want to mention that I’ve read “Brain-Diving Batou” by Brian Ruh for the part about the Prequel-Novel (in addition to actually reading the novel, of course) and I’ve read Steve T. Brown’s “Machinic Desires: Hans Bellmer’s Dolls and the Technological Uncanny in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”. Really, in the case of the latter… it’s a 25-page-paper on this movie. And it’s only talking about one aspect of the movie (although I agree with him as identifying it as the most important one), you can’t get more nerdy than this. Look, the reason why I actually summarized these for this review is because not everybody can access them for free. Especially in the latter case with Steve Brown’s analysis of the doll-aspect in this movie, he has SO much more to say on that subject. So I urge you all to find access to it somehow and read it.
  • Another interesting perspective comes from Frederic Clement who actually focuses on the role of the girls in this movie’s plot. I’ve mentioned in the review how this movie mostly ignores its plot in favor of philosophical musings and so I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a revenge-fantasy. Although he does make a few good points regarding the gynoids’ actions at the end of the movie.
  • Oh, it’s so refreshing to see a Ghost In the Shell Adaptation that doesn’t do bullshit like someone telling Togusa “B-B-But you’re mostly organic! And you have a family! Inconceivable!”.
  • Really, in general… I mean, the first time around I watched this movie I didn’t like it at all. But now as I’ve watched it again… I like the hints of noir that are (of course) not only present in the prequel-novel but also in this movie. And the intellectual stuff did seem interesting.
  • Since the Uncanny is such an important element in this movie, here’s a video talking about that in how it can instil fear and in relation to videogames. So, for this review it’s really only important in how the video does a good job of explaining what “Uncanny” means.

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on November 7, 2014, in Anime, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Thank you for writing this. Innocence is a movie I really want to like, but struggle to get through in places. I’m a fairly literal person, so having someone else point out underlying themes helps me keep an eye out for them.

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    • It’s a challenging movie and I don’t mean that in a good way. If you go into this cold without having read the prequel-novel and not having the knowledge to get the references, you probably end up getting lost in trying to figure out what the actual story is.

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  1. Pingback: Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society – Review | Otakuness Anime Reviews

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