Today I watched Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
At the end of the first film Major Motoko Kusanagi had ascended to a higher state of digital conciousness, so now her partner Batou takes over as protagonist. Batou and Togusa, another operative from Section 9, are assigned to investigate a strange case of gynoids turning on their owners in fits of homicidal rage before self destructing. Forensics finds evidence that a ‘ghost’ was illegally uploaded into the robots to make them act more lifelike but possibly causing them to go crazy. All the evidence points back to the gynoid’s creators, the Locus Solus company, who have had shady dealings with Yakuza and may be implicated in a political murder. Locus Solus has some powerful security though and they launch a number of digital attacks on Batou and Togusa but they have a guardian angel on their side, for in her new digital form, The Major may be watching anywhere they go.
A gap of nine years separates this film from it’s predecessor and this is evident in the visual design. While the first film had blended digital and traditional animation to some extent, this film goes much further into the digital realm, which does not always have as smooth a fit as it’s predecessor. The art design is also much darker and retro futuristic, it brings in a lot of imagery derived from clockwork and eastern mysticism and blends them into a dreamlike cyber-noir aesthetic. This look may be incongruous with the world of the first film, but it does fit the emotional tone, the darkness reflects on the missing Major whose absence has effected on Batou deeply. It also amplifies the macabre nature of the investigation in classic noir fashion.
Innocence may differ in visual design but it’s script has the same penchant for long winded and philosophical conversations as the original. The moody tone underscores deep conversations about the nature of existence and consciousness, but it does have the side effect of making the film move quite slowly. Some sequences, particularly an extended deja-vu scene, seem over long and unnecessary. That being said, the slow pace does give the characters a lot of time to establish themselves and the scenes with Batou and his dog are quite cute and speak for his character in the absence of more expressive dialogue.
Ghost in the Shell 2 is a true sequel to the original and really captures the high tech philosophical tones that the original set forth without missing a beat. It takes that world and goes in some strange new directions but never loses sight of the sore of the series and what made it a classic in the first place. That being said some of the dialogue gets a little over long this time around as do some of the more elaborate sequences. The visuals are also not quite as on point as before and the blending of digital and traditional animation is more obtuse. It still plays out in a thought provoking manner though, raising questions on the nature of humanity that only become more relevant with our further technological advancement. 4/5