Ghost in the Shell (Japanese : 攻殻機動隊, Kōkaku Kidōtai, i.e. Mobile Armoured Riot Police) is a 1995 anime film adaptation of the manga comic Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow, directed by Mamoru Oshii. A sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, was released in 2004.
The movie begins with a scene of Major Motoko Kusanagi spying on a meeting taking place in an unspecified location in New Port City. The meeting is interrupted by a Section 6 strike team, at which point Motoko moves in, killing a foreign diplomat who took part in that meeting and then disappearing through use of her thermooptic camouflage system.
In the next scene, the chief of Section 9, Daisuke Aramaki, is introduced conversing with an official about programmers who are attempting to gain political asylum. The story then moves into the main plotline when Aramaki describes one of the minister's interpreters having had her brain hacked into by the mysterious "Puppet Master". While tracking down the presumed Puppet Master, Kusanagi explains to her partner Togusa (the least cyberized human in Section 9), why he was chosen for the team. "If we all reacted the same way, we'd be predictable, and there's always more than one way to view a situation. Overspecialization leads to death," she tells him.
The hacker turns out to be a garbageman who is going through a divorce and attempts to ghost-hack his wife using a program provided to him by an individual who met him in a bar. Batou and Ishikawa (two members of Section 9) arrive at the latest access terminal moments after the hacking attempt from it ends, failing to catch any suspect but also realizing that the locations from which the hack is performed corelate to the garbage truck route. When the garbageman finds out that the police are looking for him, he attempts to warn the person who provided him with the ghosthacking software. Both he and Kusanagi catch up with the individual at the same time, and the man fires at the Major's truck with extremely powerful (HV, or high velocity) ammunition and then activates a thermo-optic camouflage, rendering himself practically invisible. Eventually, the chase by Batou and Kusanagi leads the fugitive to the banks of a canal where Kusanagi destroys his camouflage and incapacitates him in close quarters combat.
It turns out that the man is not the actual Puppet Master but only a ghosthacked (brainwashed) "puppet" of the criminal. The garbageman whom he aided in ghosthacking has also been ghosthacked - in reality he did not have a wife or daughter, and all memories of them he possesses are false.
Kusanagi and Batou go out to sea in Kusanagi's boat, and it is revealed that Kusanagi goes scuba diving, much to Batou's concern. Cybernetic bodies are heavy and aren't buoyant, so any form of underwater activity, such as scuba diving, isn't advisable. When Batou asks Kusanagi if she's drunk, she points out that she's a cyborg and can't get drunk. The two have a conversation about what it means to be human after one has had cybernetic parts installed. She also talks about the nature of experience within the self, which is unique to that individual. In sociological terms, she gains knowledge and experience which in turn helps to define her self, and her beliefs and dispositions (habitus) help to interpret the experience in her own way (which she feels confined to). They then hear a mysterious voice that says, "For now we look through a glass, darkly".
One night, a female cybernetic body is suddenly assembled at Megatech (the manufacturer of bodies of all of Section Nines' cyborgs) without approval, and the cyborg runs off, naked, into the pouring rain, where it gets run over by a truck. Section 9 gets the body to try and determine why it was built. Batou relates a strange fact: the body has not even one brain cell as it is completely robot ic, yet there are indications that there is a ghost (a sentient entity or mind) within it. The ghost resembles one that has been copied, but without the normal degradations that go along with the process. Kusanagi expresses a wish to 'dive in' to the body and contact the ghost. However, her self-doubt is growing; she's unnerved by the cyborg, which she claims looks just like her, though not in a physical sense. She also expresses her doubts about the existence of her own self: she is unsure whether or not her thoughts and experiences are actually human in nature. She says that being treated as a human doesn't prove that she is essentially human inside. Aramaki notices something is wrong with her, and Batou tersely says she's been acting odd for a while and Aramaki would know this if he read Batou's reports.
Nakamura of Section 6 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), accompanied by a Doctor Willis, comes to claim the escaped body. As Willis analyses the ghost present in the cybernetic shell, Aramaki and Nakamura discuss the bureaucracy of the retrieval of the body. Willis confirms that the ghost in the shell is the Puppet Master. Nakamura claims that Section 6 had been tracking the Puppet Master for some time, managed to lure and trap the ghost within this cyborg, and killed his original one.
Aramaki expresses some concern over the fact that Section 6 just left the Puppet Master's original body to rot. However, the body suddenly takes control over the building and starts to speak. "There will be no corpse, because I never had a body." It claims that it never possessed a body because it is a computer program that achieved sentience, and that it desires political asylum from Section 9. Nakamura says that its request is ridiculous, and that the ghost in the body was programmed for self-preservation. The body argues that in a way, human DNA is a set of programs to preserve itself as well. DNA is what spreads "memory" from one generation to the next, and memory is what defines mankind. It also argues that the accumulation of data and the flow of information has given rise to another form of consciousness. Nakamura (who is visibly shaken), angrily protests that the body cannot prove its existence as a sentient life form. The body retorts that Nakamura himself cannot offer any proof of his own existence, either, when modern science cannot define what life really is. The body then states that it is not an AI but rather a sentient entity that was created through the accumulation of data and the flow of information known as Project 2501.
As Nakamura and Aramaki are talking to the body, Togusa notices something strange about the entrance of Nakamura and Willis and realizes that someone with therm-optic camouflage entered the building along with the officials because the doors into the building (which are apparently very sensitive) took three seconds to close after Dr. Willis and Nakamura had gone through. Togusa alerts Kusanagi to this fact, and they realise that Section 6 is up to something. The person, or persons, who entered with therm-optic camouflage, shoot the computer connected to the Puppet Master, set off a smoke grenade, blinding everyone, and snatch the ruined cyborg containing the Puppet Master. As they escape in their getaway car, Togusa shoots a tracking device into its registation plate. Batou starts to follow them by car while Kusanagi follows by helicopter . As Kusanagi and Aramaki talk about the Puppet Master, Aramaki also realises that Section 6 is involved in some sort of conspiracy around Project 2501. This is confirmed when Nakamura talks to Willis about securing the body: Nakamura does not understand why the Puppet Master would want to go to Section 9, but Willis jokes that perhaps it was chasing after a "girlfriend" there, which Nakamura rejects as "utter nonsense."
Ishikawa in the next scene talks to Aramaki after investigating further into Project 2501 and it turns out that the project was initiated before the Puppet Master showed up, even though it was claimed by some officials that the project was created in order to capture the Puppet Master. Ishikawa hints that perhaps the Puppet Master was a tool of Section 6 for the bureaucracy to do its dirty work. The escape of the Puppet Master would be a threat to Section 6 and the ministry would risk having secrets leaked out to the public.
Soon, the getaway car carrying the Puppet Master meets up with another and they split off in different directions. Batou follows the second car and Kusanagi chooses to follow the original. With the help of a road block and additional police, Batou stops the second car and discovers it is a decoy. He then rushes to support Kusanagi. Before he goes, he tells Togusa to get backup for her. Togusa is dumbfounded because he doesn't know why the Major would ever need backup.
Kusanagi follows the car to an abandoned building. There, she runs into a large version of a Fuchikoma (walking tank ) guarding the Puppet Master. Kusanagi's assault rifle cannot penetrate the tank's armour; instead she spends most of the fight running, destroying the engine block on the getaway car and taking out the port chain gun on the tank. The starboard chain gun then runs out of ammo, and she turns on her therm-optic camouflage and gets on top of the tank, trying to rip its cover off. However, she is unsuccessful, and damages her body due to the tension stress exerted on it. The tank grabs her and is about to crush her skull when Batou shows up and destroys the tank with some heavy weaponry.
It turns out that the Puppet Master's body is still intact, and Kusanagi decides to 'dive in' and contact its ghost immediately, as Aramaki would just use it as a bargaining chip. Batou hooks the two together, with himself monitoring the dive in order to disconnect them if it gets too risky. As they connect, the Puppet Master and Kusanagi's ghosts contact each other and the Puppet Master introduces himself to Kusanagi and Batou. It confirms that it is Project 2501, an illegal project by section 6 that has installed various programs into numerous ghosts for the interests of the various agencies that owned it. During its time collecting data and installing programs into various ghosts, it has become self-aware and has become an intelligent entity. The creators of Project 2501 thought that this self-awareness was a bug and attempted to contain the program into its current body. It tells them that it had been looking for Kusanagi for a long time, knowing of her through the many networks that it had hacked into. It is a sentient being because it can recognize its own existence but lacks two experiences that are granted to all living organisms: reproduction and death. Kusanagi suggests that it can copy itself, but it replies that a copy is static, only reproducing the mirror image of itself. It then states that a virus targeted to specific traits can destroy the whole system of its copies. It states that life perpetuates itself through diversity and originality while sacrificing old parts of the system in order to protect it from the weakness of a static system. The Puppet Master finally expresses its wish to merge its ghost with Kusanagi's in order to give birth to a new single entity. Batou attempts to disconnect the dive, but the Puppet Master hacks into him, preventing the disconnection.
Meanwhile, as Kusanagi and the Puppet Master are conversing about the merge, helicopters from Section 6 approach the abandoned building with orders to destroy the Puppet Master as a primary target along with Kusanagi, presumably to cover up the conspiracy. Batou sees laser s pointing to both the bodies, but the snipers are unable to shoot because of the Puppet Master's hacking.
Kusanagi and the Puppet Master continue to talk about the merge, with Kusanagi expressing concern over the fact that both of them will change and no longer retain their current identities. She wants a guarantee that she will retain her identity, but the Puppet Master argues that there is no reason to keep with it, because her desire to stay unchanging within a dynamic environment is ultimately what limits her. She asks it why it chose her and it responds by stating that the two of them are very similar, mirror images of each other's psyche. It says that it is connected to a vast network, containing large amounts of information, and that the merge would create a higher consciousness. Kusanagi finally decides to merge with it just as the snipers from the helicopters fire. Batou regains control over his body and puts out his arm to protect Kusanagi. The snipers destroy the Puppet Master's body and Batou's arm gets hit as well. Kusanagi's head is shot off, but the brain is not destroyed. Her vision cuts off shortly after that.
Kusanagi wakes at Batou's safe house - finding herself within a child-sized cyborg body. Batou comes in and informs her of what transpired since her original body was destroyed (approximately twenty hours earlier): the foreign minister resigned as a result of the conspiracy, and Nakamura is being questioned. Motoko decides to leave and reveals that she is no longer either Kusanagi nor the Puppet Master, but rather a combination of the two. Batou offers her a car and they agree on a personal password: 2501. The movie ends with the new Motoko/Puppeteer entity watching the panorama of the city and musing on what should it do next - "The net is vast and infinite."
The film adaptation presents the story's themes in a more serious, atmospheric and slow-paced manner than the manga. In addition, in order to condense the manga into 82 minutes of screen time, the movie excludes the subplots in order to focus exclusively on the "Puppet Master" plot.
Unlike the manga and the TV series, the producers have stated that the movie is set in Hong Kong, in the making-of Ghost in the Shell featurette. The writing depicted on the scenery is Chinese Hànzì characters, and not Japanese kana/kanji .
The movie was lauded as one of the first anime films to seamlessly blend computer and cell animation (after Macross Plus Movie Edition ). The soundtrack is of a classical Japanese style. It was one of the first anime features to cross over to non-anime fans GKIDS in North America.
According to the soundtrack's liner notes, the haunting choral song that plays throughout the film is a wedding song, sung to get rid of all evil influences that are about to follow. Kenji Kawai originally wanted to use Bulgarian folk singers, but was unable to find any, so he relied on the Japanese folk song choir he used earlier in the Ranma 1/2 anime. The song uses an ancient form of the Japanese language mixed with Bulgarian harmony and traditional Japanese notes.
A ga maeba, kuwashime yoinikeri
Because I had danced, the beautiful lady was enchanted
A ga maeba, terutsuki toyomunari
Because I had danced, the shining moon echoed
Yobai ni, kami amakudarite
Proposing marriage, the god shall descend
Yo wa ake, nuedori naku
The night clears away and the chimera bird (white's thrush) will sing
Toh kami, emi tame
The distant god may give us the precious blessing!
Cultural analysis of lyrics
Married nobles in the Japanese pre-feudal era typically slept in separate bedrooms. Sneaking into the bedroom of a love interest constituted a proposal for marriage. Therefore, line 3 may be understood as "yobahi/nightly crawl into bedroom" rather than "kekkon/wedding."
A sterling bird is mentioned in line 4. When this bird sings at dawn, it is considered an ominous sign because its song is believed to be less melodic than other birds and thus baleful.
The fifth line is a set of Shinto "god words". In the ancient days when Shinto relied on more shamanic rituals, a turtle shell was burned to reveal a fortune and special words were said to proclaim that the truth had been revealed. These words eventually became a prayer used to cleanse impurities.
The last line of the song was overdubbed in the international release of the film with "One Minute Warning", a song by U2 and Brian Eno. Some speculate that this edit was done for marketing purposes by Manga Entertainment, one of the major financiers of the film).
- In the opening credits, the numbers that flow in the background are actually computer codes for the different names of the staff who worked on the movie. These flowing numbers inspired the now-famous Matrix source code.
- The Puppet Master's statement, "When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child. Now that I am a man I have no more use for childish ways. Now I can say these things without help in my own voice because now I am neither the woman known as the Major nor am I the program that is called the Puppet Master. And where does the newborn go from here..." is reminescent of the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 13:11-13, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known ..." (1 Cor 13:11-13)
- The brand of beer Batou drinks is a real beer brand called San Miguel Beer which is the dominant beer in the Philippines. Noteworthy is the anime's detailed and accurate recreation of the San Miguel beer can, including its gold label and corporate seal.
- English-language subtitles name Kusanagi's gun a "Zastaber", but this is incorrect. The Gun is a real model, a CZ 100 (minor differences aside), but it is made by Česká Zbrojovka of the Czech Republic. The arms manufacturer Crvena Zastava also exists, however, but is a Serbian firm and does not make that model of gun. The CZN-M22, a bullpup assault rifle used by Kusanagi, is fictional, but also displays the CZ (Česká Zbrojovka) logo inside its case. Some subtitles also fail to translate the maker of Togusa's revolver correctly, calling it a "Matever" instead of "Mateba". This gun is also a real, but very rare, revolver.
- Video material from this movie was used in the video of Wamdue Project's dance hit "King of my Castle" in 1999.
- The US rating for this movie is disputed. The Region 1 Manga Entertainment DVD box reads "Unrated: Suggested 17+". Some sources, e.g. the IMDb, say "Restricted". Still others think that despite its content it deserves a "PG" rating.
- A cult classic outside the country, the ticket sales of the movie weren't as great domestically. Hence the sequel to the movie lost the title "Ghost in the Shell 2" and the secondary title became the primary title "Innocence."
- The original comic did not specify the location of the city, but rumor is rampant that it is set in Kobe, where Shirow Masamune (the creator of the manga) lives. In the movie, the city was created to be complete mixture of Asian culture, Chinese being the primary one. To go with the art, the music created for the movie used whole assortment of Southeastern Asia origins, and even play methods were often ad-libbed to create mixed ethnicity (although, Mr. Kawai admits it also partly had to do with the fact that he had no idea how to play some of them). Some drums were played by a female drummer to create a softer touch.
- In ordinary anime, characters would at least blink to create the feeling of "being animated," but in this movie, Motoko's eyes intentionally stayed unblinking many times. Director Mamoru Oshii's intention was to portray her as a "doll."
- After he struggled to convey the mood that the characters are supposed to emanate for English version dub, Mr. Oshii's thought was to thank the Japanese cast for making his job a whole lot easier. It took two days to record the Japanese dub, whereas the English version took three weeks to get right ("they can speak the line, but they couldn't emote"). In the pamphlet for Innocence, he actually pokes fun at a certain internationally recognized anime director by saying "Unlike some directors, I do give due credit to voice actors" (After seeing some overacting in his movie that was inspired from Gulliver's Travel, the man Mr. Oshii is referring to refuses to use any professional voice actors to this date)
- In the Region 2 DVD and Region 1 Special Edition DVD, the closing title song is "One Minute Warning" by Passengers, which is a U2 and Brian Eno collaboration.
- Production IG recently optioned the rights to a Live action adaptation which it hopes to sell to a major Hollywood studio.