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Ghost In The Shell (1995)
Anime That Will Haunt The Mind And Make One Question As To What A Soul Is
It's been nearly over a decade since "Ghost In The Shell" took the anime world by storm. Not only having everyone and anyone, who was fortunate to see it, questioning their own concept about humanity itself but what is the definition of reality and a soul is. Set in the distant future where all of humanity is either cyborgs, or they're brains and memories are living inside artificial bodies. Based off the popular manga by Masamune Shirow. "Ghost In The Shell" blurs the lines between humanity and machines like no other. In this futuristic society, humanity's minds are linked to the internet; making telepathy now possible. Unfortunately, this also makes it fairly easy for hackers to not only steal a person's identity (literally), but to control and alter the minds they hack into. Thus, making the victim's lives nothing more than a lie, as their memories are altered. In a world where humans can now give up their frail human bodies for a new artificially enhanced one, to where the only thing that's real about them is their memories. However, if they did that, are they still even human? Or just some machine representing a person that died? Plus, if an advanced A.I. or android were to become fully self aware and develop emotions, then does that mean they have a soul? Sure, you could argue they're still mere machines imitating a program, but what makes them less human than ourselves? Is it because we have souls? What is a soul? What if the only thing real about you was your memories, while the rest of your body was a artificial machine, then are you still human? Do you even still have a right to say you have a soul? If the only thing real about you could be a lie as well, with computer hackers altering your memories. Indeed, these are just some of the many questions, "Ghost In The Shell" plays on perfectly.
Set in future Japan, a female cyborg cop, Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka), and her partner, Bato (Akio Otsuka), hunt down a very dangerous and powerful computer hacker known only as "The Puppet Master." What starts off as a routine investigation to infiltrate and find out the identity of this dangerous man, turns out to be a giant government conspiracy wrapped inside a riddle. For you see, this isn't some two bit hacker our protagonists are pursuing. No, as it turns out, it's a extremely advanced A.I. program that's gone terribly wrong. An A.I. program that's grown so artificially advanced, it now has developed it's own sense of self awareness and consciousness. Now, all this advanced A.I. needs is....a body. Something that may be easy for it, given the fact that the future world now has everyone's minds tapped into the net. Making it easy for this advanced A.I. program to not only manipulate any user, but to also take over their cybernetic brain. Thus, raising many controversial questions that will boggle the mind, and leave anyone questioning their own right to dare call themselves human. After all, if being human is only a matter of consciousness and self awareness, then wouldn't a program have a soul then if it were to accomplish such a feet. Then what if said program took over your artificial body, then would that mean you die? Then what happens to your soul? Assuming you even had one to begin with.
Indeed, the story proposes not only many controversial conundrums for the audience to think about, it also portrays a story about a girl, who has lost touch with humanity. For those who don't follow the series, Motoko has gone through various cybernetic bodies her entire life, since she was in a tragic accident as a child that left her body completely in a comatose state. Even her own brain is mostly cybernetic to the point, where the only thing real about her are her memories. However, as this new case shows with her and Bato chasing down this alleged hacker, it makes her start to question if even the only thing real about her is even real at all. Or perhaps some cruel lie to make her think she still has a soul. In fact, it's at these many rare moments, where she starts to doubt her own existence and humanity, that the film is truly at it's best. Offering many similarities and contrasts between herself and the artificially created A.I. After all, what makes that A.I. less human than her? Especially, since even Motoko's own memories might not even be real.
Indeed, the science fiction mixed in with the film noir thriller elements create a perfect tone and story for the movie. Allowing for the audience to deeply engage into the film's story line perfectly. Where nothing in this world is what it seems, and nobody is ever sure of who they are........or even if they existed at all.
If that wasn't enough, the visuals for this movie were breath taking. The quality and detail of the animation itself is just too much for anyone to ignore. As it not only deeply pays homage to traditional Japanese culture, it also creates a fully believable futuristic world that the audience can buy into. A visual master piece in terms of anime, that will defy comprehension. At first the visuals start off simple as it pays homage to Japanese society, but as the story goes on it soon crosses into science fiction territory. Where the visuals continue keep the viewer in awe of it's brilliance.
I could literally go on about this movie all day, but that would be giving too much away. "Ghost In The Shell" not only breaks the standards of anime, it defines it. Anyone who dares call themselves a true fan of anime, better not miss this film as it creates a powerful moving story about what it means to have a soul, or even what it is. A powerful anime film that truly should not be missed. Sure, many people may prefer the over hyped "Matrix" trilogy that played on this concept as well, but it was no where near as powerful or as meaningful as "Ghost In The Shell" plays on it. A masterful and potent film to say the least.