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Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Not Rated

Starring: The voices of Richard George, Mimi Woods, and William Frederick

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

In the not-too-distant future, humans can be augmented with robotic parts. These robotic bodies are called "shells" and the part that is most commonly referred to as the soul is called the "ghost." A person's ghost can be transferred from one shell to another if their shell breaks down or is destroyed. A terrorist-hacker called "The Puppet Master" is hacking into shells and infusing his own ghost into them, effectively stealing them.

Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cop with cybernetic parts. She starts to question how much of her identity is actually her own. Since ghosts can be transferred from one shell to another, she wonders if she is still in her original shell. Are her memories her own? When her police unit is called to look for "The Puppet Master," these questions begin to trouble her deeply. So much so that she starts to empathize with "The Puppet Master."

Ghost in the Shell is another great example of the anime genre. This Japanese animation was dubbed into English by the Manga Entertainment company and the voice acting is surprisingly good. Unlike most anime, though, the emphasis seems to be on the cerebral aspects that come into play when one questions their own identity. There are some standard-issue car chases, nudity, gun fights and ultraviolent scenes, but there's less than you might expect. Some scenes are seemingly endless conversations of existentialism and some of its more abstract ideas.

As a visual representation of the future, Ghost in the Shell is impressive. Some scenes of futuristic Hong Kong are photographic in quality and the interweaving of computer graphics with the animation is stunning and effective. The result is a very convincing atmosphere of gloom, decay and menace from an unknown source. This helps the viewer identify with the main character's search for herself, since the outside world seems so unpleasant.

Ghost in the Shell is a kind of thinking-person's science fiction. It's a little too talky for its own good, but the visuals and voice acting help save it from ever being tedious. Recommended with the usual warning about anime: It may be animated, but its not for kids.

Trivia: The DVD version of the film includes a theatrical trailer and a "making of" documentary. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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