Mamoru Oshii's anime sequel is more a philosophical meditation than the
noirish detective story that provides the action. Illusion and creative
vision pervade the animator's world of 2032 as Investigator Batou, a
mountainous cyborg with a brain that's part Plato, part The Terminator, goes
from gunning down a warren of criminal Yakuza to repeating cloudy quotations
("No matter how far a jackass travels, it won't come back as a horse.")
Batou is assigned by the government's covert anti-terrorist unit, Public
Security Section 9, to investigate the "death" of a gynoid, a hyper-realistic
female robot designed as a very cute sexual companion to a willing male. But
the machines are becoming erratic, and the gynoids have begun to slaughter
their owners. Do we have your attention, yet?
Batou, a solitary, intense type, is partnered with Togusa, an all-too-human
compadre with a wife and daughter to consider when the bullets and bombs
start flying. Atsuko Tanaka is reprised from the original Ghost in the Shell
to give our heroes a heads up on what might actually be going on with the
The investigation is constantly hampered--not so much with the obstructions
of bad guys and the like--but by a constant theoretical dispute over
comparative worth of humans and machines. This creates a plodding pace while
our heroes traverse a 3-D universe with a visual design that is eye-boggling.
Using subtle highlighting, distinct focal planes, an inventive color palette,
moody lighting effects, and forced perspective, Oshii blends what he sees in
the real world into a hyper-realistic style of animation.
Dog lovers will swoon over Oshii's method of humanizing his creation by
having Batou express deep love and understanding for his pet basset hound.
His detailed and devoted care of Ruby--to the extent of removing one of her
big floppy ears from the dinner bowl--after a weary day at work, is rewarded
with the kind of warm appreciation only a close animal companion can provide.
The big guy needs love.
Voices for the characters are Akio Ohtsuka (Batou), Atsuko Tanaka (Major
Motoko Kusanagi, the "Ghost in the Shell"), K“ichi Yamadera (Togusa), Tamio
Oki (Section 9 Department Chief Aramaki), and a basset hound providing the
barks for Batou's affectionate pet.
This sequel comes 9 years after the original, a cyberpunk action anim‚ about
cyborg cops battling terrorist hackers in an Oshii-created world that allows
the soul to migrate from organic to inorganic bodies at will. Within this
scheme, the question of the nature of humanity is endlessly pondered and
invests what might have been a pure action film with a strange and singular
The title derives from the heroine, Major Motoko Kusanagi, who abandons her
enhanced body (her "shell") to become pure soul or "ghost," and disappears
into cyberspace. Oshii thereby provides the basis for his questioning of
what it is to be human. But, the visual virtuoso's work suffers from his
unconcern about dramatizing his ideas in terms of basic story structure.
~~ Jules Brenner