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Cinema Signal:

Stray Dog of Anime:
The Films of Mamoru Oshii

. "Ghost In the Shell 2: Innocence"

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 erratic machines.

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 metaphysical timelessness.

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.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Batou and Togusa
Investigating a quirk in the gynoids

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