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Feature


Ghost in the Shell 2.0, (which isn’t the renaming of the sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, but actually a reworking of the original Ghost in the Shell movie from 1995—slightly confusing choice of title I thought) tells the futuristic story of Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) and the specialist team of Section 9 as they seek to discover the truth behind sinister brain hacker the ‘Puppet Master’.

 Ghost in the Shell 2.0
Told with as much philosophy about the human/cyborg condition as thriller style action sequences, Ghost in the Shell set a new standard in the anime global market and now with its status being celebrated the movie has had a digital makeover or ‘remix’ as it’s being funkily labelled, with all new CG scenes, a more effective re-recorded soundtrack and of course a home on the new Blu-ray format.

I’ll start by saying that despite being heavy into my Manga phase when this original movie hit, I was never a massive fan of Ghost in the Shell and didn’t really get into its world of implants, USB connections and hacking until much later with the simply astonishing TV series Stand Alone Complex. I found the movie to be a hard world to penetrate unless you were willing to endure its many layers and dialogue heavy explanations and as the movie closes, I found myself wondering ‘Is that it?’.

Jumping forward to the Stand Alone Complex TV show (and with my tastes in what I love about anime a few years evolved) I began to see the point in all this and just how much more Ghost in the Shell had to offer me. I now eat up all of the discussions about how human these not quite human characters' conditions are, even with their many upgrades and new bodies and use of the wonderful technology around them. I find this vision of the future one that feels totally plausible and even more than that, one I love hearing the many different view points from the characters and while we’re on the subject of the characters, GITS has a whole host to love.

 Ghost in the Shell 2.0
From Bato to Togusa I love every single one of the Section 9 team, but to get even gushier I’d probably go as far as to say that the Major has grown to be my favourite female character in all of sci-fi (bold words I know). She’s deliciously bad-ass and a great lead character to follow through the franchise's evolution and while she’s not as well depicted in this original GITS movie (maybe it’s the lack of purple hair), she’s really the key element of what makes it so interesting to me.

Re-visiting the first Ghost in the Shell movie after bathing in the world via the TV series for so long, I have to say that I enjoyed it more than I used to, even if it still feels like its keeping its audience at arm’s length rather offering them a welcoming open hand. I still found the story to be over before it really gets started and compared with what came later with the franchise it’s a little undercooked in regards to what it’s trying to say.  

In a hindsight respect, I love seeing how the technology used here has naturally evolved since this first glimpse into Section 9’s world and just how well these characters were depicted from the get go. It shows a real sense of history on an artistic level and shows of a real dedication from everyone involved in the ever growing franchise. Of course there’s another element to focus in on here. What makes this version 2.0 different from the run of the mill GITS?

 Ghost in the Shell 2.0
Basically the overhaul makes a bit of a tragic mistake and one that you’ll either love or hate. Much in tune with the likes of the E.T. special edition, it decides to CG overhaul some of the most memorable scenes and like with E.T. I personally don’t think it’s entirely worth it. For starters, the now classic money shot of GITS (the Major dropping off the roof and slipping into camouflage) has been completely 3D CG-overhauled, which essentially means it looks like a bad computer game cut away sequence in comparison to what it used to look like. Sadly these new ‘remixed’ scenes (which thankfully there ain't many of) stick out from the rest of the movies original 2D animation like a sore thumb and frankly I found it completely unsatisfying.

Video


This 2.0 HD overhaul is certainly the best GITS has ever look, but at the same time I don’t think it’s the best it could look. The entire transfer is wonderfully clean while retaining the grimy, dark tone that it was always meant to have (with even a few scenes re-coloured for extra effect). Colours have never looked so vibrant and of course the new CG shots glow with wonderful computer generated sharpness.

 Ghost in the Shell 2.0
The downside is that the image is often quite soft and while some of the time this is intentional or unavoidable due to some of those mid nineties techniques and their limitations, a lot of the time it dates the movie's look somewhat (especially when compared with GITS 2: Innocence or some of the work in GITS: SAC).

Overall I was impressed with this new HD transfer but far from blown away. The artwork on show here has never looked so good, with much of the city street work looking exquisite, the attention to technological detail captured wonderfully and the animators work glowing off of the screen (even in those irritating CG additions). I just feel like there’s still room for improvement.

Audio
I’ll jump straight to the point here. The new 6.1 DTS ES tracks here are a hell of an upgrade. For starters the newly recorded score is crystal clear, dynamic, full of power and the clarity in the choirs chants utilise the surrounds with impressive results.

As for the sound effects, it’s here that the real differences in the 2.0 remix shine. The car drive bys are thoroughly effective with cars disappearing off behind you as they shoot by. Small whirrs and digital blips of machinery fill quieter scenes and most impressively the gunfire on offer here is fantastic.

 Ghost in the Shell 2.0
Every single piece of artillery used here sounds incredible. From the Uzi gunfire of the escaping hacker, through to the shootout between the Major and the tank in the closing scenes, it all punches with a grand amount of bass and great realistic clarity.

Dialogue wise, it’s not quite as impressive and in all honesty doesn’t really do much to call attention to itself. For the sake of this review, I attempted the English dub as an alternative to begin with and was floored by just how appalling that dub is. Not one character sounds how I’d image them sounding (with the Major being the most underwhelming). Also as a side note and something I discovered while trying to switch back to the far superior Japanese dub. For those who watch the English dub with subtitles on, beware! The subtitles hardly ever match with what’s being said and it all seemed a little weird.

Extras


Well thankfully the original version of GITS is included on the disc, though while in 1080i it looks exactly like the old DVD transfer. Dirty, soft and a world away from the 2.0 remix.

 Ghost in the Shell 2.0
‘The Making of: Production Report’(26:40 SD) is the old American making of that treats newcomers to anime like idiots and explains every one of the animation processes like an episode of Sesame Street (is it obvious that I never liked this extra feature?).

The theatrical trailer (01:44 SD) is a bit of joke, selling the movie as a roller coaster ride of action with a silly voice over and then all that’s left is the text based extras (Creator Bios, Character Profiles and the Glossary) which have interesting facts and details but are so painfully dull to look at that spending time with them isn’t that welcoming.

Oh and just to highlight a niggle, there’s nothing on these special features to show how, why and when this 2.0 remix was done, which is a little weak in my opinion.

 Ghost in the Shell 2.0

Overall


Considering where this franchise has gone in the last few years, the original Ghost in the Shell feels more like a glimpse into the vast possibilities the world of Section 9 can offer as opposed to the ground breaker it was once considered by some.

The Blu-ray feels a little half assed affair and it’s worth will really come down to how much you appreciate the subtle and indeed dramatic changes that have been made to the remix. From an objective point of view, everything looks and sounds better than it ever has but as a passing fan of the original movie I just couldn’t warm to the all new CG shots. On top of that, the dull and frankly out of date features make this a title I can’t really recommend because it just left me wanting much more from it.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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