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DVD Review: Ghost in the Shell

Howdy!  To all regular (and not-so-easily-categorized) readers of “Back Seat Producers,” I send greetings!  Tony and the gang have invited me, Melanie Young, on as an estrogen-heavy contributor of DVD reviews.  I’ll be attempting to post here a couple times a week, though I also post daily over at my regular blog: – which I welcome you to visit!

I’m attempting to review 365 movies in 365 days as my 2009 resolution.  So far, I’ve done well – until this week.  I’m two movies behind, but gaining.  That’s why I post which day it is, and which film I’ve made it to in my Quest, as in Day 1, Film 1 (the memory of which is fading quickly).

Be forewarned:  Tony picked me up after reading my “Godfather” review – in which I bemoaned any woman ever being anything but bored by the thing (ask your wife).  So, if you’re a guy, we might not always see eye to eye.  Rest assured, I adore many movies these guys like.  I think Joss Whedon walks on water, and that the new “Battlestar Galactica” is the best thing TV has produced in 20 years.  I’ve got no specific agenda or axe to grind, I’m just trying to give an honest, modern American woman’s view on film.  Since only half of American newspapers even bother printing reviews by women, it might be something you’re unprepared for. 

Many, many thanks to the guys at Back Seat Producers for taking the plunge.  And I do have a treat for you today…comment away!

 Day 22, Film 20:  “Ghost in the Shell” (1995)  (Japan)

Written by Kazunori Ito based on the manga by Masamune Shirow

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

So I’ll admit I hadn’t ever made myself actually watch “Ghost in the Shell” until now.  If you live outside the sci-fi/fantasy worlds, you’ll be wondering why this is a big deal.  If you travel inside them, as I often do, you’ll be shaking your head at my audacity.  Especially if you’re a male cybergeek of a certain age – this film essentially put manga on the world map.  I hear it referenced with awe at both sci-fi and movie conventions – a sort of breathless wonder at the purity of the manga form (Japanese comics). 


I personally am not a manga girl (I won’t be reviewing the sequels), but it doesn’t take one to see the appeal of “Ghost” – nipples.  Robot nipples, skin-toned nipples, buffed-out, straining nipples; wet ones, arched ones, thrashing ones, falling-to-certain-death ones, even electrified ones…you get the picture.  Who couldn’t?


Yes, there’s some pretty cool animation throughout.  Tonally, it’s “Blade Runner” animated; the rain never stops falling.  And subject-wise, there are some deeper questions being discussed – what makes us human?  Is it merely self-awareness?  In a futuristic world peopled by humans modified extensively by technology and Cyborgs, this becomes a hot political topic – one worth killing for, covering up (with never-ending expositional speeches) and engaging in gratuitously violent chase scenes.  There’s some cool technology – especially the ‘cloaking’ type devices that most of the villains and heroes employ.  Funny how only the male ones get to keep their clothes on to use it. 

But the beautiful Japanese folk music isn’t enough to cover clunky dialogue or add any real meaning to the random wind-swept profile shots.  There’s way too much backstory being told instead of seen, and the deep introspection of the often-naked female lead evaporates alongside a male scientist’s 14-year old joke, “I wonder if he [the male voice inside a naked, prone female Cyborg body] has a girlfriend?”  Just in case you needed guidance to any porn-lite fantasies you weren’t already having.  At least this first installment features the faces of fully-grown women, versus the follow-ups, which obviously devolve into the normal 12-year old schoolgirl fantasy (somehow retaining the chest of a 22-year old pinup).

All I have to say to those holding out this film as evidence of a deeper sensibility in the sci-fi world is: get over yourselves.  You dig the naked chicks.

0 replies on “DVD Review: Ghost in the Shell”

OK, so I’ve read your words and they seem to be negative in tone but positive in content.

Seriously, this is why we asked you to be part of the team. It’s an honest look at what this movie is.

I can’t wait to see what you’re going to bring us next and I’m watching your blog daily to see the other gems you are picking up and posting there.

Excellent review!

Loved the review–HATED Ghost in the Machine and you reminded me of all the reasons why. So thanks. I no longer have to feel guilty about not liking this thing. I kept thinking I should rent it again to give it another chance.

Thanks, everyone! As unprepared as I was for positive comments about my negative ones, I’m MOST grateful! And so excited that you’re not ready to kick me off! 🙂

But to all you “Ghost” lovers, come on! Where’s the backlash?

First, a word issue. When writing japanese comics in print, they are referred to, collectively, as ‘manga’. When referring to japanese comics animated, on screen, the correct term is ‘anime’.

Second, I find the idea that ‘the only reason men watch this movie is for animated tits’ pretty shallow. I wouldn’t review a movie like the Wrestler and talk about Marisa Tomei’s tits the whole time (about half the scenes that she’s in the movie she is topless). While that may be a worthy topic of discussion (wink wink), it wouldn’t do justice to the rest of the flick.

Which is what I think happened here. You focused too much on “omg boobs and nipples” and not enough on the events occurring in the film, and your review reflects that.

In my view, your review doesn’t do justice to the film. But it’s nice to see a new face. Welcome to the madhouse.

Been awhile since I’ve seen the film…

“Where’s the backlash?” Is that what you’re wanting from this? If that’s the case then I have to question the veracity of the review in the first place…

But then you’ve already discounted that there’s any other reason that I can enjoy this movie other than “You dig naked chicks.”

But I guess that’s just to get “the backlash.”

Jake, thanks for the correction! I doubt I’ll be reviewing much of it in future, but if I do, I’ll be sure to use the term ‘anime.’ And many thanks for the sincere welcome!

Darren, no indeed, I did not write the piece just for a sensationalist purpose. I was just expecting people who did enjoy the film to tell me why, since I had expected a lot more than what I got out of the experience – precisely because of how passionately attached to it I know people are.

I apologize here for being so dismissive, but you’ll have to do a lot to convince me of this movie’s merits.

So, I ask you both, what is it that’s enjoyable about this movie for you? Because I obviously don’t get it. I do not promise to change my view, but I am really interested in hearing yours, too.

I wouldn’t even seek to change your mind on the film itself, but more for the fact that you don’t think I can appreciate it for anything other than animated tits…

First off though, I ain’t exactly above watching a movie for prurient value whatsoever, and if my Grindhouse segment for the show ever comes to pass, I’ll be basking in all sorts of B-movie, Drive-in, exploitation goodness, some of which will definitely say, that yes… I really dig the naked chicks.

This was one of the movies that put anime on the map, I’d actually give more credit to Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira for that…

As I said, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but I know that first and foremost what knocked me out about the film was it’s stunning look, for today, this stuff is pretty much par for the course, but for 1995, this was pretty advanced.

And yeah, I thought there was some pretty heavy ideas in the film that in my estimation were handled with a lot of care and again, not the sort of thing that you expected to see in 1995, at least from American film. Sure, there’s a lot of nudity in the film, but gee, I wasn’t exactly trying to rub one out while I was watching this, and I don’t think that’s why Oshii went with it either (but a lot of that can be chalked up to basic cultural differences- did you watch this with the English dub? I understand that it’s dialogue changes a bit here and there in it’s original Japanese, and it’s reflected in the subtitling). As I said though, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, so I’m a little rusty on the finer story points… though I do plan to rectify that soon (actually been getting more and more into anime lately- many thanks to the fine folks over at the Anime World Order podcast).

I thought it was technically proficient with a lot of great ideas and cool action… until I see it again, I can’t go further in detail, but then I don’t think it would be much worth the effort in this discussion, as you’ve already said, you’re not budging, and hey I get that… nothing will really ever make me budge on my dislike for Seth Rogen or Jack Black either…

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