There are moments in any art form’s history where one will look back and describe things as before and after that film, painting, song or piece of literature. The greatest films of all time are not only superlative motion pictures, but have had an impact, a reach if you will, that informs generations and transcends the medium.
For feature-length, animated filmmaking, one of these history shifting works is Mamoru Oshii’s iconic Ghost In The Shell. Set to get the real stamp of modern approval with a remake just a few weeks out, this legendary 1995 anime feature has arrived on Blu-ray once again in a gorgeous, if frustratingly thin, new Steelbook Blu-ray edition.
Consistently considered one of the greatest anime features ever made, Oshii’s film draws its inspiration from a manga of the same name, and thrusts the viewer into the future, the year 2029. With cybernetic enhancements a feature of everyday life, the all but fully cybernetic Major Motoko Kasanagi is our lead, and Public Security Section 9 is her employer. Along with partner Batou, the team is on the trail of a hacker called The Puppet Master. A skilled criminal, The Puppet Master’s M.O. is to not only take control of cybernetic brains and entities but in turn install within them false memories. A knotty, briskly paced and action packed meditation on everything from man’s relationship to technology to what truly makes us all human, Ghost In The Shell is a film that’s aged like the finest of wine. With each passing year, it only becomes more and more engrossing, its cultural relevance increasing exponentially with its vintage.
What can be said about Ghost in The Shell that hasn’t already been? A mainstay of film schools and college dorm rooms alike, Oshii’s film has evolved from simple, if boundary pushing, animated feature to an action film whose influence is undeniable. Influencing everything from live-action action cinema to literature, Ghost has aged incredibly well, a captivating and breathlessly crafted action feature. At its very best, Oshii’s film has an uncanny knack for blending dense thematic work with action set pieces that are still profound in their choreography. The world feels tactile and lived in, with each and every inch of this city designed within an inch of its life. Geography is never lost, despite the film’s kinetic sense of action, be it a hand-to-hand fight or some of the film’s grand scale chase sequences. There’s a singular vision to this film, and while it’s easy to say that the film is important in the wake of all the carbon copies the world of anime cinema has produced since, seeing the film now 20+ years after its initial release proves just how singular and potent Oshii’s directorial hand truly is.
It’s just too damn bad this new Blu-ray isn’t as dense as the packaging it comes in is beautiful. Matter of fact? This new release has zero supplements. Exactly the same disc as previously seen in the 25th Anniversary Edition (which honored the anniversary of the manga, not the film), the presentation here is fine, with both Japanese and English-language audio. The English dub is actually quite alright too. But that’s where the supplements stop. A Digital HD code is included, but the only reason to buy this specific edition is for the gorgeous steelbook artwork via Mondo. Kilian Eng’s artwork is eye-grabbing to say the least, but sadly, that is not enough to really justify the hefty price tag. That said, for fans of steelbooks and for those who may not already have a copy of this film sitting on their shelves, there could be worse ways to spend $34.99 (SRP).