In the year 2029, the world has become intensively information-oriented, and humans have become physically integrated into the network. In response, crime has turned more sophisticated by hacking into the interactive network. A particular criminal, known only as The Puppet Master, is using the network to hack into various human brains and provide them false memories as they unwittingly serve his needs. It's up to a security team of cybernetically-enhanced individuals known as Section Nine, led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, to track down The Puppet Master.
As I said in my review of BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE, GHOST IN THE SHELL was a hit for me, despite anime not being my fancy. Director Mamoru Oshii's epic has withstood the test of time, providing not only some great storytelling and action, but also some thought-provoking questions. In celebration of Oshii's latest film, THE SKY CRAWLERS, the powers-that-be felt the need to go back and revamp GITS with restored picture and sound. As well, new CGI sequences were integrated into the film to replace original sequences that didn't quite work at the time. If it sounds like George Lucas Syndrome, don't fret. Oshii's still left the story intact, as well as given the film a breath of fresh air.
GITS 2.0 begins and ends with one idea: What does it mean to be alive? Specifically, from a cyborg's (in this case, Major Motoko Kusanagi) point of view. Now, I'm sure there are those who immediately blow off a film like this because they're not in the mood for a philosophical discussion. Fortunately for those people, the film instead surrounds itself with explosions and action as a vehicle to help get to the philosophical moments, and doesn't come off as being heavy handed in the Major's exploration. Rather, it's touched on just as a casual thing at first, and only delves deeper into the question at the film's tension-filled climax. It's far from boring.
Enveloping the idea above is the film's story, which is surprisingly grounded. Instead of having something you'd find in the world of BLADE RUNNER, GITS 2.0 meets the fantastic and reality halfway, creating a mixture of futuristic and present technologies and issues. Really, if you stripped out all the futuristic stuff, you'd end up with the basis for an action film with a few twists thrown in. Adding to all of this are some memorable characters in addition to the Major (for reasons besides her oft-nakedness), such as her teammates, the cyborg Batou and the relatively 'human' Ishikawa.
While the original film was virtually flawless (save for the English dub, which omitted/changed some things and was awkward in spots), GITS 2.0 is equally as good, save for some purist complaints. The newly-integrated CGI, while leaps above what was in the original, can be a bit jarring in switching between the traditional and CG animations. But really, these complaints are pushing it, since the film still has its original core, and nothing in terms of story was added/removed. Purists are still free to piss and moan, if they choose.
GHOST IN THE SHELL is a landmark film, not only in terms of anime, but also just breaking through to Western audiences. With a compelling and surprisingly deep underlying story, it's not one you can easily put off as juvenile. As for the revamped 2.0 version, the CG is appropriately-placed and well done, only serving to 'touch up' rather than repaint the entire film.
Video:Manga Entertainment delivers a solid 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The print is clean, and aside from a few spots of banding, the colours are strong and well-saturated (given the film's soft, pale context).
Audio: To go with the revamped visuals, GITS 2.0 has been upgraded in the audio department as well. Sporting Japanese and English DTS-HD 6.1 Master Audio tracks, as well as Japanese and English Linear PCM 2.0 (all with optional English subtitles), these are even more impressive than the video. These are definitely punchier than the original tracks (all about the gunfire), and are very active in the surrounding channels. Dialogue is crisp and clear, without any distortion.
Surprising, though not all in a good way. First up for purists is the original version of GHOST IN THE SHELL, including the original PCM 2.0 Japanese and English soundtracks and optional English subtitles. Presented in 1.78:1 AVC encoded 1080i high definition, it's a nice preservation of a decade-old film, but lacks the polish of the 2.0 version. Still, it's here and suitable for viewing.
Next up is a holdover from the 2-disc edition of the film entitled Making 'Ghost in the Shell': Production Report, presented in 1080i. This looks and sounds old, and really serves more as a promotional piece for those newcomers to anime. Still, we do get to see the process of creating the film, interviews with the production team (with English subtitles), a look into the making of the soundtrack and more.
Following that are more holdovers from the previous edition. There are text biographies for writer Shirow Masamune and director Mamoru Oshii and text-based character profiles. Last up is the film's English theatrical trailer, presented in 1080i.
Unfortunately, the extras listed on the back of the case, a commentary with Ishii and animation director Toshihiko Nishikubo, a making of the 2.0 version of the film and an 'exclusive' interview with Oshii, are MIA. Seriously, did Manga read what they had slapped on the case before they signed off on it?
A great way to start off your anime collection, GHOST IN THE SHELL 2.0 is a great action sci-fi tale with some intellectualism thrown in. The new CG may not be to everyone's liking, and the extras, despite having the original version of the film included, aren't what you'd expect for a film of this significance. Still, this is a worthy upgrade to the old Manga DVD, and should be one with which to test out your new sound system.