Ghost in the mind

As I left Mamoru Oshii’s anxiously anticipated sequel to “Ghostin the Shell,” there was a nice woman asking how people felt aboutthe film. “I feel like this stuff is like D-grade porn,” a short,unattractive and rather rotund man responded. “I think it is forguys that can’t get girlfriends…so I don’t have much to say asfar as content.”

I feel like within North American society there is a certaincontext through which all anime is viewed. Often times the viewer’spreconceived notions of giant robots and cartoon sex limit theirability, if not their desire, to truly appreciate the intricateideas presented. Anime is an area of film that actually holds asense of literary integrity as a virtue in its story telling. Thereare no Hollywood actor/actress personalities contaminating thecharacters in the stories. And although there are many examples ofpoorly made anime, for the most part the better films canincorporate any number of complex themes into their plots. Anythingfrom humanist philosophical conundrums to ancient Japanese mythosis used to ultimately capture the essence of unrequited love andlife so often found within the great stories of the past andpresent.

Filmmaker Mamoru Oshii’s sequel, “Ghost in the Shell 2:Innocence,” is a complex work dealing with the fundamentalphilosophical debate between the dualist and physicalistperspectives (i.e. the mind/body debate). It is not only anexcellent follow up to the ideas presented by the characters in thefirst “Ghost in the Shell,” but it delves into the grey area thatis the meat of true philosophic inquiry: If you don’t understandthe plausibility of both sides of an argument, how can you trulyengage in a philosophical discussion?

Oshii sets the story in the year 2032 and engages hisphilosophical pursuit through detective Batou, a cyborg – a machineinfused with a human spirit – working for a covert governmentagency known as Section 9. Batou is paired with human detectiveTogusa, whose character allows for much of the debate attempting todistinguish the differences between human and machine, if any evenexists, in the age Oshii creates.

Batou and Togusa are investigating a series of crimes committedby gynoids – extremely human-like female robots secretly designedfor sexual pleasure of the user – that are malfunctioning andbrutally killing their owners. The investigation plunges Batou andTogusa into the dark internal configuration of the Locus SolusCorporation and ultimately into the questions of humanity andexistence.

On the action side, the film is a visual feast. The twoinvestigators blast their way through everything from Yakuza safehouses to a pet store, where Batou’s circuitry is briefly tapped,giving control of his body and mind over to a hacker. This leads tothe apex of the film where Batou infiltrates the headquarters ofLocus Solus Corporation aboard a giant barge on the open sea. It isat the headquarters that the full force of action and visualstimulation unleashes and intertwines with the density of thephilosophical and literary allusions in this film.

All in all, “Ghost in the Shell 2” is a magnificent piece ofanimation that anime fans and philosophy fans alike can enjoy. Butfor those that would rather criticize things they don’t know about(i.e. philosophy, literature and animation) they would be betteroff seeing a Hollywood film about random leaders of ancient empiresor fearless firefighters looking for love, instead of attempting tolook through a sci-fi paradigm to delve into the eternal difficultyin defining a humanity constantly in flux.

“Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” opens Friday October 1st atCinema 21