An Anime Auto-ethnographic Experience Take 2.

Watching ‘Ghost in the Shell’ was a whole new experience for me. Whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy the film, it was a genre that I don’t often (if ever) watch. As I wrote in my previous post, I found it hard to keep up with the film as my mind was constantly wandering elsewhere. What I did gather from the film was a strong theme of questioning what it means to be human.
When it was put to the class that we had to continue from our previous posts, I found myself at a mental standstill. I had no idea what further thoughts I had of the film. And to be really honest, I hadn’t given the film a single thought since watching it. In a somewhat confused state, I began analysing my previous post and looking at ways in which I could progress in examining Ghost in the Shell.
My first thought was that I don’t really have a great understanding of what anime is. I knew that anime is a Japanese animated production and that the genre became particularly popular in the Western world during the 60’s when Astro Boy was produced in English.
So I started researching the history of Anime and found that I was able to make sense of some things that had confused me with a basic understanding of anime conventions. Here are some things that I found interesting with regards to the history of anime and Ghost in the Shell:
– Anime is a diverse art form with distinctive production methods (eg. There is less focus on movement and more on the realism of settings) and techniques that have been adapted over time in response to emergent technologies.
As it turns out, the film ‘Ghost in the Shell’ was one of the first films to be produced using a combination of both cel animation and computer generated images.
I also wondered how the philosophy behind the futuristic setting of the film (2029) would be conveyed in other genres. The production of Ghost in the Shell as an anime seems to perfectly fit the genres production techniques, allowing for heavier themes to underlie the storyline. I wonder how well the moral of the film will adapt to the forthcoming Hollywood release.

– Diverse art styles are used and character proportions and features can be quite varied, including characteristically large emotive eyes or realistically sized eyes. Body proportions also tend to accurately reflect the proportions of the human body in reality.
This particular convention lit a light bulb in my head and made me think straight away of the nudity in the film. The nudity was not overly sexualised, it was just showing a human body, although it was a point that a lot of students in the class (including myself) raised as somewhat odd. Perhaps the nudity in this film was to make Kusanagi seem more “real”, more “human” in a world where the meaning of being human was constantly being contested.

With a basic understanding of anime conventions under my belt, I found that I was able to understand the films theme with a lot more clarity.
This futuristic film questions what it means to be human in a world where a vast electronic network pervades all aspects of life.
In the film, the term ‘ghost’ is used to define an individual’s conscious. Science has redefined the ‘ghost’ as the thing that differentiates a human being from a biological robot, meaning that as long as an individual retains their ghost, they retain their humanity.
The process of evolution in the film also acts as a major theme. Except that in this world, evolution is a process of merging two sets of DNA together in order to create a third. An example of this is the story of Kusanagi, a cyborg who was once a human, although due to an illness as a child had most of her body replaced with cybernetic prosthetics. Throughout the film we see Kusanagi continuously question whether or not she was actually once a human. At the end of the film Kusanagi’s body is destroyed and her brain is put in a new body.
Whilst this demonstrates the process of evolution in the film, it also questions what it means to be human beyond having the ability to think. If all bodies were replaced with cybernetic parts would you still be human? Does replacing the brain still make one human? What exactly does being human mean?!



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