Ghost in the Shell Analysis

When comparing my two previous posts on Ghost in the Shell, it becomes very apparent that I was somewhat out of depth to begin with. But not being one to fall in defeat, I pushed myself to learn what I could in order to make sense of my experience.

This auto-ethnographic experience has been a real learning curve for myself. Whilst the study of ethnography isn’t new to me, anime as a genre is. I found grasping the plot of the film difficult to begin with as not only was anime a whole new concept for me to deal with, there were a lot of new conventions being played out in front of me. After viewing the film for the first time, all that I had gathered was that it was another film that questioned what it means to be human. A theme that has been used in many films before, and is continuously questioned by many a philosopher time and time again.

However, upon commencing research on the genre of anime, I learnt of a lot of conventions that were utilised in this particular film and found that it actually connected a lot of dots in my head. Suddenly the film’s plot wasn’t so simple anymore. The way in which defining what it means to be human in this film is backed up by theories of evolution that have the potential to one day become a reality.

Now that I have found clarity in the films theme, I am left wondering two things:
1: Obviously not to the extent in Ghost in the Shell, but I wonder if we would be able to utilise using mechanical body parts to help people with illnesses such as Motor Neurone Disease, MS, people who have lost sensations due to stroke and even amputees. I know that there are prosthetics and some mechanical body parts available, but what if we were able to give these people fully working (ie. touch sensitive) mechanical body parts that look like a normal body part?

2: I’m very curious to see how Hollywood adapt this film in 2017.

SIDENOTE: Just as I was about to click ‘Publish’ I saw this article. It’s about body parts that are being recreated by science 🙂

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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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An Anime Experience

Being told that you’ll be watching a film during your first class for the session is always an exciting event. This unusual happening was made even more thrilling when we were given an option as to which film we wanted to watch. My attention had been grabbed. When we were asked if we’d prefer to watch Godzilla or a film that I didn’t quite catch the title of, I was really hoping that the majority vote was for the former, as I had no idea what the ‘Ghost’ movie was, and being a class about Digital Asia I was pretty safe in assuming that it wasn’t Patrick Swayze’s ‘Ghost’. But, alas, the majority vote went to ‘Ghost in the Shell’, an anime film. My heart dropped. I’m not a fan nor do I follow anime (outside of some childhood fave’s including Pokémon and Sailor Moon), so I was somewhat hesitant as the film began.

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Perhaps it was due to my lack of understanding of anime, but I found myself rather disinterested in the film, and spent the time distracting myself with thoughts about travel, market stalls and motorbikes.
However, there were a few times that the film did manage to grab my attention. The first being the use of the thermal invisi-shield, which I admit, I thought was a pretty cool inclusion for a 90’s film. Sci-fi digs aside though, I found that a lot of the film seemed to be questioning what it means to be human. It went beyond the ‘I think; therefore I am’ stigma and instead delved further into being human via means of showing feelings such as empathy and vulnerability, both of which were displayed with nudity and the desire to reproduce.
I don’t think that I’ll be watching anime films at leisure anytime soon, however I did find it interesting that Dreamworks have recently announced that they will be doing their own adaptation of the film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Scarlett Johansson. However, this has been greeted with much dismay from fans of the original Japanese anime form, who have created a petition and have so far got over 15,000 signatures in order to have Johansson’s role dismissed and instead replaced with an actress of Asian heritage.