Ghost in the Shell 2

Starring (voice): Akio Ohtsuka, Koichi Yamadera and Atsuko Tanaka
Manga Entertainment UK
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 27 February 2006

It is the year 2032 and the Earth is a world where the few remaining humans coexist with artificial imitations, cyborgs and robots. Batou, a cyborg detective and his partner, Togusa are charged with investigating the bizarre case of a malfunctioning female sex droid that has murdered its owner. As they delve deeper into the investigation they are forced to confront violent yakuza thugs, devious hackers, influential government bureaucrats and powerful corporate criminals...

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is a strange movie, and one that is difficult to review objectively. To be perfectly honest this is not a film that you should watch if you know nothing about the history of Ghost in the Shell. While the majority of the storyline is simple to follow, the conclusion will leave you scratching your head.

The plot is not overly original either - it's not a million miles away from Blade Runner, for starters. But by far the biggest problem I had was the director's insistence on using three very distinct forms of animation styles.

I have to confess that I am not a fan of mix & match animation. For me part of the magic of manga movies is leaving behind the fact that the characters exist as drawings, or as a computer file. I like to immerse myself in the story. However, with this movie, it's constantly being shoved in the viewers fact that this is an "animated" picture. One minute we have traditional drawings of the characters, the next the background scenes are CGI images, and then we have scenes where actors have obviously been filmed and the illustrators have used this footage to make their drawings appear more natural. This, for me, detracted from the plot and I found it painfully frustrating.

Another problem was that director Mamoru Oshii seemed uncertain whether he was making a straight forward futuristic tale, or directing an arthouse movie. We start with a fairly typical futuristic cop narrative, but by the end it's become a surrealist nightmare for no real reason other than, I presume, to garner favour with the critics - the majority of whom won't have a clue what they've just witnessed.

Extras include The Making Of Innocence featurette; audio commentary by Mamoru Oshii and Toshihiko Nishikubo (animation director); a UK exclusive featurette Face To Face Interview With Mamoru Oshii; Sneak Peak at Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Volume 2, Episode 5; full-length Japanese trailer and Manga trailers. As with the previous Ghost in the Shell releases the feature is present on both discs - with the version on disc 2 having a DTS soundtrack.

To be honest this is not as good as I was hoping. In fact, it barely scrapes above average.

Ray Thompson

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