• Ghost In The Shell (Mondo Steelbook)

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Released on: March 14th, 2017.
    Director: Mamoru Oshii
    Cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka, Iemasa Ohki, Tamio Ohki
    Year: 1995
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    One of those rare anime features that even people not into anime know about, Ghost In The Shell is widely considered one of the best of its kind, and for a very good reason. A remarkably high concept Blade Runner inspired slice of cyberpunk sci-fi, it's exciting, tense, stylish and even pretty thought provoking.

    Set in the future of 2029, the film takes place in a world that has established massive worldwide information networks and where cyborgs are almost completely indistinguishable from humans. Wreaking havoc on this network is a sort of cyber-terrorist who is known only as The Puppet Master. His trick? To install, through the network, false memories into people who are then coerced into acting on his behalf. The Puppet Master exists entirely in the network at first, but soon makes it clear that he wants a body of his own.

    In charge of keeping the network secure is a security group called Section Nine. One of their finest agents is Major Motoko Kusanagi, a woman who is almost entirely cyborg with only the 'ghost' (or consciousness) of her human life still intact and serving as her last real link to biological life. The Puppet Master takes an interest in Motoko, as she's not only incredibly intelligent but she's pretty much a perfect physical specimen. Motoko and her partners are soon involved in retrieving a stolen cyborg body that links back to the Puppet Master, but does Motoko actually want to stop him or is there more to this than that?

    Ghost In The Shell holds up really well. It's an exciting picture with an interesting story that blends its high concept philosophical ideas (in which the film explores what it actually means to live rather than simply exist) with some excellent action and suspense. The opening sequence in which Motoko single-handedly takes down a group of gun toting opponents lets us know what we're in for and at only eighty-two minutes in length the film moves along at a very quick pace. The story line is dense and well thought out, allowing for some interesting moments of character development to occur very naturally alongside the action set pieces, putting all of the sex and violence in the film into a rather fitting context and adding some substance to the style.

    As Motoko goes about her duties and tries to bring in the Puppet Master, she's forced to consider her own existence and her own humanity, or lack thereof. As she wrestles with the morality of the conflict she's involved in, and tries to rationalize what is real and what has been programmed to seem real, the plot takes some interesting twists and turns and it makes for rather riveting viewing. It works and it works well, placing Motoko alongside some great supporting characters of varying degrees of humanity and asking us to question things the same way that she winds up having to. In an era where humans are more attached to their computers than ever, parts of the movie almost seem prophetic.

    Note that this is the original version of the movie. The film was re-issued a few years ago as Ghost In The Shell 2.0 with newly recorded sound and spruced up graphics. A whole lot of fancy CGI was cut into the film, to give it a more updated look and feel. Admittedly some of the graphics in this original version aren't quite as impressive as they could have been but purists will understandably appreciate having the original version of the movie in high definition (though it was included as an extra on the Ghost In The Shell 2.0 Blu-ray release).


    The AVC encoded 1080p 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this Blu-ray disc is pretty impressive (and slightly windowboxed as you can see in the caps). Some of animated sequences in the film are a little soft looking and always have been. There's some minor banding present in some scenes but unless you're looking for it you probably won't notice it. On the plus side, there's a good sense of depth and dimensionality to the picture that goes a long way towards accentuating this film on Blu-ray in a way that it couldn't hit on DVD. Colors are stronger in every way while black levels have a nice, rich, inkiness to them though they stop short of reference quality. The animation is a bit rough in spots, and sometimes the computer graphics used in the feature clash with the cell animation, but it's all presented quite nicely here.

    Anchor Bay and Manga presents Ghost In The Shell with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio in English and with a Japanese track is LPCM 2.0. It might have been nice to get a Japanese language 5.1 mix but that didn't happen. The English track does do nice things with the effects and the score in terms of channel separation, but personally, the Japanese track just works better and sounds more authentic.

    Extras on the disc? No, not a one, just a menu. The Ghost In The Shell 2.0 release had a featurette, an interview and a commentary track on it, but none of those were carried over to this release. There is an insert included inside the case that contains a download code for a Digital HD version of the movie, however.

    The disc in this package appears to be identical to the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release that came out a few years ago (although without the insert booklet). The difference here is the packaging. Number 18 in the Mondo Steelbook series, you've got to admit that this is one fancy looking Steelbook. Pictures below show you what to expect:

    The Final Word:

    For whatever reason, this reissue of Ghost In The Shell is a barebones affair, though Steelbook collector's will probably want it for the packaging (which is admittedly really, really nice). That said, the movie itself holds up really well and the audio and video quality on this disc is quite good. Still, you can't help but be a bit underwhelmed by the lack of extra features.

    Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

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