The Ill Communication

A visual powerhouse, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence will awe you with its mix of 2D and 3D graphics, acting like a signature for projects from animation studio Production I.G.  Being only a little over five years since the release of the 1995 film of Ghost in the Shell, technology for animation had advanced at such breakneck speed that it's bonkers to see how much computer generated 3D art has taken over the industry.  But it can be abused and could be overused if not correctly applied to the project at hand.  Although thankfully the sequel does it justice by applying the correct blending of the two art techniques.

Mamoru Oshii returns as both Writer and Director for Innocence where this time he's written an original story rather than based it off a primary plot from the books where he could have ripped what was found in the second manga, Man-Machine Interface that follows Motoko Aramaki, a being spawned from the Major.  This could have been an easy out since both the manga and the ‘95 movie conclude in the same way, but we're instead treated with something new, so it's a welcomed change.

Three years after what happened from the original film, Innocence will continue the story by following Section 9 where there has been a gap in time since when Major Kusanagi left as the team leader.  Instead, the film's protagonist will be her old partner Batou who has seemed to have changed emotionally since the events regarding the Puppet Master.

Not in a bad way, though, but it's like he is torn in three ways where 1) he seems lost, empty, or maybe just confused as to why the Major left him and S9.  2) Uses a more hardline approach in dealing with criminals in cases he's assigned to resolve.  3) Well, acting as a contrast to the previous item, he's more understanding or able to get along with others; which acts as a possible solution to the emptiness he has for losing his former partner.

With this story he gets partnered with Togusa to investigate a string of incidents where personal androids have gone on the fritz and began killing their owners, breaking the laws of robotics that echoes from I, Robot.  These droids are a new model the manufacturer, Locus Solus, sent out for special clients with close ties to them.  These incidents are not a high profile in the public view due to the recall of the model, the clients settling out of court, and hush on the matter because this special model called a gynoid is also used as a sexdroid, so it's something that family members don't want mentioned publicly.  The reason why Section 9 gets involved is because two of these special clients were a retired Public Security officer and a politician.

Their investigation has them traveling around the city with a subgenre crossing of both a thriller and a police partner flick.  It's pretty dark in terms of both plot and in literal as the first half of the film takes place while at night.  They'll get the full scoop of how the victims were killed, gather clues for possible suspects, and discover how it may be a terror plot targeting certain public officials.  The partnering of Batou and Togusa is pretty good, although it's not a new idea as they've been partnered before in the manga and TV show, but it's in this film where they're professional relationship is on the rocks.

To be exact, Togusa has some doubts of his ability to work with someone like Batou who's nearly full cyborg, with a military background, and tendency to play rough while Togusa who has nearly no cybernetics parts, and comes from the police force as a detective, and usually plays things safer because he's a family man.  There will be some friction between the two mostly in terms of how they go about gathering information, but it's mostly one sided as Batou keeps an expressionless attitude towards Togusa.  The camera angles during the car scenes where they talk are done with something that hasn't really been done with animation.  The camera is in the backseat with the heads of the characters turned away facing forward.  Shots like those make it feel more like a live-action film than an animated movie.

Batou isn't completely alone though, as he's greeted warmly at home with his basset hound named Gabriel, who Batou cares for greatly shown by the way he always buys the more expensive wet food than the dry alternative.  She's playful, energetic, and shows an equal sign of affection towards Batou as well.  Gabriel, who is based from Mamoru Oshii's real life basset hound, is probably the best animated object in the entire movie as the movements this dog has are incredibly well fluid and have a sense of realism not seen anywhere else.  The movie should have received an animation award for just the dog alone.

The world of Innocence is different from what is seen in the first film.  With it, the original has the stereotypical futuristic look to the downtown areas of the city where skyscrapers all look like they are over 100 stories tall, computer terminals everywhere, futuristic cars, and everything having a blue tint from all of the florescent lighting.  With Innocence, it has a mix of aesthetics of past decades with new technology etched into everything.  For example, the city has an ugly 1980s New York City, China Town alleyways visual to it with a ton of neon signs poking out of building fronts and lighting up the city streets.  The cars are out of place being old timey vehicles that harken back to before the 1950s and earlier where Duesenbergs, Packards, and Standard Vanguards can be seen on the roads of this futuristic world, but includes tech like a pursuit detector built into vehicles to make sure no one is tailing them.  To top it off as a sign that things are different here is the fact that the lighting bathes everything in a warm tint, having a lot of reds yellows, and orange filling the screen.

You can arguably debate whether the story and overall plot of Innocence is better than the original (which it is), but that doesn't mean it's flawless as it has its quirks.  The biggest knock against it would have to be the sheer number of quotes that are spouted throughout the movie.  Sure, including quotes gives a film depth when done right, but this movie has way too many that it pulls you out of the experience, having you roll your eyes after you've become aware that it's going up its own butt, believing it's smarter by adding in quotes for the sake of adding in quotes.  In this case a few should have been omitted to cut down on the volume of philosophy it was dropping on the viewer.

That small annoyance aside, everything else is fantastic.  The pace of the story is well done by always going forward moving from incident to incident, jet setting to different cities, and laying things out for the audience so everything relating to the case could be understood after all of the pieces have been put together.  The blending of 2D hand-drawings with 3D computer graphics are absolutely stunning, the English voice actors do a great job of bouncing dialog between one another, and the sound effects were added by Skywalker Sound, giving the film some great atmosphere from the audio side.

Mamoru Oshii described that he wanted the music to be a continuation of the soundtrack from the first movie.  With that, the track with the Japanese choir is like a 2.0 version that ties itself to this movie better than the original.  In addition, there's also a slow jazz track with vocals titled "Follow Me" that brings with it a Western feel that matches the noir-like parts of the film.  Those are the two primary songs for the soundtrack but the rest of the music matches the mood of the movie quite well and doesn't distract from what's happening onscreen.  Overall it's a great soundtrack.

As a continuation of the story from the original Ghost in the Shell movie, Innocence picks up the baton and exceeds from its predecessor in all aspects.  Although this film has had a rocky experience with distribution in the US, the definitive version is to get is the recently released Funimation version that includes both a DVD and Blu-ray disc which is easy on the wallet compared to past English dubbed releases that sell for on eBay.  Because like the old saying goes: "A fool and his money are soon parted."

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Production: Production I.G
Film Release: March 2004
Run Time: 98 minutes

US Blu-ray Release: 2017 (Funimation version)

Posted on: March 8, 2017