HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Ghost in the Shell (Mondo Limited Steelbook)
HTS Overall Score:69
For those who have never been baptized into the world of Japanese animation, there are usually two films that are recommended to being the transformation (slight tongue in cheek). Those two being “Akira” and “Ghost in the Shell”. Both of them transcend the genre clichés that most people think of when they hear the word “anime”, and both films are legendary in their own right. “Ghost in the Shell” (or “GITS” for short) is probably the most successful of the two of them, spawning a sequel some years ago, 2 seasons of a TV series, and 2 feature films revolving around the TV series as well. In fact, more people in recent years have heard about “Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex” (the TV show) than they actually do about the 1995 film that spawned it all. “GITS” is one of those movies that digs deep, beyond the special effects and explosions, to question the reason for existence and what makes a person “unique”. Famous directors and producers like James Cameron, Spielberg and the Wachowskis have all given homage to the famed movie, and cited it as a huge influence in their film works. Thus, if you’re a newbie the themes and questions raised may already be familiar, but that is because “GITS” is the one that instigated many of those themes in modern film making.
The year is 2029 and humanity is much different than what we are today. Technology has increased in leaps and bounds, and now humanity is not completely bound by the limitations of flesh and blood. Our consciousness is what defines humanity, and that consciousness (titled “ghosts” in the film) can be shifted into cybernetic bodies, or our own human bodies augmented with technology to the point where, by all physical standards, we’re not even “human” anymore. Cybernetic government agent Motoko Kusanagi who is assigned to the cybercrimes unit, Section 9. There she is tasked with bringing in a remote hacker who has been hacking human “ghosts” and leaving a trail of dead bodies in his/her wake. The elusive hacker soon turns out to be something so much more as the cyborg warrior is tested to her absolute max.
While some elements of “GITS” may seem a bit truncated due to the 83-minute runtime, it digs deep and starts asking questions you would expect from a Phillip Dick film/novel than an animated film. Motoko and her search for the mysterious hacker known as the puppet master is fraught not just with action and adventure, but introspection into the soul of what makes someone human. Does their body make up the entirety of their existence? Or is it their mind? In this world, the mind is all that’s really left of humanity, but there is this ever-tangible feeling that with the changes in technology and cybernetics, something has been lost that is intrinsically tied to their being. Not to mention twisting in on itself and reinventing sentience by the very end.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93201[/img]I LOVE “GITS”, but I have to admit that some of the visuals and plot devices are a bit roughhewn in comparison to something like “Blade Runner” or even “The Matrix”. However, it is an amazing piece of work when you consider that this was just an anime film that was taken from the 1989 manga of the same name. There’s a reason that it has become a legendary film, and it still is quite the watch even to this day.
With the live action adaptation of the movie starring Scarlett Johansen coming out this summer, I was pretty much waiting for Starz/Anchor Bay to drop a new release of the title on the market. Personally, I was hoping for a little bit better remastering and some cool extras to boot, but it looks like they decided to just take the 25th anniversary edition (25th anniversary from the Manga that is, not the 1995 film as that wouldn’t be for another 3 years) and repackage it into a Mondo Steel book. I will admit that the artwork for the Steelbook is fantastic and the inclusion of a digital copy is very much appreciated considering that this would be the first time a digital copy was available for the film’s iterations.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93209[/img]The original Blu-ray from 2009 (with the 2.0 edits included) was a 1080i affair, but the 2014 disc (and subsequently this Steelbook as it shares the same encode down to the individual bits on the disc) has been upgraded to 1080p. Filmed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, you will notice ever so slight letterboxing on the sides (on a 60 inch tv it’s about 1 inch worth), but the resulting image is quite pleasing for the dusty old anime film. Colors are a bit pale in comparison, but the clarity is there in spades. Fine detail along the body lines are great, and there are no jaggies or strange artifacts (besides some mild haloing, which actually look source related) to speak of. Blacks are deep and inky and there doesn’t seem to be any crush, just a fairly clean image that is lightly dusted in film grain.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93217[/img]Being the same disc as the previous 2014 25th anniversary edition, we’re given the original 2.0 LPCM Japanese track, as well as a newly minted (for 2014) 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in English. The rating of 3.5/5 is actually a compromise between the two tracks, as I have to give the 5.1 English track a 4/5 rating, while the LPCM Japanese track is sadly given a 3/5 rating. I am LOATHE to choose the English track being that I’m a rabid original language purist, but the fidelity and mixing qualities between the two are pretty blatant. The Japanese audio is distinctly better voice acted, and for those who aren’t too picky about fidelity will probably feel more comfortable with. However, the English 5.1 mix is decidedly more robust and active (although with a slightly inferior dub job). Where the Japanese track is a bit mousy and thin in body, the 5.1 mix is full of active surround moments (such as the symbols in the opening song, or the spattering of bullets in the battle between the mecha and Motoko), and the LFE adds some nice power to the mix. Dialog is strong and clean in both tracks, but the centering of the English dialog is slightly superior to its overseas counterpart.
“Ghost in the Shell” is a fantastic animated film that doesn’t really require you to be a fan of anime to love the premise and depth. Other more recent films have expounded upon the concepts of what makes someone “unique”, but “Ghost in the Shell” was one of the first animated films to really popularize the concept outside of live action works like “Blade Runner”. For those who have seen the film or owned the film before, be warned that this is the same disc as the 2014 25th Anniversary edition Blu-ray (minus the 2.0 material that was so highly controversial in the 2009 release) and that means that unless you’re really wanting the steelbook packaging (which this one delivers in spades as it is a fantastic looking and feeling package) then there really is no upgrade. For those who HAVEN’T dipped their toes into the “GITS” saga, then either this or Anchor Baby’s 2014 release are more than adequate to satisfy the itch. Recommended.
Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Iemasa Kayumi, Akio Ôtsuka
Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Written by: Masamune Shirow (Manga), Kazunori Ito (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Japanese LPCM 2.0
Studio: Starz/Anchor Bay
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 14th, 2017
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