Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So I devoted Saturday night to watching in full the Blu-Ray edition (from Bandai Entertainment) of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. I paid a hefty sum to acquire this Blu-Ray, and I'm happy to report it did NOT disappoint. The visuals are simply stunning, with jaw-dropping detail, a carefully crafted blend of 2D animation and CGI 3D animation. Definitely watch the "Special Features" included on this disc, they are well worth your time.
Of course I watched the English dub version, which utilizes the original television cast from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. That said, this movie, according to Mamoru Oshii, is a direct sequel to the original Ghost in the Shell movie, which I own and have also seen. Or more precisely I've seen Ghost in the Shell 2.0 which was a re-release by Oshii utilizing more CGI, with mixed results. I saw this version on Hoopla Digital some time ago, but I also own a copy of the original Bandai release of the original Ghost in the Shell movie without the "2.o" edits.
Having just finished the movie Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, which is set 2 years after the events of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, 2nd Gig, in my own "head canon", although the actual movie of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence was released before Solid State Society, and even though the movies and the television series are supposedly separate fictional universes, to my mind, and given the chronology of all the fictional iterations of the Ghost in the Shell multiverse, the events depicted in Innocence, in particular The Major's ongoing evolution into ever higher states of being, are logically consistent with the directions indicated by the conclusion of Solid State Society, such that Innocence is a perfectly plausible future for Solid State Society as well, besides serving as a sequel for the original movie...at least to my mind it is. The only plot wrinkle that would need to be hand waved away is that Tohgusa is in a greater position of authority in Solid State Society than he appears to be in Innocence. But in any case, the real stars of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence are actually Batou, Tohgusa, and Ishkawa, and to a lesser degree Chief Aramaki as well. The Major serves more in the background as a "guardian angel" type figure, her ghost fully merged with the future internet without corporeal form, guiding the protagonists along but avoiding direct intervention until the very end. This is a film about a series of murders by malfunctioning gynoid sex robots (a callback to Season 1 of Stand Alone Complex, incidentally) that points to a wider conspiracy. Batou, Ishkawa, and Tohgusa must join forces yet again to unravel the mystery and stop the conspiracy, which seems to involve foreign threats emerging from the nearby Chinese mainland. There is plenty of philosophical musings that are on par with the original movie as well as other anime shows like Serial Experiments Lain, which Innocence triggered many memories of, for me at least. My words can't do justice to just how breathtakingly beautiful and complicated the visuals are in this movie. I easily see myself watching it again and again for the visuals alone. There's just so much there to take in that I doubt one sitting is enough to do it justice. This should be enjoyed at home on a widescreen HD television off the Bandai Blu-Ray. The music used is a callback to the original movie, with the score partly reused but also expanded for this film. The special features are well worth watching in their own right, with extended interviews with Mamoru Oshii and his animation staff and also his Japanese voice cast. The English television cast does a great job with their performances as well. It sent chills down my spine the first time I heard Mary Elizabeth McGlynn's voice as The Major in Innocence. It's a very short line and you can miss it if you're not paying attention, but I was and noticed immediately. I recently watched the next Arise film and enjoyed it, and I understand why Mary Elizabeth McGlynn was not cast to voice the younger version of The Major for those prequels, but it is nice she was recast as a rival character to The Major, as a way to symbolically pass the baton, so to speak, by playing a slightly older and wiser "noble adversary" type character. The third Arise film's concluding shot is a hat tip to the original opening of the original Ghost in the Shell movie. Watching Innocence fills a gaping hole in my knowledge of the Ghost in the Shell fictional multiverse. I feel I belong to a special class of anime fan now, to have seen all these different iterations. I have yet to read any of Shirow Masamune's original manga, however. I hope to remedy that someday.