Considered one of the breakthrough films for popularizing anime here in the United States, Ghost in the Shell stands as one of the major anime here in this country, though it apparently didn't do so hot in Japan. This one certainly opened people's eyes to the fact that people can make well animated, serious adult storytelling. Unfortunately the general American populous seems to still think that cartoons are just for kids and get all riled up over something that they regularly accept in live-action teenage- or adult-oriented entertainment. Back to where I was going... This film was what really dragged me into the whole anime genre, and Shirow in particular, and I wish I knew where the guy that introduced me to it has gotten off to so I could thank him for it, but alas I don't know where he is.
In a world caught in the grip of information overload, where artificial intelligence is more than the real thing and cyborg cops spend their lives surfing on an electronic sea of living data, only the Ghost - the indefinable element of human consciousness - exists to determine who is alive and who is purely a creation of the Net.
Major Motoko Kusanagi is an elite officer in the Section 9 security force: a cybernetic agent so heavily modified that little more than her Ghost remains. Along with fellow cyborg Bateau, and almost human Togusa, Kusanagi is set on the trail of a computer-criminal known as the Puppet Master, a data thief skilled enough to hack into the very minds of his victims. His human marionettes live out existences that are nothing more than computer generated fantasy, unwittingly commiting their master's crimes while the Ghost-hacker hides in the darkness.
But as Kusanagi digs deeper into the walls of secrecy surrounding the case, it appears that the Puppet Master has a special interest in her alone. And when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shadowy Section 6, enter the scene, Kusanagi becomes tangled in a web of plot and counterplot, and realizes that the true identity of her invisible assailant lies at the center of a vast and lethal political conspiracy.
A gorgeous piece of film, this movie sets a fairly good pace with the action, and keeps the story moving along nicely. It takes the story of the Puppet Master from the manga, and reworks it heavily into one running continuity. From the haunting sounds of this rich, moody soundtrack, to the inclusion of his pet basset hound, Mamoru Oshii, the director, definitely leaves his mark on this movie. Granted, I do prefer the lighter atmosphere found in the manga universe, this one still has it's place in the world of Shirow.
This was one of the first feature-length animes I've ever seen, and the most immediate reason I got into the works of Masamune Shirow in the first place, and I'm glad I haven't been disappointed. If you liked this movie, and are looking for similar themes/settings, I heavily reccommend the Armitage III OAVs, Blade Runner, and The Matrix(which happens to have gotten some inspiration from the movie here), as well as the Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita mangas.
The last thing I'd like to mention before heading into the spoiler below is that people don't seem to get the idea that the Major doesn't run around naked half the time in this movie. Rather, she is running around in a felsh-toned thermoptic camouflage suit, though that may be just as bad in some people's minds. Just go back and watch the movie again, particularly the opening sequence were she dives off the building, there are creases and folds showing, as well as her wearing a belt a visible collar on the suit. Plus, later on, we do get to see some nipple definition with the tearing of the skinsuit. I don't bring this up because I'm obsessed with the nudity, I bring it up because it seems to cause a lot of heated discussion in the GitS community, as people seem to not notice these details. Again, little bit of nudity, whole lotta skinsuit.