Review: Ghost in the Shell

By Masamune Shirow

This was one of the first DVDs we purchased -- awesome sound and an amazing storyline, and that's not even touching the animation. The cyberpunk film Ghost in the Shell was based off of a serialized Japanese comic book. This is the trade paperback compilation of that magna and as such, half of the book is in color, the other half in black and white. Unlike the movie, the TPB is drawn in the big-eye Japanese cartoon style.

I like anime yet despise certain aspects of it. One thing I can't stand is how someone looks normal (in the big eye/small skull world of anime) then suddenly transforms into a real cartoonish version of themselves for a few seconds (usually when yelling at something). Or how everyone is painstakingly drawn to look like a serious human except for the one comic relief character who looks like he/she stepped out of a cartoon aimed for children between the ages of 5 and 8. For instance, take a look at the cast of Star Blazers. Guess which one is the comic relief. There's some of this in Ghost in the Shell.

Ghost in the Shell was written as a series of comic books, mainly black and white, but with several scatterings of color pages. The transition between color to black and white is arbitrary. The first change takes place in the middle of a conversation. Also, in the gutters or in the artwork, little notes can be found that explain things. Such as a note pointing to a gun that reads "Magazine same as FN-490". Whatever. Then there's this gem on page 65: "After this, there's a scene where Mokoto takes over the driving and Togusa checks his gear and puts it on, but it was too much of a hassle to draw to I left it out..." Whatever. But this follows a two page scene where Mokoto checks her gear and puts it on. And why even draw attention to your laziness?

But the artwork is pretty good. It varies throughout the book -- probably between a 3 and a 5 on our 5-star rating, averaging a low 4.

The storyline could be a bit more compact. Certain elements such as the robots/mecha meeting discussing the benefits and disadvantages to a robot revolt, while comical, seem to be extremely out of place. And the scene where a cyborg is created -- neat, but why go into so much detail in how the thing is created? By the time modern technology reaches the point where we can create cybernetics, we probably won't use the detailed plans used here. It's as absurd as trying to use Star Trek's Starfleet Technical Manual to create a warp-drive engine. Just glossing over the cyborg creation ("Here we are putting the skin on" versus the two to three page sequence where we're shown more-or-less exactly how the skin works) would have worked out just fine. The reader could comprehend that yes, there are cyborgs, not be given a pseudo-blueprint on how to build the damn things.