Ghost in the Shell 2 (Innocence)

Author's Notes
My review of Innocence, the second part of the classic Ghost in the Shell film saga.

Maybe I’m biased, but the beginning of Mamoru Oshii’s Innocence, otherwise known as Ghost in the Shell 2, turned me off just a teensy bit. Maybe it was because I missed seeing a female protagonist kick ass. Or perhaps it was the fact that the movie just took a little too long to get started. Don’t get me wrong, Kenji Kawai’s opening sequence and song were beautiful, but somewhat lacking at the same time — what exactly it was, I’m hard-pressed to name. Talk about heightened expectations from the first movie.

Innocence picks up where its predecessor left off — sort of. Though it actually takes place a few years later, little has changed. Through a barely adequate textual explanation at the beginning of the reel, new viewers are introduced to Major Motoko Kusanagi, who vanished at the end of the last movie. Batou, Kusanagi’s partner, has continued his work with Public Security Section Nine in her absence, but is now partnered with Togusa, the only non-cyborg member of the team — a characteristic that forces Batou to become protective of his new sidekick (albeit somewhat grudgingly).

Batou and Togusa spend the majority of the film investigating Locus Solus, a corporation that creates gynoids — hyper-realistic robotic sex dolls— searching for tangible evidence that will help the police implicate the group for a chain of murders. The gynoids have been malfunctioning and killing humans. After learning that each of the eight individuals were killed by “Hadaly” gynoids that had been modified to self-destruct, the two men seek out an inspector connected to the organization, only to find that he has been killed by the yakuza — and this is when the film actually starts to pick up.

An action-filled fight soon follows, and Batou and Togusa eventually find themselves heading for the Locus Solus headquarters near the Northern Frontier — the home of ghosts, colourful celebrations, and a lot, a lot of birds. For me, the name Locus Solus — meaning “uninhabited place” in Latin and famously used by Raymond Roussel in his fantastical 1914 masterpiece — was a dead giveaway about what was to come. If dead languages and obscure French surrealist novels mean nothing to you, however, it is at this point that you should start focusing on the minute, seemingly insignificant details — and proceed to embrace Masamune Shirow’s ability to weave a good plot.

Like the first part of the series, Innocence focuses on the increasingly shrinking barrier between humans and technology, addressing the question of what it means to be alive, and pulls in a bit of political commentary as well — the crew aboard the Locus Solus ship speaks Chinese and there are brief murmurs about international affairs.

Though the characters in the movie do not break the fourth wall, they certainly dent it with their comments about the easily modifiable, liquid nature of memory, remarks that force viewers to re-examine the earlier scenes of the film. All in all, it’s a decent watch, if not for the striking graphics and animation that emphasize the difference between traditional and futuristic — a theme that remains consistent in both Ghost in the Shell movies. Though the dialogue was well-placed and even philosophically “deep” at times, with its 100-minute runtime, the film was a bit too long and way too predictable… but maybe that’s just because I’ve read too many existentialist novels and have seen too few SF animes.