Anime’s acceptance as part of the wider culture in America may seem like a given today, but that wasn’t always the case. The proliferation of franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z, not to mention the ever-expanding roster of anime films and series on Netflix and Crunchy Roll, might be something we take for granted in modern times, but it wasn’t so long ago that fans of the medium had to rely on bootlegs and borrowed copies to get their animation fix. It might not be fair to point to any single work as the definitive work that legitimized the entire form, but there are two distinct periods in anime’s acceptance in American culture: before Ghost in the Shell, and after.

Ghost in the Shell was hardly the first anime movie to break into the wider American culture. Akira, for instance, came almost a decade before Ghost in the Shell hit the scene. Still, the impact Ghost in the Shell had on the anime stateside set the stage for everything that’s happened in the ensuing two decades. Groundbreaking even by today’s standards, director Mamoru Oshii seemingly perfected the genre with his adaptation of the classic Masamune Shirow manga series, crafting a brilliantly complex and mind bending saga of intrigue surrounding an artificial intelligence. It made waves when it was first release in theaters in 1995, and has since become a staple. Now, for the first time in a generation, audiences will get the chance to revisit Ghost in the Shell on the big screen.

Lionsgate and Funimation have now announced that the original Ghost in the Shell will make its way back to U.S. theaters next month for a two-night screening in 110 theaters across the country. On February 7 and 8, fans will be able to relive Oshii’s cinematic masterpiece on the big screen, with the subtitled version playing on night one, followed by the English dubbed version the next night. According to Gen Fukunaga, found and CEO of Funimation:

“We’re excited to be partnering with Lionsgate to bring the original Ghost in the Shell movie back to U.S. theaters. Ghost in the Shell is truly a seminal work in anime cinema and it helped firmly establish a market for the genre with U.S. movie audiences.”

The theatrical celebration precedes the release of a brand new, deluxe collector’s edition Blu-ray being released by Mondo on March 7. The new release features a new remaster of the original film, packaged in a collector’s steelbook with artwork from Mondo.

motoko kusanagi ghost in the shell opener Animated Ghost in the Shell Returning to U.S. Theaters

The move comes a month before the semi-controversial live-action remake of the film starring Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: Civil War) hits theaters, giving Ghost in the Shell fans plenty to look forward to in the coming months. Many fans have decried the casting of Johansson as The Major, a Japanese character in the original manga and anime. Even with her casting, director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) has stood by the decision to cast the actress, a move that was even supported by the original publisher of the manga series.

Even with the controversy surrounding the new film, the swirl of hype and publicity is hard to get away from, and the film stands to be one of the bigger releases of the first quarter of 2017. Far from being a distraction, the theatrical re-release and deluxe edition Blu-ray of the original anime film should be seen as a celebration of the story, whose popularity continues to grow with each passing year, and a chance to celebrate how far anime has come in the 20 plus years since Ghost in the Shell first wowed audiences. Even if you decide to skip the new movie, it’s still a great chance to check out the original film in a way you haven’t been able to for over two decades. You can search for a theater near you and buy tickets here.

Ghost in the Shell (the animated version) returns to theaters on February 7 for the subtitled version and February 8 for the English dub.

Source: Lionsgate, Funimation

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