Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime film, Ghost in the Shell, is a formative piece of animation and often looked at as one of the finest anime films of all time. Ghost in the Shell made a huge splash for Oshii back in the ‘90s, with it opening many newcomers' eyes to the world of cyber brains and ghost hacking that Masamune Shirow established in his manga of the same name. While Oshii was in no rush to make a sequel to Ghost in the Shell, fans got plenty more content involving Major Motoko Kusanagi and the counter-cyberterrorism crew over at Section 9 in the form of television series and OVAs. Clearly Oshii was itching to revisit the world that he first explored back in 1995, with the director pulling most of the original film’s crew together as well as returning to write and direct an official sequel in 2004. In spite of this sequel attempting to do more than the film that came before it, a lot of people aren’t even aware of its existence. Let's give the stunning sequel its due: Here Are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.
Oshii’s original Ghost in the Shell made a big impression on both audiences and filmmakers alike, but Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence manages to make an even larger mark—even if it is primarily with critics. In a lot of ways Innocence is a much headier, more philosophical film than its predecessor. It’s a film that’s just as breathtaking to look at as the first one was upon its release, with Oshii continuing to want to push animation to its breaking point. Only this time there’s even more of an ideology craving to break out. Oshii’s sequel was met with much publicity as it was revealed that it would be premiering at the Cannes Festival in 2004. This would make it the sixth animated film ever to be screened at the festival (alongside Shrek 2 the same year), but more importantly, it’d be the first anime film competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or award. In the end, Fahrenheit 9/11 might have taken home the prize, but Ghost in the Shell 2 instantly got a lot of people’s attention by making a big name for itself at one of the largest film festivals out there.
One of the things that the original Ghost in the Shell prided itself in was its attention to real-life detail and the degree of authenticity that Oshii and crew brought to their locations and animation. These feelings had only strengthened when it came time for Innocence to go into production. Animators continued to use real scenery from Hong Kong as an animation template for their rendition of 2032 New Port City, but a major set piece pulls itself from Taiwanese tradition. Early on into the film there’s a lengthy spectacle of a parade sequence. The colorful triumph of animation runs for nearly five minutes and is a prime example of the way that this film mixes 2D animation with photorealistic 3D computer graphics. This parade sequence (as well as the temple featured within the scene) are a reflection of a classical religious procession in Taiwanese culture. The scene acts as an early highlight into Oshii’s world and one of the many times that the film’s animation will knock you on your ass. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn then that this sequence took over a year to work out and completely animate.
Anime film adaptations often go in interesting tangents beyond that of their manga source material. Works like Akira can be so sprawling in length that anime films will often decide to focus on a certain aspect of a series’ rich storyline, while eliminating other ones entirely. Accordingly, when Oshii was adapting Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell back in 1995, he pulled from chapters one, three, nine, and eleven of the original manga. When it came time for Oshii to make a sequel, even though Shirow had written a manga sequel to his story, Oshii instead took material from other unseen corners of Shirow’s original text. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence largely gets its inspiration from chapter six, “Robot Rondo,” of Shirow’s manga. The chapter introduces the concept of gynoids, the sex androids that go berserk in the film. The Ghost in the Shell anime Stand Alone Complex finds story inspiration from yet other chapters from Shirow’s manga, too. It’s easy to see how such a rich world was created in the manga if it’s able to fuel two films and a TV series.
Oshii is all about doing things the unconventional way, so even though he got inspired to do a sequel to Ghost in the Shell, he didn’t want to bill it as a sequel to Ghost in the Shell. Granted, while Innocence does take place in the same universe, following Batou and Togusa this time around, the philosophies and themes present this time are very different. Oshii didn’t want this to feel like a typical Hollywood sequel, nor did he want it to be marketed in such a way. Any Ghost in the Shell connections should come up as a pleasant surprise rather than the reason that you’re seeing the film in the first place. In spite of Oshii getting his wish in Japan and the film seeing release as simply Innocence, overseas the compulsory Ghost in the Shell 2 was tacked on in order to capitalize on the success of the series. This isn’t the first time Oshii has continued to play in the same universe without spoon feeding the connection. His 2009 live-action film Assault Girls takes place in the same universe as Avalon, yet he doesn’t title it Avalon 2 or anything.
Oshii’s earlier films—Ghost in the Shell included—would have a tendency to quote the bible in order to hint at some deeper degree of symbolism. Oshii takes this concept to the extreme in Innocence by constantly having characters drop famous quotes from influential philosophers throughout the movie, an idea which Oshii fell in love with by watching the films of Jean-Luc Godard. Godard’s movies have a tendency to put quotes on screen, with Oshii being determined to take the principle one step further. Oshii was compelled to make this film in the first place not because he wanted to make a Ghost in the Shell sequel, but because he had views on life and philosophy that he wanted to get it, while also wanting to test the limitations of animation. Throughout Innocence quotes from Buddha, Confucius, Descartes, Max Weber, Jacob Grimm, Plato, John Milton, the Old Testament, Saito Ryokuu, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, and the author of Man a Machine all get used. The technique builds to an overwhelming feeling that helps put you in the same mindset of its lost characters.
The music that fills the haunting, sterile universe of Ghost in the Shell is just as crucial to the film’s aesthetic as the animation is. The original Ghost in the Shell has many stand-out musical tracks, but the goals were set even higher on Innocence. For instance, one scene in the film has to give off the impression of a giant music box encompassed inside of a doll house. In order to create such an effect, the film actually used a real 80-note music box machine called an “Orpheus” that was made by Sankyo Seiki of Japan. For tracks “Doll House I” and “Doll House II” the actual music box was played and recorded, with that recording then being played in a subterranean stone recording space (the Oya Stone Museum) over a massive speaker system. This echo-y, reverberating version of the track was then re-recorded and used in the film in order to emulate the sound of the vast, towering Doll House that’s encountered in the film.
Mamoru Oshii is usually one to apply his own quirky trademark to his directorial efforts, with one of his more charming habits being to insert basset hounds into his films. While this detail is also present in the original Ghost in the Shell, Oshii really lays into it hard in Innocence. To begin with, Batou himself has a basset in the film, with it being one of his few remaining companions. Additionally, any dog food or dog products seen in the film feature a basset hound as advertising. Not to mention, the design of the beautiful iridescent globe in the Doll House even resembles a basset hound. Hell, Oshii goes as far as plopping a basset hound right on the film's poster, as if he were the main character.
Batou's dog was nicknamed Gabriel during production and is actually a rather large symbol to both the film and Oshii. The director explains that Gabriel is one of the few remaining "real" things in the film. Oshii elaborates that people can only be free when they free themselves of their body and when he plays with his dog, he forgets he is human and truly escapes.
Even though Oshii pulled from existing chapters within Masamune Shirow’s original Ghost in the Shell manga for Innocence, that didn’t stop the author from penning his own sequels to act as the following adventures of Section 9. Oshii’s film decides to focus on Batou and Togusa, with Motoko Kusanagi having disappeared after the events of the first film. Set five years after the events of Ghost in the Shell, Shirow’s sequel manga, Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface, positions Motoko as a superhero of sorts. She’s a security officer for a major corporation conglomerate that sees her transporting her consciousness and abilities into bodies all over the world to stop industrial spies, hackers, and assassins.
While considered to be too complicated and technical for its own good, that didn’t stop Shirow from penning another sequel of sorts, Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor. Taking place between the two texts, this manga tells four self-contained stories exploring various crimes and conspiracies that are on Section 9’s radar. Shirow and Oshii’s narratives may ultimately go in different directions, but both still gravitate to the same heady concepts. Perhaps Man-Machine Interface and Human-Error Processor will see adaptations of their own someday.
Curiously, when Go Fish Pictures (a distributor of Dreamworks) was releasing Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence in North America, they did so with English subtitles, but no dub version. However, when Manga Entertaiment UK was releasing the film for European audiences, they did opt to include an English dub. Manga Entertainment UK brought in their faithful partner, Madman Entertainment, for the recording duties. This resulted in Innocence actually being the first dub that Manga UK had produced since all the way back in 1999 with X. Down the line, it eventually seemed ridiculous that North American audiences wouldn’t have access to an English dub of this film, which led to Bandai Entertainment resorting to a second dub for North America. in spite of there being a lot of crossover from these two dub casts, they still are two separate recordings with different performances. This bizarre technicality has led to Innocence’s extremely high DVD licensing fees since it involves the licensing of two separate dubs (an issue which will again arise when figuring out which version of the dub to include on the Blu-Ray).
Oshii's Ghost in the Shell 2 is a film that surrounds itself with literary and philosophical references, as if it was almost hoping to get lost amongst them all. A lot of influences might be present in Oshii's film, but one particular work that clearly made an impression on the writer/director is the symbolic French sci-fi novel, The Future Eve. The novel from the late 1800s is written by Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam and tells the story of a fictionalized rendition of Thomas Edison lamenting and pondering over the dangers and wonders that one's inventions can bring on. Edison goes on to help an old friend of his by creating him a female cyborg version of his wife that contains her beauty with none of her "bothersome" personality. Innocence and The Future Eve are both incredibly concerned with the idea of sexuality and willpower when it comes to cyborgs. The Future Eve also happens to be known for popularizing the term “android,” which makes it feel especially relevant to Oshii’s work. Even more so with Oshii pushing terms in the film like “gynoid.”
The Ghost in the Shell universe is so rich and complex that it’s one that authors have a hard time leaving behind. In addition to Shirow’s follow-up companion manga, Man-Machine Interface and Human-Error Processor, a novel was also written that continues to expand the material that’s brought up in Innocence. Penned by Masaki Yamada, Innocence: After the Long Goodbye is actually a prequel story that manages to bridge Ghost in the Shell and Innocence so to speak. After the Long Goodbye might be fairly small stakes and inconsequential, but it’s still a rather touching story. Centered around Batou, the novel sees him looking for his lost basset hound, Gabriel. That’s right. This doesn’t fill in the gaps with Major Kusanagi or anything, just plenty of existential goodness with Batou. The minimalist novel has seen not only an English-langue publication courtesy of Viz Media, but they would later go one step further by releasing the translation along with the film in a special Ani-manga boxset.
The original Ghost in the Shell might have been the most expensive anime film of all time when it came out in 1995, but Innocence managed to up the budget in every way possible, with total production costs being so hefty that they make Ghost in the Shell’s ’95 budget miniscule in comparison. The fact that Oshii was directing a sequel to Ghost in the Shell was a very big deal. In fact, it was met with such anticipation that the film’s budget totaled a whopping two billion yen. As a result of this, Production I.G.’s president, Mitsuhisa ishikawa, personally made contact with Toshio Suzuki, the president of Studio Ghibli, on the matter of co-producing the film with them and sharing this cost. Suzuki accepted this deal due to the prospects of Innocence, but believe it or not, Oshii actually had a little bit of pre-existing bad blood with Suzuki over at Ghibli. Years ago, Oshii was actually working on making a film along with Miyazaki and the Ghiblo folk by the name of Achor. Unfortunately, artistic differences broke out and the project was cancelled shortly into the development phase. Thankfully Oshii and Ghibli were able to put aside their differences and create something beautiful here.
A lot of Innocence’s soundtrack nicely compliments and continues the orchestral themes and ideas that were introduced in the first Ghost in the Shell. With the film’s music once again being done by Kenji Kawai, the goal was to intentionally call back to pieces from the first film. The track “Follow Me” from the first movie sees an official reprise in Innocence, but Kawai has even more fun with the follow-up that he composes for Ghost in the Shell’s iconic “Making of a Cyborg” title track. “Making of a Cyborg” is such a memorable piece of music due to the haunting chants of the minyoh singers that make up the song. Kawai takes this idea to the next level in his “The Ballade of the Puppets” tracks on Innocence’s soundtrack. Kawai once more uses the minyoh chorus, but this time he has 75 performers participating in the chanting, with the session lasting an impossible 14 straight hours of recording. While that degree of effort might be verging on the obsessive, Kawai’s “Ballade of Puppets” tracks are definitely the highlight of the film’s soundtrack and conjure the same magic of the original Ghost in the Shell.
A brief re-design of Ghost in the Shell’s dolls takes place between the first and the second film. The dolls are “updated” in Innocence by taking a ball-jointed approach when it comes to the doll’s major limbs. This ball-jointed approach is actually taken from the art style of Hans Bellmer, who is even considered to be the pioneer of ball-jointed dolls, as crazy as such a thing may sound. Oshii was a fan of this ball-jointed look in Innocence since it seems to convey the “human but not” look that is important to the film. It was crucial for these dolls to still convey a spirit, but also look artificial. Interestingly, Oshii has all of his characters operating in doll-like movements and gestures to further blur this line between real and fake. Bellmer’s work spoke to Oshii so much that the director even planned an exhibition in celebration of his film that showcased the artwork of other Japanese artists as they experimented with ball-jointed dolls.
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A real avalanche of emotions usually unfolds when fans excitedly learn that there is a sequel to Ghost in the Shell, but that it doesn’t center on the ass-kickery of Major Motoko Kusanagi. There is a degree of understanding with Oshii distancing himself from the Major character. For one, he wanted Innocence to be less of a conventional “sequel,” and so removing the first film’s main character is a helpful way of solving that problem. Additionally, there is nothing wrong with the characters Batou and Togusa, with Innocence allowing them a nice moment in the spotlight, highlighting their advantages in the process. Another case following around Motoko would inevitably see anyone else getting swallowed in her wake.
That’s why it’s so exciting during Innocence’s final act, when all of the gynoids go berserk and start mass producing, that Major Kusanagi does show up in the nick of time to save the day. Sure, she might be using a different body now, but the brief burst of Motoko that Innocence rewards viewers with during its final moments is pure bliss. Innocence still deserves credit for holding off as long as it does before bringing Major out of retirement.
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Ghost in the Shell will be in theaters on March 31, 2017