Also Known As: Inosensu (2004)

Alan:

Village Voice: The New York Times: TV Guide:1/2


Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Most anime fans agree that director Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira is the greatest anime movie of all time.  Usually the second on the list is Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell.  I am no anime expert but I know what I like, and if I were to rank the top 5 anime films that I've seen my list would go:

  1. Ghost in the Shell
  2. Akira
  3. Vampire Hunter D
  4. Ninja Scroll
  5. Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

Obviously this list doesn't include anime series and some of the other classics like Cowboy Bebop, Appleseed, Bubblegum Crisis, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Robotech, Wicked City, Patlabor, Grave of the Fireflies or newer classics like Perfect Blue, Serial Experiments, Princess Mononoke, Metropolis, Trigun, and Blood - The Last Vampire.  It also doesn't include ultraviolent hardcore porn type hentai anime like Urotsukidoji Legend of the Overfiend and Twin Angels.  These are all great too but just didn't make my top 5.

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence ranks #5 on my list.  This is not because it's a great movie but it is an absolutely stunning blend of animation and CGI that deserves to be recognized as an achievement in and of itself.  

If you're reading this review then you've probably seen the first Ghost in the Shell (GitS) movie.  If you haven't then this review and film will make little or no sense to you so you might as well stop right now.  

Even for a fan, such as myself, the storyline for both GitS and Innocence are very difficult to follow.  This is the nature of much anime.  It typically follows a core narrative but there are numerous points where the story diverges and goes off in weird unexplainable directions.  This may be the result of a story telling technique that is used in Japan and does not translate well to American Hollywood formulas.  One day I'll have to find a expert anime nerd and have them school me in all the subtleties and eccentricities of the genre.  

For now, the core story of Innocence is the investigation by the surviving members of Public Security Section 9, Batô and Togusa, into a series of murders committed by the gynoids — a hyper-realistic female robot created specifically for sexual companionship.  

It has been said that the Wachowski brothers borrowed heavily from the original Ghost in the Shell when creating many of the thematic elements in The Matrix.  This is obvious when I rewatched the original GitS, but what I see in the sequel, Innocence, is a lot taken from Asimov and specifically what I saw earlier this year in the super-cool Alex Proyas film, I, Robot.

If you're a fan of GitS director, Mamoru Oshii, then you probably also saw his live action film Avalon (aka. Gate to Avalon.)   This film blended anime and CGI with live action.  Innocence is sort of the opposite.  It's an anime enhanced with CGI that may also contain some real world back drops or just hyper-realistic CGI.  I'm not sure.  

Like GitS, this film is very slow with sudden bursts of extreme loud and fast ultraviolence.  Oshii spends large amounts of the film just showing off the animation and much of the dialogue this time has the characters quoting classic literature.  So those who are well read may enjoy the film on a whole other level.

For me it was just a visual treat - Eye Candy.  There's basically three great types of animation being produced today:  There's the anime/ CGI blend as seen here in Innocence.  There's the absolutely delightful digital brilliance of the Pixar variety seen in films like The Incredibles.  And there's the ultra-realistic CGI that was employed in the much underrated Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.  I love all three styles.

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence is probably not going to show up at your local theatre.  Unless you have an art-house theatre or Independent Cinema then you will probably have to wait for the DVD to see it.  If you're a fan of Ghost in the Shell then it's a must see, but if you're just starting off in the genre then I recommend that you start at the top of my list and see if you're still interested by the time you get to number 5.