Film Review Ghost in the Shell Series

Anime Eiga Review: Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence

Original Release Date: March 6, 2004
Directed By: Mamoru Oshii
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Based on the Series Created By: Masamune Shirow

To read more from Ghost in the Shell month, please click HERE.

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Reader discretion is advised.***

Film Synopsis

With Section 9’s leader missing in action, the team is left to defend against the ever-growing threat of cyber-terrorism and violence without the expertise of their legendary Major. To fill in those shoes is the Major’s once second in command, the near-unstoppable cyborg Batou (voiced by Akio Ootsuka).

After a recent and brutal murder, Section 9 begins to suspect that a growing conspiracy is on the horizon. To prevent any more damage and to get to the bottom of what is going on, Batou prepares to start an investigation that will take him to the heart of society’s growing digital identity.

However, Batou must walk a thin line. If he digs too deep, he, like the Major before him, may lose his grip on his humanity.

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Film Positives

For reference for the rest of the review:

  • Ghost in the Shell (1995): Ghost in the Shell
  • Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence: Innocence

For clarification, Innocence is a direct sequel to its predecessor Ghost in the Shell. Other than the name and the names of some of the characters, this film has no connection to the world or plotline depicted in the television anime Stand Alone Complex. If you are familiar with the series and not with this film, you will instantly notice a change because Innocence not only returned to the dark tone of Ghost in the Shell, it doubled down on it.

Judging from experience and not at all from any actual evidence, it appeared as though director Mamoru Oshii, who also helmed Ghost in the Shell, had a vision as to what Innocence would look like. Although the first film wasn’t lacking in haunting and symbolic imagery, its successor was filled to the brim with it.

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I won’t deny, Innocence’s CGI hasn’t aged well. However, in a fortunately strange way, the rough, out of date visuals have only added to this movie’s sense of unrealness. Locations, movements, and various background clutter appeared off, disjointed from the surrounding world. A rather fitting sentiment given how this film delved much deeper into the effects digitization and artificial intelligence have brought to the universe of Ghost in the Shell. The question of “What is real” played a much more significant role.

Then when you add the animation on top of Innocence’s epically tense soundtrack, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this was actually a horror story. Uneasiness and tension permeated throughout this film. The opening scene alone went damn near overkill in establishing the immensely gritty tone that would come to define this movie.

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To say I was bored while watching Innocence would be akin to me saying the ocean isn’t wet. This film was visually fascinating.

Additionally, I thought it was a particularly great idea to have Batou be at the center of this movie. Having already seen him play the hardened subordinate and staunch ally of Major Motoko  Kusanagi, it was nice to see Batou be given the full spotlight. Something must be acknowledged about Batou’s character by the fact that despite the Major being one of the most badass protagonists in anime, she was not missed in a sequel to her own franchise. Yeah, her presence – or, rather, lack of presence – was apparent, but this was, without a doubt, Batou’s film.

I may have enjoyed the visuals and the soundtrack of Innocence, but Batou was easily this movie’s most standout element. Of everything that was wrong with this film, its central character was not among them.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention, even though there were aspects of Innocence I did like, I can’t say that this film is worth recommending.

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Film Negatives

For a moment – if you’ve seen the film – let’s recall Ghost in the Shell. Or, at least, allow me to highlight something I said during my review of it.

I said Ghost in the Shell was a classic, and I think few would disagree with me on that (I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments if you are one of the people who do). As I see, Ghost in the Shell is so enduring because it focused more on telling a cohesive narrative that tried to connect points A and B together as smoothly as possible. It was a plot that was complex by nature, and the film did its best to organize its thoughts in the most transparent way that it could. The movie has achieved the praise, recognition, and staying power it has because it successfully told a good story.

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Also, Ghost in the Shell happened to have breathtaking animation and visuals to go along with its brilliant narrative. The artwork was not what made the film. Unfortunately, Innocence seemed to be working under the opposite impression.

Innocence was a case of a movie being all style with little substance.

This film’s story was insanely difficult to follow, a sentiment that can almost be shared with Ghost in the Shell. However, the difference between Ghost in the Shell but Innocence was that the former’s details were often tangled up in confusion, and the latter had trouble making its main points clear. I didn’t realize until near the end of the movie that Batou was still investigating the crime from the opening scene.

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You see, I was pretty lost throughout the majority of Innocence, and it sure didn’t help when Batou went to a fantasy-world-esque city to hunt down someone. I say someone because when the movie brought us to this place, I wasn’t entirely sure why we had arrived. Then there was a section of the film when Batou’s partner Togusa (voiced by Kouichi Yamadera) got his brain hacked, and he was forced to relive the same few hours for eternity with each repeat being more horrific than the last. This came so far out of right-field that the first time it happened, I thought I had accidentally pressed the Go-Back button on my computer.

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Although everything looked awesome, I had little idea of what was going on.

Innocence wasn’t a train wreck, but it was more like getting lost while on the way to the station. Unlike Ghost in the Shell, I feel no incentive to go back and try to piece together the holes in my understanding.

It goes without saying that this film was nowhere near as strong as its predecessor. So to look at it as a stand-alone project, Innocence would mostly be forgettable if it didn’t bear the Ghost in the Shell name.

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Final Thoughts

Every now and then, I have to remind myself that I am trying to determine if something is worth recommending. Therefore, I should have no problem enjoying certain aspects of a production – be it an anime or film – and still not feel confident putting my support behind it.

This movie being case-in-point.

This was a visually-based story that forgot to include the story. Yeah, you might not be bored while watching this one, but you will be spending most of your time trying to figure out what is happening.

If you enjoyed the first Ghost in the Shell, then I can understand it if you want to give its sequel a look. All I am saying is, doing so is not necessary.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence can be skipped.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this film? How would you advise Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you have read, be sure to follow me on my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey and be sure to come back December 13th as Ghost in the Shell Month continues with Anime Hajime Review: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG.

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