The Japanese anime Ghost In The Shell (1995) is one of the greatest animated films ever made.
For 80 minutes, it plunges viewers into a complex, dystopian, cyberpunk future in which humans have grown so heavily dependent on technology that the two have effectively merged, producing cyborgs.
It picks up the baton from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and tackles themes of alienation, the mind-body problem and human interaction with computers, and although it’s over 20 years old, it still feels starkly relevant to today’s world.
The film centres around a mysterious hacker named the ‘Puppet Master’, and the detective work of main character Motoko Kusanagi. Kusanagi enters cyborg bodies through four plugs in her neck, like the characters in the Wachowskis’ The Matrix (1999).
And similarities with The Matrix don’t end there. Ghost In The Shell’s title sequence uses digital rain – rapidly rolling green characters on black, almost identical to the style used throughout The Matrix. The Wachowski siblings even publicly confessed that their ambition was to make a live-action equivalent.
Ghost In The Shell’s animation is groundbreaking, and as live-action CGI has improved over the years, the film’s DNA imprint has appeared all over mainstream science fiction. Avatar, and several other Steven Spielberg films, explore similar topics.
The most prognostic passage arrives halfway through the film when the Puppet Master, speaking from within another’s body, provides a stark warning – ‘The advent of computers and the subsequent accumulation of incalculable data, has given rise to a new system of memory and thought parallel to your own. Humanity has underestimated the consequences of computerisation…”