What They Say:
Ghost in the Shell: Arise is set in a futuristic Japan after the end of a brutal world war, science has advanced by leaps and bounds giving humanity the choice to prolong life and reduce suffering with the use of sophisticated cybernetics. With all of humanity linked into one system of minds and personalities known as ghosts, the biggest threat to civilization is the cyber terrorists capable of hijacking people’s bodies and memories.
When a ghost-infecting virus known as Fire-Starter begins spreading through the system resulting in the assassination of the Japanese Prime Minister, Major Motoko Kusanagi and her elite team of special operatives are called in to track down its source. As they delve deeper and deeper into their investigation, they uncover traces of government corruption and a shadowy broker that bears an all-too-familiar face.
When your target can be anywhere and look like anyone, the only choice you have is to trust your ghost, and hope you aren’t infected too.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the new English language dub in 5.1 using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The film works the design well for both dialogue and action as there’s a lot going on throughout. The dialogue side gets a mild bit of eerie elements to it with the disassociated voices at times that works well considering there are no lip flaps to be had for either language. But it also handles the real world situations just as well and digs into some of the incidental sounds and cues in a good way across the entire soundstage. The action side and some of the virtual world material works the rears a bit more and directionality steps up a bit plus we also get some good bass usage out of this in the higher combat sequences. The mixes work all of this well to make for an engaging design that fits in perfectly well with past theatrical features in the franchise.
Originally in theaters in 2015, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC Codec. Animated by Production IG, the film clocks in at just 100 minutes and has a strong design about it. It’s working largely the same team as the recent TV series so continuity is strong and it’s bumped up nicely as a theatrical work with even more detail and fluidity to the animation. While I’m no fan of Motoko’s new design overall, the feature in general works really well with its look and the transfer brings all the pop and vibrancy to life in a great way. There’s a lot going on in nearly every scene, especially with the backgrounds or the virtual effects, and it comes across in a beautifully clean and engaging way that draws you into the show and its world even more. Definitely a strong presentation overall.
The packaging design for this release works well as we get an o-card with it that replicates the case artwork but uses a good kind of foil effect to make it richer, plus the colors look better with the cardboard than the paper of the insert itself, adding more texture and vibrancy to it. That sad, the visual is one that really bugs the hell out of me if only for the positioning and design of Motoko as it just looks bloody unnatural and forced when placed against the rest of the team behind he. I like the rest of the elements and design but that piece just sticks out badly for me. The back cover is fairly traditional with a decent summary of the opening premise and a ncie shot of shows on the left that look better because of the material used that adds some extra vibrancy. The extras are a little tougher to read with the font and we get the usual strip regarding the awful UltraViolet inclusion, a digital format that I despise more than words can say. The remainder is given over to the standard dual format technical grid that breaks down both formats cleanly and clearly. While there are no show related inserts with this release, we do get artwork on the reverse side that has one of the early promotional images of Motoko bathed in blue light amid the machinery which is definitely appealing as a two-panel spread.
The menu design aligns with the TV series design pretty well as we get the slightly futuristic font used with some mild angled pieces along the bottom, all done in gray with white text for the navigation itself. It’s simple but effective and fits the theme of the show pretty well. The big piece here is the logo through the center which dominates and diminishes the clips that play behind it since it obscures so much of it. It’s not hugely bad or anything in that regard but it lessens the mood-setting that the menu should do, such as if you watch it in the dark to create the right atmosphere with it. The navigation itself is simple and easy to use and it works well both as the main menu and the pop-up menu during playback.
With extras that come close to the same running time as the feature, there’s a lot to like here. We get a new English interview section with some of the principal actors and ADR director for the film talking about the production and themes of it, which clocks in at about 18 minutes. We also get two twenty-five minute Japanese specials that were produced (which were streamed as well) that digs into the production, the history of the franchise, and interviews with cast and staff that are really engaging and fun to connect with. Add in the original promo, trailer, and teasers and you’ve got some good stuff to sift through once the feature is done. With the Japanese specials, those can be hell to translate so I’m definitely super appreciative that they’re included and handled as well as they are.
With all sorts of anniversaries at play for Ghost in the Shell, this is a franchise that has been around for a long time, albeit one with a few gaps here and there where nothing was produced. With the origin story OVA series that came out and was expanded into a TV series with a few additional episodes, it was followed up with this theatrical feature in the summer of 2015 which in turn connects it to the 1995 film that got things rolling based on the manga from Masamune Shirow. It’s an interesting loop back, one that really made clear to me that as much as I dislike that original film the talents behind it made something that in many ways look better than this film, at least in terms of direction. Watch the final sequence here and the first sequence there and it’s just so patently obvious.
While there are some nods to what came before with the story here, you can pretty much come into this one without the TV series if you’ve got an idea of this world overall. Taking place during Motoko’s early days before Public Section 9 became what we know from the original film and our time with the original TV series, she’s working to ensure that her work is something that stands alone, unbeholden to other parties and powers such as Aramaki, as he’s intent on drawing her in. She’s signed a pact with the Prime Minister that gives her group wide latitude to deal with the threats of the world, which only increase as technology and connectivity becomes more prevalent. While she’s definitely feeling good about what she’s achieved, as are her crew since they have access to a lot of maintenance facility time now, it’s endangered quickly when the Prime Minister ends up dead amid a series of events going on that throws everything into a spiral.
Frankly, Ghost in the Shell stories when they work these largely political/military/government storylines are problematic because they become quite convoluted and I always feel like I’m missing certain key pieces to really put it together, partially because I’m likely not looking at it on a fanatical level. I get the larger sweeps of it but the leaps of logic that are put into place often leave me disconnected from it, though I enjoy the way it all unfolds. On a most basic level you can like the machinations that are in play and the way it expands and showcases these diverse areas and the way they’re connected as her team works to figure out what’s going on and how to deal with it. And you can also really enjoy the action sequences as they really showcase some fantastic pieces of how this kind of work can be done – and done best in anime – with the virtual world, the mechanized elements, and just the weapons themselves as the characters run about. I also really love how they work the various character lobbies in how they deal with each other as that adds a new kind of depth and personalization.
But what I really love is the growth in the franchise and how it deals with things. If you look back at the first film and remember all the philosophy that was brought into it, all of that is still very much here. But now it’s a far more complex thing as technology has seriously evolved from them and it’s explored well here. What it means to be human was always Motoko’s story, especially considering her origin, but with the differences in how technology is now and how we extrapolate it to this future compared to how Shirow did it back when the manga came out in the 90’s is vastly different. The film really does dig into some curious questions and connections because of people that become relay points, the toss away nature of bodies, and the whole goal of a Third Life as pure data. The film and the previous series shows a really interesting change in how this world is perceived and asks some difficult and dangerous questions.
The problem, of course, is that it’s all within the context of the military/government/security sphere. This is not a film or a project overall that really delves into the normal world by showing how people have adapted to it over time, which is a real shame because it would be hugely interesting to really game it out and explore it beyond all these terrorism angles. Pretty much everyone in the film is either a spook, in the military, in public security, or a politician of some sort. While I’m not looking for something that’s all about the normal guys, though I think a series of vignettes would be fascinating, there’s a disconnect for the viewer here with nothing accessible in showing how you or I would exist in this world. That places a weird and interesting barrier to some degree for becoming fully invested in it.
There’s a lot to like with this Ghost in the Shell movie and it’s an intriguing new addition to the franchise as a whole with how it connects to the original film. While aspects of the story were just a bit clunky for me, the general themes work well and I like what it actually does explore and dig into. There’s a lot of places where this franchise can go and by providing more of the past it opens up more of where it can go in the future. There’s a great maturity to the storytelling here in a sense compared to the original as it poses a lot of questions and showcases a lot of changes that now feel closer to reality than the minimal things that were brought to light in the first film. The depth and nature of it all is just far richer and more engaging and it leaves me wanting a lot more of it, albeit with some different stories to be told that aren’t quite so mired in what this one was.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Ultraviolet Digital Copy, Inside the World of Ghost in the Shell Part 2, Special: “Arise Explained in 25 Minutes” (Extended Director’s Cut), Special: “25 Years Reviewed in 25 Minutes” (Extended Director’s Cut), Promo Video, Teaser
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.