As the world digests Hollywood's recent attempt at producing a live-action adaptation of Mamoru Oshii's much celebrated animated feature, there's no better time to revisit the original Ghost In The Shell from 1995.
Based on one of the popular manga's stories involving a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master, this first film was not only groundbreaking as an anime but as a science-fiction film in general influencing pretty much every science-fiction film after it including The Matrix. We're introduced to a dangerous world where people can be cybernetically enhanced which creates new threats for special units to deal with. Major Motoko Kusanagi is the mostly artificial leader of an assault team tasked with various missions including finding the Puppet Master. The film is a complex sci-fi thriller which deals with self-identity, what it means to be human and technology gone mad in a subtle yet often brutal way. There are unexpected bursts of gore in this film but it never becomes so over-the-top that it distracts from the film's overall serious tone.
The animation in Ghost In The Shell, a mix of 2D and perfectly merged CGI, is still impressive to this day and even though the world we're introduced to is futuristic, it still feels realistic somehow and this grounds the dystopia in a way that makes it easier to recognize as a potential future. The plot is never dull even at its most philosophically dense thanks to a lot of cool action sequences such as Motoko assassinating a diplomat and his men, jumping off buildings as she turns invisible, chasing suspects all over the city and fighting that spider tank during the intense climax. The mystery never gets lost in the action, however, and the film will keep you guessing long after the credits have rolled. This is a dark, moody, twisted vision of the future unlike any other. The English dubbing isn't very good, by the way, so you might want to track down the subtitled version instead.
Ghost In The Shell is like a Blade Runner for the next generation so if you're a sci-fi fan you kind of need to check it out. It's one of the smartest and most visually striking anime films out there and it sure deserves the praise it's received over the years.