Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Future Imperfect: Ghost in the Shell 2 Innocence

These cops freely quote Descartes, Confucius, and Milton. It is impressive, but their cybernetic implants probably help. Batou has been augmented to such an extent, he has become a full-fledged cyborg, but he is still more corporeally human than his commanding officer, Major Motoko Kusanagi. She took what was left of her consciousness that she could claim for herself and disappeared into the network. However, she still has his back in Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (trailer here), which screens during MoMA’s ongoing film series, Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction.

Batou’s new partner Togusa has very few implants. He also has a family, so he is not thrilled about the hard-charging Batou’s tactics. The days following the Major’s disappearance have been uncertain for the Men in Black-ish Section 9, but they are still working cases, like the one just assigned to Batou and Togusa. A new model of specially modified gynoids (female androids) have run amok, killing their owners and then self-destructing. Both acts clearly violate the Asimovian principles of android programming that still apply in this world.

Evidently, these gynoids in question have been specially designed for adult entertainment purposes. That explains why the victims have kept things so hush-hush. The possible involvement of the yakuza also logically follows, but a shadowy off-shore company is the real brain behind the gynoids’ design. With the help of the ghostly Major and his reluctant partner, Batou will try to connect the dots, while also fending off a brain hack and caring for his beloved basset hound, Gabu (or Gabriel, depending on subtitles).

At the time of its production, Innocence was one of the most expensive anime films ever, forcing Production I.G to co-produce with Studio Ghibli. Over a dozen years after its theatrical release, it still looks terrific. The world-building is richly detailed and often awe-inspiring in scope. However, what remains most striking about the film is the intriguing relationship that continues between Batou and the unseen (but perhaps ever-present) Major. It is surely the reason for Innocence selection for Future Imperfect.

Not only does the film directly address what it means to be human, it also includes plenty of fan-pleasing action and a loyal, slobbering basset hound (a recurring motif in Oshii’s films). It also stands alone relatively easily. If you happened to be one of the few people who accidentally saw the live-action Hollywood version, try to forget it entirely, if you haven’t already—and start fresh with Innocence. Highly recommended, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence screens this Friday (8/18) and Saturday (8/19) at MoMA, as part of Future Imperfect.