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If you’d like to see what life was, is and will be – watch 1995’s “Ghost in the shell” by Mamoru Oshii…

Ghost in the shell

A long time ago I watched an animated movie titled “Kōkaku kidōtai” and it blew my mind. It seems that it impressed the Wachowskis and James Cameron the same way.
As a fan of animation and anime in particular I have always been fond of this cinematographic masterpiece. It has long been a milestone with both its strong visuals and plot.
Using digitally generated animation and digital audio Oshii’s work is not only ahead of its time, but ahead of our time as well. We may be more technically advanced than back then 1995, but most of the current productions lack the vision embodied in “Ghost in the shell”.

The story of the movie (which is based on the manga of the same title by Masamune Shirow) revolves around the main character Major Motoko Kusanagi’s (a perceptional cyborg) hunt for the elusive Puppet Master. Her team of professionals from Public Security Section 9 is also a nice set of characters (especially Batou). For me it is important to tell you that I fell in love with the story from the very first night scenes of futuristic Tokyo. But it is even more important to contemplate on the rhetorical questions which linger in “Kōkaku kidōtai”.

Many people around the world have found their meaning in this anime. For me it is an art piece about the meaning of human life. We all life in an era where technology and communication are an integral part of our lives. Now we question the value of life even more than before. Humanity searches for the answer of the ever valid questions “Why are we here?”, “What is the meaning of our lives?”, “Are our souls immortal?” and so on. In this anime the director doesn’t give us answers, but rather shows us the right questions which consist of the answers.
And let me emphasize on one quote to show you what I’m talking about. When confronted by the ever doubting Kusanagi, The Puppet Master says:
“I refer to myself as an intelligent life form because I am sentient and I am able to recognize my own existence, but in my present state I am still incomplete. I lack the most basic processes inherent in all living organisms: reproducing and dying.”
And continues:
“Life perpetuates itself through diversity and this includes the ability to sacrifice itself when necessary. Cells repeat the process of degeneration and regeneration until one day they die, obliterating an entire set of memory and information. Only genes remain. Why continually repeat this cycle? Simply to survive by avoiding the weaknesses of an unchanging system.”
What is this all about? It is about the meaning of life. The answer we all seek. And we first see it in the entering scene where Motoko’s body is created by machines, not by ordinary reproducing means. The main character has identity issues throughout the whole movie and they originates in “her” post-human body which ultimately cannot reproduce, but rather copy itself.
And the whole odyssey of Kusanagi finds its conclusion at the end of the film when she is united with the Puppet Master in one sentient being. Evolution in a new form…

Is this the meaning of life? Evolution?
Is this the future of human life?
I cannot be sure about that, but this is what Oshii shows us. In our hectic modern life we are very much frustrated with the means of reproducing and the juxtaposition of the sexes. This in fact is the main issue of today’s society. And this is why art works such as “Ghost in the shell” push us a step further in the evolution of our minds.

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