REEL ANIME REVIEW - Ghost in the Shell: Arise

Although Ghost in the Shell: Arise isn't actually a film, it sure is a welcome addition to Madman's line up at this year's REEL ANIME film festival. Part 1 of a 4 part OVA series, Ghost in the Shell: Arise is a prequel of sorts, if not a re-imagining. Beginning before Motoko Kusanagi joined Section 9, in fact before Section 9's inception, Arise is a fresh take on the much loved franchise which is all based upon Masamune Shirow's legendary manga series.

The original Ghost in the Shell film served as many peoples introduction to anime. It was a time of transition during which those of us who grew up watching Yamato, Robotech and Captain Harlock suddenly had our horizons opened with the release of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell and  *ahem* Urotsukidoji. One of the most enduring of the bunch has been Ghost in the Shell and this, a proper introductory release, is a welcome addition to the already well established New Port City.

As always, Production I.G are at the helm and deliver in spades. While the character designs differ slightly from what we've seen previously due to their younger age, they're instantly recognisable. That fact in itself gives pause for reflection with regard to the fact that cybernetic humans shouldn't necessarily age at all. Kusanagi in particular looks young, fresh faced and full of ideals. She's not the hardened cynic that we've come to know. As you can expect, the action sequences throughout this first episode are highly polished and a real treat for the eyes. The use of CGI is barely noticeable and generally restricted to scenes with vehicles which ensures uniformity. The colour palette is similar to that of previous Ghost in the Shell releases although without the grittiness of the original film or overarching green hue seen in the Stand Alone Complex series'.

The screenplay for this series is handled by Tow Ubukata of Le Chevalier D'eon and Mardock Scramble fame. When we reviewed Ubukata's Mardock Scramble, we compared it to Ghost in the Shell and remarked on its similarity to Ghost in the Shell as a throwback to early 90's cyberpunk. Arise doesn't quite represent the cyberpunk setting that we're used to from the franchise and, in fact, the gritty city itself seems to be a gleaming beacon of hope. Perhaps this is an indication that something bad is yet to occur, something which brings the city into economic turmoil. The re-imagining of key characters is a soft touch, but enough to set this series apart from what's come before. Batou in particular is less harsh in appearance and personality while still retaining a mean right hook.

The real triumph of Arise is its ability to keep you guessing. The question of reality is a commonly occurring theme in the series and we get more of the same in Arise, that's not to say that you'll leave scratching your head. Instead, it leaves questions hanging in the air as to the vulnerability of Kusanagi and whether she truly is as invincible as her persona would have you believe. Even with questions looming, this first piece of the Arise pie is a visual, auditory and intellectual feast. Sadly on the audio front, long-time collaborator Yoko Kanno is absent and is instead replaced by CORNELIUS who has recently collaborated with Kanno on the Uniqlo Wake Up campaign. A great match with his electro-pop sensibilities, CORNELIUS nails the brief on his very first outing in the anime realm.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise is a must see for fans of the franchise and is screening in a double bill with Makoto Shinkai's gorgeous The Garden of Words. It may be somewhat of a mismatch but both films are fantastic.

Tickets for this years REEL ANIME festival are on sale now or if you need further convincing, check out the rest of our REEL ANIME 2013 reviews.

- Ryan


  1. I'm really looking forward to seeing this, but I'm not sure when it's going to be released in the UK. I'm thinking of checking out Mardock Scramble while I wait because I read a post here earlier which compared the two. They do seem to have a lot in common based on that! Have you seen Mardock Scramble, and would you recommend it?


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