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Mamoru Oshii
Atsuko Tanaka, Iemasa Kayumi, Akio Ôtsuka |
Writing Credits:
Kazunori Itô

A cyborg policewoman and her partner hunt a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Japanese LPCM Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 82 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 3/14/2017

• None


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Ghost in the Shell [Blu-Ray] (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 19, 2017)

With a big-budget Scarlett Johansson-led live-action adaptation about to hit screens, this seems like a good time to check out 1995’s anime epic Ghost in the Shell. Set in 2029, we encounter a civilization in which a vast electronic network connects all around the planet.

Humans do so through cybernetic organisms called “shells”. These allow people to perform superhuman feats through their robotic “shells”.

A problem emerges when hackers use the network for crime. To combat this, an organization called “Section 9” takes form, and it uses “shells” to fight back. Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) leads a squad tasked to find the Puppet Master (Iemasa Kayumi), the lead hacker.

My cousin Mike loves anime, and I guess he swallowed all the appetite for that format in the Jacobson clan, as I’ve just never found myself drawn to it. The handful of anime films I’ve seen left me cold so I didn’t get the urge to join my cousin in his quest for more Japanese animation.

That means this 2017 Blu-ray of Ghost represents my initial screening of the film, and I must say that I wish I’d watched it decades earlier. With a scope unusual for its era, I can see how much influence Ghost has had on movies since 1995 so it would’ve been fun to view it without the hindsight of the last 22 years.

Not that Ghost offers a completely original fable, as it doesn’t take much to see the clear Blade Runner influence on display. While Ghost never feels like a ripoff of the Ridley Scott classic, it becomes obvious that the 1995 movie used the 1982 work as a template.

It seems even more obvious that Ghost got into the head of the Wachowskis, as its connections to The Matrix jump to the fore. Even if you ignore the ways the storylines connect, other Ghost elements pop up all over Matrix, all the way down to basic visual design.

These factors make me wish I’d seen Ghost when it was new, though I still can appreciate it for the well-crafted tale it is. 1995 was pretty close to the peak of Hollywood’s initial “Internet infatuation”, as movies loved to toss around cyber-this and computer-that – most of which added up to a bunch of crappy films.

Hoo-boy, did we suffer from stinkers sacrificed in the name of burgeoning computer/Internet technology! Most of these used their references in clumsy ways that now seem comical, and they’ve deservedly become largely forgotten.

Ghost manages to feel fairly prescient and it treats the technological subject matter in an intelligent way. Even with its 1990s view of interactive networks, it holds up surprisingly well and lacks the dated quality of its peers.

I think Ghost continues to shine because it uses technology as a means, not an end. Whereas other “cyber” movies from the period felt like gimmicks around which films got built, Ghost comes with a solid narrative core and delves into philosophical issues usually absent from this sort of movie.

Granted, these tend to hearken back to Blade Runner once again – I half-expected a Roy Batty-style monologue about Orion – but Ghost still manages to stake its own claim, and it does so in a rich manner. We get a good exploration of issues connected to the nature of consciousness and humanity in this well-developed piece.

Ghost also manages to pack in a fairly exciting action film as well. While it lacks consistent pizzazz, it throws out enough stylish mayhem to keep us with it.

At times Ghost can drag, and I doubt I’ll ever get used to the stiff, jerky animation found here. Nonetheless, the movie’s intelligence and depth make it a keeper.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus F

Ghost in the Shell appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into an erratic presentation.

One perplexing distraction arose: windowboxing. For reasons unknown, the movie used a moderately thick box that surrounded the image on all four sides. This was unnecessary and annoying.

Even without that concern, the transfer seemed like a mix bag. Overall sharpness worked fairly well, though the movie lacked the clarity I’d expect. This meant that we got a reasonably concise presentation much of the time, but definition rarely seemed genuinely strong, and occasional soft spots materialized.

I saw no signs of shimmering or jagged edges, and the movie lacked edge haloes. It also came without any print flaws.

Colors tended toward green and blue, and they looked decent. While the hues lacked great range, they usually offered acceptable reproduction, though occasional instances of red lighting looked a little too thick.

Blacks veered toward the pale side of the coin. While not washed-out, I thought those elements should’ve seemed darker. Shadows were fine; though not impressive, they revealed low-light material in an acceptable manner. Though not a bad image, Ghost was too inconsistent for a grade above a “C+”.

In terms of audio, viewers get a potentially difficult choice. The movie came with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix – in English only, unfortunately. If you want to watch the film in its original language, then you need to opt for the LPCM stereo track instead.

Which I did, as I felt the use of the original language trumped any advantages from the multichannel version – though I may not be right about that. From what I understand, this version used English subtitles that didn’t translate the original Japanese especially well.

Since this represented my first screening of Ghost, I couldn’t compare the Blu-ray to other versions. I did look to see how the subtitles matched the English dub, and the two were very different – the subtitles offered condensed recaps of the dialogue I heard.

However, that didn’t mean the English version got it right. Dubbed renditions tend to come with their own problems, so I certainly didn’t take the dialogue from the English cut to present an accurate translation of the original Japanese.

In any case, I did get the impression the subtitles didn’t do the job especially well. I felt like they left out snippets of dialogue and these could make the movie more confusing.

The subtitles also suffered from bad writing. Most of them were so simple that they still made sense, but some left me perplexed. If anyone knows what the heck “That body has as much device for brain science as it can hold” means, let me know!

So unless you speak Japanese, you get stuck with a compromised auditory experience in terms of dialogue, and the quality of the LPCM stereo mix didn’t seem all that great, either. Speech really did sound like it was recorded in a studio, as the lines suffered from an awkward feel.

Some of this may have been intentional to reflect the “network”, but I got more of a feeling that the recordings simply weren’t massaged to sound natural. Intelligibility was fine, but the lines failed to mesh with surroundings.

Effects tended to lack oomph. While those elements showed good clarity and didn’t suffer from distortion, these components didn’t present much range. This meant a distinct lack of low-end, a factor that robbed the louder moments of some impact.

Music fared best, especially in terms of the score’s percussive side. Those bits showed nice range, with warm bass. The music offered the smoothest, most vibrant part of the track.

Though restricted to the front channels, the soundscape worked pretty well. Music showed nice stereo presence, and effects were appropriately localized.

Those elements also moved across the speakers well and meshed together in a pleasing manner. Dialogue usually focused on the center, but some interesting localized speech appeared as well. Like the image, the soundtrack merited a “C+”.

The Blu-ray includes zero extras – not even a trailer!

Unlike most “cyber” films of the 1990s, Ghost in the Machine holds up well after more than two decades. The movie offers a rich philosophical tale with enough action to add spark. The Blu-ray comes with erratic picture and audio and it provides no supplements whatsoever. Though I like the movie, this Blu-ray disappoints.

Note that this 2017 Blu-ray appears to be a reissue of the 2014 “25th Anniversary” release. It comes in a new “steelbook” case but the disc itself seems to be the same one from 2014.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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