Posted in Anime, Book, Film, Review

Ghost in the Shell by Andrew Osmond (2017)

  • 91BSdFVo4jL120 pages
  • Release date: 11th September 2017
  • Price: £19.99
  • Published by: Arrow Books

The cult classic Ghost in the Shell, has often found itself the centre of discussion among fans. Its impact and themes. The films significance in the modern landscape. However, it’s hard to find a single work that highlights its importance, as Andrew Osmond’s Ghost in the Shell. An incredibly engaging, and well researched look at not only the cult classic film, but the franchise, and impact it has had through the culture.

Osmond approaches this book with a passion and the intention of allowing even the most novice of Ghost in the Shell viewers the opportunity to enjoy and engage with the books subject. Opening with essentially a first-time viewers perspective of the opening few minutes of the film. Noting the praise and acclaim the film achieved, even early in its life. Osmond expounds on the films infancy, by describing the culture and time to which it is born into. Citing the state of otaku culture and the Aum Shinrikyo terror attacks in Japan, and how the West viewed Anime at the time. Referring to them as ‘Manga movies’, or ‘Japanimation’. This provides a much-needed context for the reader as to why and how Ghost in the Shell gained such significance.

The film is broken down in a digestible manor, so that no reader will feel lost along the way. Osmond comments on the characters and plot points with an attention to detail, significantly towards the film’s central protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi.

“For example, after the ‘assassination’ prologue, Ghost’s titles show the creation of Kusanagi’s cyber-body. We see it as an anatomist’s dummy of fake skin and bone, flushed through vats of liquid, clothed in fast-setting flesh. All this suggests a Frankenstein creature, a horror film Other. But as the sequence ends, and Kusanagi is lifted up fully formed, we don’t see some lab-coated Pygmalion admiring his sculpture – ‘She lives!’. Instead, we cut to a close-up of Kusanagi awakening in darkness. We were in her head all along, as she dreamed her body’s creation. She moves the fingers of one hand slightly, as if asking, is this my hand? Is this my body?”

Osmond explores how her femininity and sexuality are put aside. Blurring gender lines, in moments of intense strengths and sacrifice. These discussions extend to comparisons of her counterparts. Such as Trinity in The Matrix franchise, and Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This also encompasses the franchises lore, such as the impact and importance or cyber-bodies in the cyberpunk genre.

The book does not limit itself to just the films themes, characters, and impact. But extends to the creative minds that birthed the film and franchise. Discussion of the film’s director, Mamoru Oshii, ranges beyond simply his filmography. Extending to popular consensus, his frequently used themes through his work, and the man himself. His diversity in mediums, interests and personal history. The chapter dedicated to Oshii, reads like a love letter to the forgotten works of a master. Overshadowed by the books subject. With a wonderful look at Oshii’s work on the Patlabor series. The only major subject that feels skipped over, is Oshii’s 1999 film, Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade. A subject that is likely to merit its own book in a similar vain to this one.

Given how private Masanori Ota presents himself, going as far as to use the pseudonym Masamune Shirow. It’s surprising how well Osmond dives into the franchises original author. Discussing his secluded nature, themes and works. Drawing particular attention to Shirow’s playful and wacky sense of humour, something largely ignored in adaptations. Focus and time is payed to Shirow’s other praised franchise, Appleseed. Highlighting, especially, the difference in publication. Osmond breaks down Shirow’s 350-page manga, in a similar manner to his discussion of the films plot. This is a necessity, given how well and thoroughly he examines the adaptation process. Taking the world and characters Shirow crafted, but injecting Oshii’s own brand of philosophy and themes, and examining how this effects the original material.

Time and attention is given to many important, but largely unsung figures in the films creation. Figures such as character designer, Hiroyuki Okiura. Animation director, Toshihiko Nishibubo, and art director, Hiromasa Ogura. Osmond takes great care in communication the amount of work that went into the films construction. Outlining fine details from Mechanical design, scripting and music. To even the process of dubbing and localisation. Something we rarely see approached and discussed when it comes to Ghost in the Shell.

With absolutely stunning cover art by Chris Malbon, and the loving research of Andrew Osmond. Ghost in the Shell from Arrow Books, is a fantastic look at the cult classic film, and a must read for avid fans, and the curious mind willing to traverse the vast net that is Ghost in the Shell.

Available from Arrow Films here.

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