Ghost In The Shell
The Noise in Her Head
Programming of a cyborg from Ghost in the Shell. © Manga Entertainment.
The birth of Motoko--Ghost in the Shell © Manga Entertainment.
The film begins with a computer generated, multileveled grid of a section of a city and the viewer is completely immersed in the grid by flying through it and around it. Motoko Kusanagi is a high level officer with Section 9 (the security police) engaged in surveillance high on top a skyscraper roof. In the back of her neck are four ports in which she could jack into any computer network. Motoko also has a cybernetic body. The noise she hears in her head during this opening sequence is very important in the arc of the main plot. When the order to move in is given, Motoko stands, disrobes revealing a beautifully slender and athletic body (reminding one of a naked Barbie doll with smaller breasts), and with outstretched arms backdives off the roof. When the mission is concluded, the next time you see Motoko, you don't. It is one of the most exciting opening sequences in cinema today.
The opening sequence reveals all the ingredients that will make up the next 75 minutes. Ghost combines traditional hand drawn, 2D and 3D animation. All the mediums are neatly balanced and integrated in a way that tells you something new is going on here but doesn't distract from the important stuff, the characters. Granted mixed media technology is not new to animation, but what is notable is the execution and the mastery of the craft. Art direction, the ability to showcase detail and stage passive or active action, and lead one's eye through color and composition is a tenet of high art. Look at the paintings of Vermeer or Rembrandt and all will be revealed. The opening titles are an excellent example of art direction. Witness how a cybernetic body is manufactured while Japanese drums beat behind an angelic chorus of female vocals. Here you are led visually as well as audibly.
Ghost feels more like a live-action movie than what one is accustomed to think animated features look like. The animation is not based on the style that evolved out of years of exploration by the artists who created the classic Disney films. It more closely resembles how humans really move and the way the Japanese interpret human movement, slightly stiff and restrained, but deliberate. It is very understandable, knowing how formal Japanese culture is, that distractions like eye popping special effects, outrageous characters and stories, hyperunrealistic action and long legged, Western styled women reign.
The Noise in Her Head