If you do, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence is a must-own anime DVD. The sequel to the 1995 classic is one of the most beautifully animated features ever, with fantastic depth and moving backgrounds, detail that is so impressive it puts its predecessor to shame. The CG animation mixes flawlessly with the traditional, contributing to a 100-minute work of pure art.
But if you don't understand Japanese, this DVD will disappoint.
In Innocence Dreamworks has inadvertently made it hard on the American anime fan, with subtitles that detract from the entire experience.
The lack of an English dub isn't surprising, considering the Go Fish treatment of Millennium Actress. In fact, no English dub makes some fans very happy (I say the more options, the better). But with the subtitles here, the text is about a quarter the way up in the action, the font size is too big, and because the only English subtitles available cater to the hearing impaired, all ambient noises ("helicopter approaching" "music box playing" "crowd noises" "electronic beeping") are flashed on the screen.
This was a huge problem with Innocence and is going to force a lot of people to pass on this DVD.
And that's a shame, because Innocence is Mamoru Oshii's masterpiece, a film that anything else he makes will be compared to.
Three years have passed since Major Motoko Kusunagi disappeared (in the first movie, her mind, or ghost, was lost in the Net when her artificial body was destroyed), and her right hand man Batou is forced to be the lead attack dog for the anti-cyberterrorism organization, Section 9. In the year 2032, Section 9 is the only authority that can handle the crimes that occur in a world where man and machine are almost one.
Batou is a man in spirit, but his body is nearly, completely machine. Sullen and secretive, Batou moves through life like he's missing something, as if he's incomplete. He only has his dog to love and remind him of the real life that still exists in his own body.
When certain robot models built for sex become murderous - and then suicidal - Batou and the mostly human Togusa are called on to investigate. Through conflicts with the Japanese yakuza and the corporation that built the sex-bots, Batou discovers he has a guardian angel, who just might be the long-lost Major.
The detective story part of Innocence is very entertaining. As Batou follows the clues, he also learns more about himself, about his own humanity. He looks up old contacts and debates the good and bad things that robotic advancements have brought to mankind.
While the entire humanity-machine discussion is a central part of the Ghost in the Shell world, Oshii's script in Innocence is very dense. All the major players in this movie act as a philosopher at times, whether the quote comes from Milton or Confucius. This weighs down the movie at certain parts, even though it wouldn't be Ghost in the Shell without this type of dialogue.
The action is fantastic, especially the fights with the yakuza and the sex-bots. The visuals are stunning, especially the parade halfway through and the CG birds that appear everywhere in the second half. The story is pure Ghost in the Shell, a look at what humanity has lost by relying on machines, but also a look at how this technology can lead mankind to the next step in its evolution.
It's just a shame that the one DVD flaw in Innocence will keep some fans from watching it.
The picture is flawless and sharp, with outstanding color balance and wonderful character definition. There's nothing digitally wrong with this DVD. But the question remains: With that beautiful 1.85:1 theatrical ratio, enhanced for widescreen TVs, would it really have been that difficult to move those subtitles below the picture? It could have been done. Besides that, the transfer to DVD is terrific, bringing beautiful detail to your home entertainment center, that usually only can be had on the big screen.
Welcome back to the Ghost in the Shell world. While the TV show, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, drifted a bit from the soulful, eerie score in the original Ghost in the Shell, Innocence brings us right back to the original world, with music by Kawai Kenji, the composer of the first movie. The 5.1 Japanese option is much more full and directional than the 2.0, and is also louder, There's excellent use of the soundstage, and the background noises are presented at just the right volumes, letting the audience know they exist, without getting in the way of the action up front. French subtitles are also available; they are in the same state as the English subtitles.
There are previews for Manga's Ghost in the Shell DVDs, Bandai and Manga's Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and Dreamworks' Millennium Actress. The long Japanese trailer for Innocence is a fun watch, and the Making of Innocence featurette is a wonderful look inside the film, and a good lesson on what it takes to put these anime projects together. The commentary with director Oshii is very interesting, but because of the size of the subtitles, there's no way Dreamworks could lay both the discussion and the movie subtitles together. Pass up the commentary unless you have a lot of free time and patience.
Someone in a DVDTalk forum quipped that Batou on the cover art looks like Cable from X-Men, and it really is an ugly cover. Batou doesn't look much like Batou, and the sex doll is made too much to look like the Major, and ends up looking like neither. That's a minor problem, compared to the subtitle issue. Because of this slight, or oversight, the viewing experience is really hampered.
But this is an excellent movie, one fans of the original Ghost in the Shell will enjoy. It's impossible to highly recommend this DVD, but it's a must rental for anime fans in general and a Recommended purchase for the Ghost in the Shell faithful.