Now that the critical and commercial disappointment that was this year’s live action version of Ghost in the Shell is safely behind us, this brief but enthusiastically written overview of the excellent anime (and manga) that started it all couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Beginning with Hollywood’s ecstatic reaction to Mamoru Oshii’s original film and ending with a surprisingly optimistic take on Rupert Saunder’s flashy but creatively bankrupt remake, author Andrew Osmond niftily pilots us through everything we’d ever want to know about the Ghost in the Shell franchise but were afraid to ask – from Masamune Shirow’s iconic manga to how Oshii adapted the manga from page to screen and created a version which, in many ways, is both complimentary and superior to Shirow’s vision… to how Kusanagi, Shirow’s hypersexualised femme fatale heroine, was redesigned for the movie because (in Oshii’s words) “In the manga, Kusanagi’s boobs are the size of her head, so she can’t really hold a gun”… to the fans who are confused about where Ghost in the Shell is actually set (hint: the city in the anime and the city in the manga are very different places)… to Oshii’s frustrations with Kazunori Ito, the anime’s screenwriter, to the shame composer Kenji Kawai still feels for choosing music over a possible career in nuclear engineering… to the problems of selling Ghost in the Machine to foreign markets to the connection between Ghost, Blade Runner, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and other less-well-known Japanese ‘cybertoons’.
In fact, for a book that is just 120 pages long, Osmond manages to cover a lot of ground. His passion for the franchise is obvious, and his writing is slick and chatty. The book features some nice full-colour illustrations as well.
Still, it’s hard to know who Osmond is actually writing this book for: hardcore fans (who will already have all this information) will no doubt be disappointed by the lack of fine detail and occasional fans, who will probably be more interested in the world of the characters than in the minds of the people who created them, will almost certainly be left dissatisfied. Still, as a primer for anyone who’s new to the Ghost in the Shell universe (or who wants to be reassured that the ScarJo clusterbleep isn’t where the series began and ends) this is definitely worth a peek.
GHOST IN THE SHELL / AUTHOR: ANDREW OSMOND / PUBLISHER: ARROW BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW