BLU-RAY REVIEW: GHOST IN THE SHELL ARISE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: KAZUCHIKA KISE / SCREENPLAY: TOW UBUKATA / STARRING: ELIZABETH MAXWELL, JAMIE MARCHI, MAAYA SAKAMOTO, JYUKU IKYUU / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 24TH
If imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery, than Mamoru Oshii’s seminal Ghost in the Shell is still held in very high regard. Arise is a full-blown reimagining of the anime staple, set across four episodes, with the first two given the sparkle and sheen of a Blu-ray release.
Spearheaded by director Kazuchika Kise (himself an animator on the original), Japan circa 2027 has the stylish neo noir trappings that’s helped define the franchise but with little of the majesty. While divisive, the new character models aren’t half bad, it’s just Motoko herself which is a rigid representation of her former self and, unfortunately, her barnet just isn’t right.
The first episode, Border 1 - Ghost Pain, is the stronger of the two, shedding complex storytelling and opting for the ‘cop show’ format instead. With a narrative wrapped up in double-crossings, framings and a murder mystery, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. The strongest aspect is seeing how Motoko becomes a Major and is free to pick her own team. Far from the intended reimagining, it feels more like a weak prequel, demystifying her character.
The second episode, Border 2 - Ghost Whispers, isn’t nearly as interesting, but comes closer to what’s expected of the franchise; its story focused on hacking and A.I. With the original being an obvious influence on the Wachowski’s Matrix, it’s disheartening that Arise takes so much from that trilogy, with plenty of slow-mo and a sequence where Motoko weaves her motorbike into oncoming traffic. Its biggest shortcoming, however, is how hard it tries to be cool when the original achieved it so effortlessly.
Each episode clocks in under an hour, and watched together are pretty much two halves of one film. The English dub does leave a lot to be desired, especially Elizabeth Maxwell’s flat tones as Motoko. As the music was such a strong component of the ’95 film, it’s a genuine disappointment that synth muzak is about the best on offer in Arise.
Favouring action over philosophy, Arise doesn’t offer anything particularly revelatory. It may touch on some of the same themes as the original, but fleetingly and never with the same level of consideration. There was plenty of nudity in the original, but it never felt exploitative - in Arise it’s just that, with plenty of shots of Motoko either naked or in her skivvies - and the Lolita-style mobile land mines are just embarrassing.
Arise does a decent, if heavy-handed, job of keeping the franchise alive, which skimps on smarts but not on style. Like a new iPhone, it’s shinier, bigger and more expensive but improves little on its predecessor.
Special Features: Arise at anime expo 2013 / Logicoma beat / Textless opening / Promotional videos / Trailers / US cast and crew commentary
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