November 13, 2004 on 3:08 pm | In Ghost in the Shell | 1 Comment

Nine years since the release of his hit film Ghost in the Shell, Oshii Mamoru follows with Innocence, which is close to the perfect sequel: it’s the second half of a beautiful whole.

Three years after the events of Ghost in the Shell, Togusa has been assigned as Batou’s partner. Despite Togusa’s misgivings about working in Kusanagi’s shadow, they’re a strong pairing, and are placed exclusively on the case of a string of sexaroid cyborgs who have been malfunctioning, performing gruesome murders and then “committing suicide”.
The case takes them far up north, where they discover a ghost hacker who has abandoned his body …

Innocence is a mirror of Ghost in the Shell: it shows a different side of the world that is in many ways the opposite of the last. The infusion of technology into humanity and the blurring of the lines between artificial intelligence and genuine individuality was key to the first. Here it’s the other way around: the infusion of humanity into lifeless figures.
While a large part of the film is Batou and Togusa driving around, exchanging increasingly unlikely philosophical quotes, there are some incredibly crowd-pleasing moments that never degenerate into simple pandering. Innocence is not a film of “highlights”, nor is it one big highlight, but it has a couple of especially amazing scenes amongst all of the just standard great ones.

Despite the near total lack of Kusanagi, Innocence is more of a love film than the first – and because of that it strengthens the themes of its predecessor. Batou is an intensely lonely character. You can see this through his basset hound. The way that he dotes on the dog shows both his humanity and his lack of human contact. Togusa is the other character who is given depth. He fears that he can not live up to the high standards set by Major Kusanagi as Batou’s new partner – but this is simply because he underestimates the man. While Togusa is mainly human and Batou is mainly cybernetic physically, they are both very human. The way they play off each other is one of the joys of the film. The ending provides a strong sense of camaraderie and a very different feel to the first. It’s not a “buddy cop” movie, by any stretch of the imagination, but these partners are a great team – strengthened by the fact that they’re onto a tangible case here.

Technology has been kind in the creation of Innocence: a large part of it is CG work, which plays off the organic nature of Ghost in the Shell versus the more artificial, manufactured world of this film. As with Ghost in the Shell, there is a sequence of pans over the city where Solus Locus is located set to Kawai Kenji’s haunting score. The difference is that this sequence is quite clearly “faked”. Ghost in the Shell showed real city life, whereas this segment is a festival of make up, masks and illusion.
This scene illustrates the point of the film perfectly: it’s about forcing life into that which can only truly be described as humanoid. The characters remain true to their roots; perhaps too true, as Togusa’s mullet does him no favours. A perfect coup of design is that the suicide robots are modelled after geisha – a profession that even for humans is about knowing illusion and deception. The blending of CG and hand drawn digital animation is generally well done and the movie is a delight to watch even for those who don’t particularly enjoy computer generated work. It is uncertain whether Oshii would have used this much CG on the original film had the technology and budget existed, but it turned out to be very convenient in conveying the message.

Kawai Kenji’s score is similarly moody and atmospheric, and the opening music is a sequel in itself – the opening credits are one of the chief examples of polarity: the ancient Japanese song plays over the construction of an android – from the inside. It is important to note that androids and cyborgs are two entirely different things – they are built for opposite reasons and meet in the middle. This is why everything in this film is a twisted version of the first, including the music. Kawai allows some action music to shine through, but he keeps his general moody atmosphere intact.

Such interplay of films, such a contrast of themes, like two anime singing to each other across the void of years: Innocence is a brilliant film. At times it may be as pretentious as that last sentence, but deliberately so – Oshii’s characters are quite willing to make fun of themselves and their own eclectic knowledge. Despite one really trippy sequence, Innocence is a brilliant movie. Oshii used all of his skills in his production of this film, and it shows.

Images taken from GITS2, the official North American Innocence website.

1 Comment

  1. I myself enjoyed the film as well. But I was sorely dissappointed by Ishikawa’s lack of his big, wild haircut! It’s my favorite hairstyle of them all!-Matt Phillips

    Comment by Anonymous — January 3, 2005 #

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^