Anchor Bay’s new Mondo Steelbook is a fantastic way to visually and sonically experience Ghost in the Shell. Mamoru Oshii’s seminal anime science fiction film drips with atmosphere and ambiance so thick one could drown in it. Scenes of the non-descript Asian urban sprawl in the rain recall Blade Runner and William Gibson’s Neuromancer, while its attention to small visual details (from reflections in glass to digital warping, video effects and breakthrough use of computer animation) is still impressive over twenty years later. The film’s philosophy is dense, and its presentation through intricate technobabble is stimulating and immersive. Dropped into an alien environment mid-narrative with little exposition or explanation, Ghost in the Shell can only reveal itself in repeated viewings – so to have a home video presentation so visually lush and with such powerful sound is much appreciated.
This most recent release is clearly meant to coincide with the upcoming theatrical unveiling of the new American live-action remake. Amid controversy of Hollywood white-washing, there’s a more general disappointment in seeing another reputable and culturally specific franchise uprooted and adapted into Hollywood fodder. In truth Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell is less explicitly Japanese in content and theme than something like Akira (which seems to have narrowly escaped an American remake, for now), but in watching the original film again on this new Blu-Ray the issues of adaptation become abundantly clear. Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell is lean but dense, while Hollywood films of late are exactly to the contrary: huge but basic. It is obvious from watching this new remake’s trailer that the approach is to mimic the imagery and set-pieces, but swap out the narrative and thematic backbone for something entirely more generic and palatable for mainstream audiences. A shift in focus is fine for adaptation, but it feels wholly unnecessary when Oshii’s original film had it all: thick style, riveting content, intoxicating visuals, a haunting and beautiful original score, and a distinct approach to the science fiction genre.
The one note of disappointment with this new release is the total lack of any supplementary materials. Yes, the picture and sound quality are a sharp improvement over the old Manga Video DVD, but it lacks that release’s half-hour making of documentary, as well as other special features like multiple trailers. Seemingly what the buyer is paying for here is the (admittedly gorgeous) packaging. While the version of the film herein is beautiful, it comes with a slight let-down that the presentation isn’t more dedicated to putting forth a complete and in-depth home video package. If mild presumption is allowed, then it seems like the new remake is destined to compound a problem like this. Is the Ghost in the Shell remake destined to be a slick and shiny package with less inside than one could have hoped?
If you have never seen the original film of Ghost in the Shell, then now is as good a time as any.
Anchor Bay Entertainment’s new Mondo Steelbook Blu-Ray + Digital HD will see release March 14, 2017
Wicked Rating: 8/10
Director(s): Mamoru Oshii
Writer(s): Kazunori Itō
Release: Anchor Bay Entertainment, March 14, 2017
Studio/ Production Co: Kôdansha, Production IG, Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment
Language: Japanese with English subtitles / English