The fundamental of the matrix – the Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell
You might have recently been hearing about the new movie adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, which was released in March of this year. This version is by no means a new story – as you might also know, Ghost in the Shell belongs to a long-running franchise both in Japan and the US. Before the movie there were other movies, before that animes and a manga series. Some might think no story deserves to be retold so many times, but we're certainly not complaining about the many versions – the story is good enough to be re-told over and over again, in our opinion.
But what makes Ghost in the Shell fascinating enough to capture the interest of so many?
What draws us most to the franchise, as sci-fi fanatics, is the futuristic environment of it all. Set in the mid-21st century, the anime shows us a highly technological future, where the extensive cyberworld has taken over almost all aspects of life. Cyborgs, technological and chemical implants in people's bodies, enhanced brains and body functions and humans who connect to networks through plugs at the back of the neck. Ghost in the Shell has all technologies you can think of and a unique dark cyberpunk feel which has inspired other creators – perhaps most famously the creator of the Matrix trilogy.
Many have noted the similarities between the two franchises, but at the chore of both is the idea of a fake reality – or more aptly, what reality actually is – and all the questions that this brings up. In Ghost in the Shell their cyborg parts, enhanced functions and technological and chemical implants makes the characters question what it truly means to be alive and if life is even possible without being connected to machines and technologies. In a world where hackers can hack into your brain and change your memories the clear lines of where reality begins and ends are blurred, just like they are in the Matrix-trilogy. What makes up reality – and does reality even matter? The idea of a digitized cyberworld and all these deeper themes is one of the things that really enriches the series.
This isn't a new theme, though – humanity has been thinking about such possibilities for quite some time. Other than the quite popular Matrix series, obviously influenced by Ghost in the Shell, philosopher's like Descartes haves brought up ideas of illusion and one's unreliable senses. The so called Dream Argument – that we usually don't know we're dreaming while dreaming – has also been discussed by Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu, Plato, Aristotle, and in the Chinese ancient text Zhuangzi. In other words, the theme of reality or dreaming is something that we have found interesting for quite some time, so it's no surprise that this question still fascinates us. In Ghost in the Shell this idea has evolved to a theme of reality and fake digitized reality, but the center of it, what it all comes down to, is the same.
And can you offer me proof of your existence? How can you, when neither modern science nor philosophy can explain what life is? (Ghost in the Shell. Dir. Oshii, Mamoru. Bandai Visual; Manga Entertainment; Production I.G, 1995. Film.)
So who can blame us for wanting to see more of the Ghost in the Shell, rewatch the anime over and over? The main premise is pretty thought-provoking, especially today when we see clearly how technology is taking over more and more aspects of life. Add in a bad-ass female lead, who is both intelligent and strong, working for a highly organized intelligence department, and you have a franchise that is intriguing and unique.
With the manga being first released in 1989, the several anime adaptions since 1995 to 2014, animated films like the 2015 version, and now the live action American movie, Ghost in the Shell has been airing in one form or another for close to two decades, showing that there is still more ways to tell this fascinating story.
So next time you contemplate whether you would take the red or the blue pill if you were Neo, or feel like watching some well-thought out sci-fi with interesting themes, why not check out some Ghost in the Shell to quench your thirst for all things cyberpunk? Hey, if we really are stuck in a fake reality, at least we can enjoy ourselves by watching awesome shows, right?