Mamoru Oshii, who directed the critically lauded 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell, returns to that dystopian future inhabited by robots and cyborgs who harbor varying degrees of residual humanity. His new film, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, isn't a true sequel, so much as another riff on what it means to be human in an age of advanced technology.
On its surface, GITS2 is a crime thriller about seriously malfunctioning robots, but Oshii's real purpose is to query the need humans have to create artificial representations of themselves. Oshii also inverts that question, pondering whether artificial creatures even want to be copies of man, and not simply exist on their own unique terms.
GITS2 is even more reflective than the first film, moodier and infused with a weary cynicism and anxiety; there are fewer action sequences, but this film also better integrates its cop-shop drama with non-narrative portions that set the locations and the film's tenor, like a creepy street festival and a mind-bending corporate headquarters.
Even with today's technology, this film took four years to make. The characters are rendered in traditional 2-D animation, while computers created the 3-D backgrounds. The resulting animation is simply breathtaking -- from the supple ball-jointed sexbots in action to the play of light across their bisque surfaces.
I'd be lying if I said I was able to follow all the threads Oshii spins out, but even in the film's most obtuse narrative moments, it remains beautiful to look upon. This sophisticated anime is no mere cartoon, and its visual and narrative multi-dimensionality will reward the engaged viewer with a unique and thoughtful if somewhat baffling entertainment. In Japanese with subtitles.