April 02, 2017
It’s funny how movie reviewers have to use the words “Manga” and “Anime” when telling us what they thought about Ghost in the Shell. -There is a decided discomfort and lack of knowing as to how to really deal with that alien-feeling black sheep media style from Japan.
Anime is like looking into a bird’s eyes. The plumage is beautiful, complex and wondrous, but… My friend and bookshop guru Hilary Drummond described the chickens in her backyard in this way and it stuck with me;
“You look into its eyes and realize that you’re truly seeing the Other. A mind completely different from your own. You’re looking into the eyes of a dinosaur.”
Now.., that’s not to say Japanese culture is a dinosaur. God, no! But its differences are always sliding sideways from our casual Western understandings, and I am sure, this is felt in kind.
The original animated Ghost in the Shell film, which came out.., long ago now, was… okay. Mostly a mood piece trying to be Blade Runner -minus Harrison Ford and a compelling story. But it was very cleverly animated with some neat ideas. Maybe. I think…
I have this love/hate thing going with Masamune Shirow. (The original manga artist.) His early work is one of the reasons I got into comics! I learned how to draw by replicating some of his pages. So this kinda cuts home for me…
Shirow was one of those brilliant comics guys who drew fabulous worlds, invented new ways of thinking about design. -That’s rare! To come up with new design ideas? That just doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it changes the world. Heck, Apple Computers owes him a creative debt I think.
But then.., he failed to put any focus where it was truly needed: On his Characters…
A story is about the people. The people! -Sure, you need to have interesting world mechanics BUT if you don’t care what happens to the people.., if you don’t hope they find happiness in the end, if you don’t hope they grow and learn grace.., then you don’t have a story. -You have a gamer’s role-playing manual. (And not even that, I would argue, in Shirow’s case).
One of Shirow’s best works, “Appleseed” offered probably the closest thing to a real cast of characters. They were interesting people, full of promise and vibrancy. -I still remember their names! But as the story progressed, they slipped away and more and more became strangers only glimpsed from afar. Not even casual acquaintances.., just people you might recognize in a crowd. -Always running around on confusing, violent adventures -and this is the most disconcerting part… Their world and all their personal discussion was propelled by obtuse, socio-political hot air jargon which I’m almost 95% convinced existed for the sole purpose of distracting readers from the fact that all Shirow really wanted to draw was naked girls and robots. -Which he did extremely well. No question. But jeez, dude! We have tons of guys drawing soft porn and machine guns. Why you? What a damned waste!
It’s sad/funny because it was a decades-long career curve he was on. As his art skills grew, it was like his soul slipped away. I followed his progress through comics and graphic novels, watching as his psychology shifted. He went from character focused stories, and drifted further and further into pure design and sex. He lost me completely with his later stuff as he drowned in the sensual. Too bad. And to hell with him! He had art skills and career fortune which could have been spun into amazing things.., but instead…
Well, “Ghost in the Shell” happened about half-way down that slide.
A sexy robo-chick has an identity crisis in a flat, friendless and depressing Blade Runner world of hyper sense stimulation.
I wonder if that is an accurate reflection of Shirow’s mental landscape?
Bleh. I’ve already written too much about this now.
It’s like a beloved teacher lost his mind.
At least I can say I’ve learned one last lesson from him. -What I do NOT want to become.