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Jan Arild on Ghost in the Shell

As with most of my generation, I grew up with and was greatly influenced by the animation films of my youth. It began with the Disney Renaissance films of the 90s – Lion King, Aladdin, Mulan – alongside Flåklypa Grand Prix, The Land Before Time and The Iron Giant.

As a tween I eventually graduated to Studio Ghibli and American blockbusters – but there was one outlier, one film that stood out and arguably had a bigger impact than any other: Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 masterpiece Ghost in the Shell.

It was weird and different and I didn’t fully understand it. But I was mesmerized by the gorgeous animation, incredible detail, action sequences, art design, and fantastic score. As with Ellen Ripley in Alien and Sarah Connor in Terminator, the enigmatic cyborg protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi is tough and formidable while remaining feminine and sensual. This was animation for adults, with adult themes, and gory violence.

Sci-fi technology and mech robots caught my childish eye, and the philosophical exploration of memory, intelligence, and sentience caught my developing mind. Ghost in the Shell perfectly balances tone and style, action and philosophy, and its iconic cyberpunk aesthetic is so fully realized that it brings to life the film’s dystopian world, despite the fairly short runtime and narrow story.

I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.

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