Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Ghost in the Shell

By Shirow Masamune
Published in the US by Kodansha

Slugline: Philosophical violence or violent philosophy?

Motoko Kusanagi is a paramilitary police officer unit in near future Tokyo.  Cybernetic enhancements and computer use is near ubiquitous, allowing human brains to be hacked to alter memories or have a full body replacement.  Most of the stories in the volume are stand alone as Motoko and her squad rein in government excesses of the rest of the as rampant corruption and self-serving agendas are behind nearly every case they tackle.  In one Motoko encounters a ghost, a living program, and the experience leaves her shaken.  When it looks like that one of the politicians have finally succeeded in getting Motoko thrown under the bus to further his own schemes, Motoko turns the situation around with the help of the ghost.  This leads to her making an unusual decision though debating what is life and its meaning has a lot of resonance in the volume overall.

Ghost in the Shell is a classic manga in American because Shirow Masamune’s long relationship with Dark Horse Comics meant that his titles have been available in the US long before the rise of popularity and availability of other manga.  This story has been retold several times in anime, though this is a case were the retellings have allowed adaptors to boil the story into a coherent whole.  For instance, the Ghost in the Shell movie melded together a half dozen separate stories from this volume into a single narrative.  This makes the source material suffer in comparison to later versions, which is unusual. The art is much softer and fluid than you would expect in such a hard sci-fi setting.  So expecting to read this and find the great original material that all the adaptations have ruined is not realistic but it is still a good story though fond of its philosophical musings. 

Ghost in the Shell is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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