"The less one forgets, the less one can remember."
Innocence (イノセンス) (2004) which is called Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence in America, is a follow up (or maybe companion?) to Ghost in the Shell (1998). It's also loosely based on the chapter Robot Rondo in the manga Mobile Armored Riot Police (called Ghost in the Shell in America) written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow.
Like Ghost in the Shell, this film also focuses on Section 9's investigation of a case, however this film follows Batou, Major Motoko Kusanagi's partner from the former film. This film takes place a couple years after the events of the first one. No one knows Motoko's whereabouts but she is constantly on the mind of Batou. Section 9 is investigating a cyborg-producing company named LOCUS SOLUS that produces "gynoids," androids that look like young girls that are built for sex. Recently there has been a string of these gynoids going berserk and killing humans, Section 9 is investigating to see of someone has tampered with their programming.
The animation in this film is really nice. It's a lot higher quality than most Japanese anime films. The film is a CG/traditional animation hybrid where most all the backgrounds are computer animated and almost all the characters are traditionally drawn, this works for the most part and it's definitely better than most films that try this. More often than not the texture on the CG scenes is what sticks out to me as not fitting the rest of it. Where I think the traditional animation really shines is there's times where the computer generated camera is doing a slight move or change of angle and the traditionally drawn characters change with the camera in perfect perspective. This is no easy feat at all and it's really done well in this film. The film also takes advantage of this hybrid animation (rather than being held back by it) by doing lots of interesting angles you wouldn't expect in either a CG animated film or a traditionally animated one and even some strange fish-eye shots that I enjoyed.
While the art direction is quite a bit different than the previous film making the characters and world seem pretty different, I think the technology in this film is very fairly evolved and seems like it all logically belongs in the same world based on what we saw in the previous film.
Unfortunately I really don't think this film holds up on it's own. You're really not going to understand the climax or why everyone keeps constantly talking about "the Major" if you've never seen Ghost in the Shell. I think that Mamoru Oshii could have made a film in this world that wasn't a sequel, but this isn't it. This film almost is, it follows different characters and a unique plot but they ruin that by constantly referencing the previous film and even bringing in Motoko at one point to help the plot/characters.
This film is actually structured very similar to Ghost in the Shell. However while I really enjoy the mystery of The Puppet Master and the intrigue of the main character Major Motoko in that film, Innocence's plot is a whole lot less interesting to me and while the second half does get more interesting and the end does pay off quite well, I think this film takes a lot more time to get the viewer interested and invested in the story.
I think my favorite part of Innocence (and every other Oshii film I've seen) is the deep psychological questions it asks. I realize this is an trademark you can expect walking into a Mamoru Oshii film, but I think Innocence is the king of this. Also Innocence contains a LOT of references to other literary works also, from Asimov to The Bible to Richard Dawkins to Plato, Confucius and the Brothers Grimm. So much so that you can tell Mamoru Oshii put a lot of his own thoughts and meditations into this film, a lot of this though it works for the film, is not necessary to the film which in turn, makes it a very personal journey. This film really reminds me of The Red Spectacles (1987) because I felt that film was very similar in it's contemplations (and this film even has the cracked-out dream sequences that that film had too!), though I would say this film hands down, is a lot more successful due to years of more experience (and no weird tonal shifts!)
Though Innocence (2004) wont really work on it's own as well as it was inteded, it's still a masterful example of great animation and filmmaking and a very personal film for Mamoru Oshii. 4/5 Stars.
Well that concludes my week reviewing the films of acclaimed Japanese director Mamoru Oshii. If you missed it be sure to go back and check out my review of The Red Spectacles (1987) and my review of it's sequel StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991) and the amazing meta-film Talking Head (1992) and this film's predecessor Ghost in the Shell (1995). And check back this weekend as I've got one more related film (though not directed by Mamoru Oshii) for you as a special bonus.
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