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Ghost in the Shell, Mamoru Oshii's 1995 animated film adaption of Shirow Masamune's classic manga about a cyborg policewoman in Post-Cyberpunk Japan, condenses the original manga's plot by focusing entirely on the "Puppet Master" story; it also takes a much more serious tone than the manga. The film's visuals, action sequences, and (controversially) large amount of both philosophical ponderings and technobabble all but defined Western conceptions of anime for the better part of a decade.The film's story takes place in a post cyberpunk future where cybernetic bodies have become the norm and society conceptualizes a person's mind/soul as their "Ghost". Major Motoko Kusanagi, a female cyborg and the leader of a covert government task-force specializing in cybercrime, finds her team chasing a notorious hacker called "Puppet Master" who "cyber-hacks" the brains of innocent people and implants memories to turn them into his unwitting accomplices.The 2004 sequel, GiTS 2: Innocence, revolves around Motoko's team working to solve a rash of murders involving berserk robots while dealing with her absence. This film featured heavy use of integrated CGI and cel animation — and it explored the Uncanny Valley even further than the first film.A remastered version of the film, Ghost in the Shell 2.0, saw the light of day in 2009; among other changes to the film, this version mixed in modern-day CGI with the original animation (in the vein of Innocence), all under the supervision of Oshii. (A high-definition transfer of the original version of the film came with the Blu-ray version of 2.0.)The Wachowskis cite the first film as a direct influence on the Matrix films, so much so that even the Wachowskis themselves think of Ghost in the Shell as The Matrix's spiritual predecessor.This film has no relation to the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex other than the source material.
Ghost in the Shell contains examples of the following tropes:
Potentially justified, given the only naked bodies we see are of full prosthetic ones. Nipples would be purely cosmetic, but there's no need for genitalia if the body is not meant for sexual activity. The Major in particular is usually remarked upon as having a body that looks "stock" but is actually packed with military-grade hardware.
Also the Puppet Master's borrowed body at the end.
And again with the driver of the decoy car who gets shot through the windshield. Utter bloody mess.
Brain Uploading: The Puppet Master installs its own ghost into an empty body. And at the end of the film, into Kusanagi's when the body is destroyed.
Brainwashed and Crazy: The sanitation worker who's trying to hack into a government official's brain turns out to have been under the control of the Puppet Master and has no recollection of anything (see Mind Rape).
Crippling Overspecialization: Discussed. When Togusa asks the Major why she brought him along on a mission, she replies that his different skill set as an organic will balance out the team. This foreshadows the Puppet Master's reasons for wanting to merge with her.
Darker and Edgier: Compared to the series and to a lesser extent, the manga. Most of the comic relief is dropped, and what little remains is much darker in nature. The characters, all of whom are quite talkative in the manga, become morose and introspective. The visuals are very dark as well, with most outdoor scenes taking place either at night or under overcast skies.
Ethereal Choir: The film's recurring theme, which plays over the opening credits, is sung a capella over percussion. The lyrics are in archaic Japanese and are derived from a wedding chant, which ties into a theme (the marriage of humans and machines) of the film.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Kusanagi is still called "Major" despite not holding that rank at the time of the film, out of respect.
Explosive Instrumentation: Subverted. It seems like the Puppet Master makes the computer banks explode when it's recovered from Section 9 headquarters, but it's actually Section 6 mooks using thermoptic camouflage.
Explosive Overclocking: The high-velocity rounds used by a criminal overload the firing mechanism of his gun, ruining the barrel.
Face Nod Action: The ambassador's two guards, just before firing on the police.
Fake Memories: A man's entire past (including his family) is revealed to have been implanted by hackers. He's grief-stricken when he finds out.
Fantastic Racism: When the Puppet Master requests asylum, the response of the government officials is to deny it's a sentient being, though it clearly is. Interestingly, cyborgs seem to suffer no such discrimination, only androids (most likely because cyborgs are human in spite of their modifications, but androids are artificial).
Hearing Voices: When both Motoko and Batou hear the voice of the Puppet Master reciting the passage from The Bible, "But for now we see through a glass darkly." He uneasily asks her if she's the one who said it.
Hero Tracking Failure: In the original (1995) movie the Spider Tank keeps firing behind Major Kusanagi as she runs along a wall and backflips up a flight of stairs.
IKEA Weaponry: Motoko assembles a more powerful rifle from a suitcase to take on the Spider Tank — for all the good it does.
Improbable Aiming Skills: Not that much, but there are a few examples, such as shooting out a car's tires or being able to hit a moving vehicle in the license plate. Possibly justified by cyborgs with augmented reflexes doing the shooting.
Not in the plate's case; Togusa's fully human aside from a basic head-computer. He's just that damn good.
Mind Rape: "Ghost-hacking", or essentially hacking into a person's brain in order to force them to commit crimes. Some sequences indicate just how it looks to the hijacked individual - it's chillingly unclear where the individual's true perception ends and the hack begins until the connection breaks down.
Mobile-Suit Human: Cyborgs are more or less brains in robot bodies (and not even all of their brains may be original, as they speculate).
More Dakka: All over the place. There are the submachine guns that Section 9 carries, the Spider Tank's miniguns, and a criminal who uses armor-piercing bullets in a Micro Uzi.
Never Gets Drunk: During the diving scene, when Motoko starts getting philosophical about herself, Batou asks her if she's drunk. She responds that as a cyborg, their bodies can fully process alcohol in less than 10 seconds when ordered to do so, so they could even be drunk while waiting for contact from work but respond to the call fully sober.
Older Than They Look: At the end of the first film Batou puts the Major combined with Project 2501 into the body of a child. She asks if he goes for that sort of thing. He reminds her that he had to go to the black market - they didn't allow him the luxury to choose.
One-Woman Army: Kusanagi is easily the most badass member of Section 9, taking on (and almost defeating) a giant robotic tank all on her own.
Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: Kind of. Although there are very advanced-looking 3D monitors, the GPS system that Section 9 uses to track criminals is like a bare-bones Google Maps.
Revolvers Are Just Better: As Togusa finds out. Apparently an entire clip from a 9mm can't pierce a car's frame, but a single slug from a revolver can. Justified in that the trace slug was meant for the far softer license plate.
"With an automatic, you could have buried two trackers."
Ridiculously Human Robots: Cyborg bodies can do practically anything human bodies can (including drinking alcohol and having sex) but are much stronger.
Roofhopping: Section 9 does quite a bit of it, augmented by their cyborg bodies.
Rule of Cool / Stripperiffic: Kusanagi goes into battle three times using her thermoptic camouflage bodysuit, which is tight enough to leave very little to the imagination. At the climax, it's revealed that she's not wearing anything underneath it.
Say My Name: Batou, when Kusanagi is shot by the police helicopter.
Schizo Tech: Sentient AI and full-body replacements exist alongside satellite phones.
Stalker with a Crush: The Puppet Master towards Motoko. It's joked about that he/it may be in love with her.
Super Drowning Skills: Kusanagi enjoys diving, a risky hobby for cyborgs, who rely on their floaters as a skydiver would their parachute
A form of Fridge Brilliance, since her body was created in a tank full of transparent fluid.
Three-Point Landing: The Major does a series of jumps to scale a building, and lands like this on the final jump with enough force to crumple the roof she lands on.
Tomato in the Mirror: Kusanagi is motivated by a need to come to terms with her own humanity as a cyborg who must hunt down an artificial lifeform.
Call Back: Numerous references to the first movie:
The opening credits sequence visually and musically echoes the "Making of A Cyborg" sequence from the first film, as does the mid-film montage of scenes in the city set to a reiterated version of the opening theme.
The password to Batou's car is "2501", just like he said it was at the end of the first movie.
During a conversation with Ishikawa, Batou remarks that "I liked you better when you were the quiet type", a humorous Lampshade Hanging on the fact that Ishikawa only had a few lines of dialogue (most of them exposition) in movie #1.
The "BAJIDU" brand dog food that appears briefly in the first film shows up again as Batou's brand of choice for Gabriel, even retaining the exact same package design.
When Motoko first appears to Batou in Kim's mansion, she assumes the form of the child's body she had at the end of the first movie.
After he's brain-hacked, Batou asks Togusa how he knows his wife and child aren't simulated experiences and he isn't just a bachelor living in an empty apartment, a reference to the experience of the Puppet Master victim whom Togusa had interrogated in the first film.
When Batou dives underwater to infiltrate the Locus Solus factory, he remarks that he used to know a cyborg who went scuba diving in her spare time.
After Kusanagi enters one of the gynoids and they take down the swarm of attackers together, Batou places his vest on the gynoid's naked body, just like he covered the nude Kusanagi with his jacket in the first film.
During the climax of the film Motoko destroys the arms of the body she's occupying attempting to open a hatch. Just to cement the homage, the music in this scene briefly adopts the theme used at the climax of the first movie.
Deus ex Machina: Averted. The Major coming back from Cyberspace to save Batou might appear to be one, but if you pay attention it's obvious that she's been watching him at least since the convenience store; her voice warns him that he's on a kill-zone. Also, the little girl sitting on the floor in Kim's mansion is the artificial body that Batou placed the melded Puppet Master/Major in at the end of the first movie, and her final comments imply that she is everywhere, and always looking after Batou.
Fan of the Past: People in the future's obsession with the past is a recurring motif in the film, as demonstrated by the constant quotation of classic philosophy and literature and the striking festival sequence. In addition, there appears to be a popular market for 50's-style carshells constructed around modern electric vehicles.
Fate Worse Than Death: The killer FembotSex BotGeisha hookers are revealed to be hosting copies of the ghosts of kidnapped young girls, in order to make them behave more like humans. Geez, no wonder they went berserk.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: It's just for a second, but when Batou confronts the mob boss after having murdered a dozen thugs and defeated the cyborg with the "crab claw", the latter appears to have crapped his pants!
Morality Pet: Batou may be a cold, hardened antihero, but the innocent Gabriel brings out his humanity.
No Koreans In Japan: Kind-of averted; there are at least two explicitly Korean characters (Lim and Kim) and numerous Chinese characters in Innocence, but it's never stated whether the movies are set in Japan to begin with. New Port City is modeled after Hong Kong (right down to having street signs written in Chinese characters), and even though the main characters all have Japanese names, the city's inhabitants appear to be a pan-Asian cultural melting pot. When Batou and Togusa visit the island of Etorofu (which is stated to have "iffy" territorial status), they witness a Taiwanese festival and encounter the aforementioned Koreans.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: Togusa's response to a creepy cyborg dressed like him ranting about the Uncanny Valley. The final scene of the movie seems to imply that Togusa is resisting a valid but uncomfortable moral.
Three-Laws Compliant: The gynoidgeishas...at least, until a shipping inspector trying to free Locus Solus's imprisoned girls tampers with their "ethics code", leaving them free to kill others and themselves.
Uniformity Exception: Batou invades a manufactory ship that is making illicit gynoids. When the gynoids swarm him, Major Kusanagi takes over one of them to lend a hand. He puts his jacket on her shoulders, a technically pointless gesture that serves both as a Call Back to the previous film and to easily distinguish Kusanagi from the dozens of gynoids that she is fighting.
Author Appeal: Mamoru Oshii is very fond of basset hounds, even expressing a desire to be reincarnated as one. During the Scenery Porn scene in the first movie, a basset hound is shown. In Innocence, Batou has one as a pet.
BFG: Probably not the only occurrence, but in the climax of the first movie, Batou shows up with what amounts to a cross between an oversized shotgun loaded with (appropriately oversized) deer slugs and a shoulder-mounted artillery cannon.
Major: "What'd you use?" Batou: "Your standard-issue big gun."
Bottomless Magazines: Averted. The characters are clearly shown stopping to reload frequently, and in the first movie, a thug being chased by Section 9 checks how many bullets he has left in his magazine. Motoko's strategy against the Spider Tank at the film's climax even involves waiting for its gun attachments to run out of ammo. Continued in Innocence with Batou frequently reloading during shootouts and almost running out of ammo to hold off the rampaging gynoids while Kusanagi's borrowed body is immobilized.
Buddhism: Both movies are full of it, a lot of it revolving around the Major's doubts about her own identity and the nature of "ghosts". The main symbology is mostly Christian, as opposed to the manga's explicit Buddhism; this was a conscious decision by Mamoru Oshii, a former Christian and a priest candidate who enjoys implementing pseudo-Christian symbology to his works.
In Innocence, while the CGI and animated elements meld together, the transition between a fully CG landscape and one containing a mix of animation and CG is very apparent. According to Oshii, the CG sequences were supposed to tap into the Uncanny Valley.
Ghost in the Shell 2.0 likewise contains somewhat jarring bits of CGI. Far more jarring, since it constantly flips between early 90's style animation and 21st century CGI. They don't fit together very well, especially when occasionally even the characters are turned into CG.
Cowboy Cop: In both films (Innocence in particular) Batou is unafraid to ignore orders and take the law into his own hands. In Innocence this puts him (oftentimes humorously) at odds with cautious straight-man Togusa.
Laser Sight: The snipers' targeting lasers are invisible except when viewed through Batou's eyes, presumably because his cybernetic eyes can see special frequencies and/or can intelligently amplify faint straight-line scatter. note Real snipers do not use laser sights.
Man in the Machine: Kusanagi and Batou, being full-body replacement cyborgs (their brains are the only natural part of their bodies).
Matrix Raining Code: The inspiration. Used prominently in the title sequence and conspicuously replaced in 2.0.
Mind Screw: Both movies, but especially Innocence.
Section 9 is named after real-life German counter-terrorism unit GSG 9 (Border Guard, Unit 9).
Despite the barrage of literary and philosophical references in Innocence, the only character who actually falls under this trope is the forensics inspector Haraway, named after scholar Donna Haraway.
Our Souls Are Different: A person's consciousness, or their "ghost", is unique and impossible to replicate. It's also thought that machines cannot spontaneously generate one... until the Puppet Master proves this wrong.
Robotic Assembly Lines: The title sequence of the original movie shows Kusanagi's body being assembled in a factory. This is repeated in the opening of Innocence with the construction of a Locus Solus gynoid.
Scenery Porn: At least one scene in each of Mamoru Oshii's films exists for this purpose and this purpose alone. Ghost in the Shell is no different.
Scenery Gorn: There are also montages of polluted rivers, rundown buildings and garbage heaps. Could double as Gaia's Lament in this case.
Sherlock Scan: Batou does this in several scenes with his cybernetic eyes. In the first movie they allow him to scan a crowded marketplace and instantly pick out the criminal he's pursuing.
Shout-Out: Numerous homages to Blade Runner, the franchise's primary visual and thematic inspiration. In one scene in Innocence', for example, Togusa asks Batou if his dog is "real" or a clone, since "originals are expensive".
Shown Their Work: Batou's weapons handling is just what the military teaches - weapon at the shoulder and fire short, controlled bursts. He does hold the trigger down on his SAW in Innocence, but presumably the enhanced strength of his cybernetic body allows him to better control the recoil (which was confirmed in the manga); he certainly succeeds at clearing the room with it.
Your Head A Splode: The animation crew seemed to have liked these quite a bit; there's a head asploding in some form or fashion at the beginning and end of each movie. To quote IGN:
"Ghost in the Shell opens with what might be the most technically impressive rendition of an exploding head in the history of Japanese animation, and if you know your Japanese cartoons, you know that's a hell of an accolade."