Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

You might have guessed from the title of this blog that I've just finished watching a certain piece of anime, and you'd be right.

Ghost in the Shell 2 has been heralded as one of the most magnificent pieces of anime to see the world's shores in a very, very long time. I can tell you, right now, that this is a lie. GITS 2 is not a beautiful film, nor is it a great film, nor seminal, nor even passable good, in my opinion. Far from beautiful, in fact, I would call the most part of this film utterly grotesque, and not "beautifully grotesque" in the way that anime tends to be. I admit that the stomach churning mutilations and hints of sexual frustation, inadequacy and pedophilia spread across the whole of Neon Genesis Evangelion was portedly beatific, and could be seen as nothing but, but terror without respite to grace and form can never, ever be desirable.

"Innocence" is a term that belies the world weariness that is required to fully appreciate this piece. The amounts of degredation and long cultivated understanding to comprehend any of it is far beyond me. Even for those with experience of the world far beyond my own, atleast i summise, would be left mumbling in confusion, contorting their faces to vaguely resemble the waves of visual nausea that propel themselves along your optic nerves.

The questions it raises are uncomfortable as well, it cannot be denied. The main theme is the understanding of what it is to be human, something you don't earnestly figure out until well over half way into the film. The major part of the first half is setting up a rather loose story and then failing to follow it in the least. The most part of the film concerns itself with showing of the (poor) interaction between 3-dimensional set pieces and the 2-dimensional cast; either that or watching the bust of Batou, of the protagonists, sway slowly as he walks through a series of backdrops. I swear to God, atleast half an hour of this goddamned film was just Batou's head and shoulders, getting further away from a wall, maybe moving past a shelf or lampost and moving into and out of overhead lighting. I would have imagined that the nigh-on legendary Shirow Masamune could have mustered up a little more funding for his tour de force, his mythical magnum opus, but no, he had to go and spend the money on collectable urban vinyl figures to place around his computer room in comical positions. Well done Mr. Masamune, well done.

But anyway, concerning the theme: what is it to be human? I have always thought that if you can make an identical replica of a "thing", that does everything the original does in more or less the same way, then, in essence atleast, you have made a second "thing". Maybe it's a loose cross between the ideas of Schopenhauer and Socrates, with no real worldly relevance, or none that i can correlate, but I feel the idea holds merit. So, if we make a robot that does everything a human can do (and more), is it not still a human? Homo Machina? Is not a child just an inferior human? Do we not call it still human?

At the same time, it addresses the fear that humans feel at machines, at science as a whole, to breaking down nature into something quantifiable and then rebuilding it. In the same way that people were replaced in the industrial revolution, the fear that was felt at them is replicated throughout the film. Ultimately it leaves us questioning our use, our place in life and whether, if existence is so simple, is it worthwhile?

It's all a little heavy for a saturday night.

So, to refer you to the works of Todd Park Mohr and his coedifying of all that is great and good in the world of philosophy, I would like to tell you about a discussion had between the Buddha (as far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong!) and someone with a great yearning for knowledge.

One day, at a sermon of sorts, a man in confusion and inquiry asked the Buddha, "Oh Buddha, please, enlighten me! What is the meaning of life?" To which the Buddha merely presented the man with a flower and walked away.

No comments: