Director Rupert Sanders took his turn in adapting anime into live action films, taking Shirow Masamune’s classic manga “Ghost in the Shell” to the silver screen.

Humankind entered the next stage of its evolution through the “rebirth” of Mira Killian who received a synthetic body from Hanka Robotics. Dr. Ouelet, the lead designer and scientist told Mira that she lost her parents due to a devastating attack and the company saved her by replacing her mortally wounded body with a new one. The only part of her that they preserved was her brain. Not wasting the opportunity, Hanka CEO Cutter had her join the government’s anti-terrorism force. Shifting to a year later, now Major Mira became an integral part of Section 9’s team due to her diligence and her efficiency thanks to her advance “shell.” While a large amount of time passed, it seemed that it was not enough for her to get completely used to the mechanical body. Problems arose with Section 9’s latest mission against a powerful and elusive hacker named Kuze when Major started to see strange “glitches.” She must figure out how Kuze gained his power and knowledge while uncovering the secret hidden within her shell.

There is always a risk when taking the story from a franchise with a large following and adding your own twists. Devoted “GITS” fans might be able to spot what aspects from the original manga and 1995 anime film Sanders and the production team used such as 1980’s vehicle designs with a cyberpunk flair. The movie give viewers a good amount of action and the special effects make the futuristic world Masamune made a bit close to reality. While Scarlett Johansson plays a nearly apathetic Major, it is quite fitting for someone who is out of place, not comfortable neither as human nor robot. Portions of the script may bluntly mention the main points of the movie, but one with a keen eye might notice a bit of social commentary on race and cultural assimilation.

It is easy to understand the frustration some fans feel when the new narrative derails from the source, especially when it changes some of the essential characters and events. This live-action adaptation definitely has an outer shell that visually represents the setting of “GITS” but the core story is a synthetic copy that is not equal to its primary version. It is a shame because if it was a stand alone film without the franchise title, it may have gotten better reception. In order to enjoy this movie, expectations should be thrown out.

Fans luckily will have more anime to look forward to since Production I.G. announced that a new project will be directed by Kenji Kamiyama of their 2009 “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” series and Shinji Aramaki of the “Appleseed” films. Little is known what direction it will go and whether it will be following any of the franchise’s previous installments.
For more information on the live-action film, visit the official site. Kodansha Comics both has Shirow Masamune’s original manga and the “GITS: SAC” books available for English readers. Funimation has the latest anime series “Ghost in the Shell: ARISE” on its streaming service while Hulu has all of “GITS: SAC” and the animated films.

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