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Ghost in the Shell (1995) 4K Blu-ray Review

Ghost in the Shell has had several Blu-ray releases over the years, and not one of them measured up to the standards that the film deserved. The original 1995 film was the one that started it all; and spawned several TV series, a sequel film, and countless books. Yet the best fans could have was the disappointing Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Blu-ray from 2009.

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 was like the Star Wars Special Edition of anime. It was the result of some savant who decided that some scenes had to be arbitrarily modified to satisfy modern audiences, or to give them something new. This was a case of every new addition being violently inferior to what was already there.

A vulgar filter had been placed over many scenes and many instances of animation were replaced with jarring CGI that was out of place. Lionsgate Films have thrown their hat into the ring with a magnificent 4K Blu-ray of Mamoru Oshii’s enduring cyberpunk dystopian nightmare, and it is the definitive edition.

Ghost in The Shell (1995) 4K Blu Ray
Studio: Studio I.G.
Publisher: Lionsgate Films
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Release Date: September 8, 2020

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 was a crime against humanity. It is something everyone can now finally put behind them, because this latest edition from the boys at Lionsgate Films is Mamoru Oshii’s masterpiece preserved. There is no incongruent CGI, the original titles are restored, and the the colors have been gloriously restored.

The original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is preserved, and while the film may not have the vast anamorphic screen space, the artists use their real estate efficiently. This is the format most modern displays have, but anyone with ultra wide screens will get black bars on the sides of the picture.

This shockingly affordable package contains two discs: the 4K Ultra HD disc, and the Blu-ray disc. The Blu Ray disc is about what any fan would hope for: 1080p image quality with fine film grain through. The texture makes it feel so much more rich than the soulless, scrubbed 2.0 release.

The 4K disc is the real headliner in the package. This is about as good as Ghost in the Shell can possibly look. Image quality is native 4K (2160p), showing the maximum detail that Studio I.G. packed into the frame. Film grain is beautifully defined and with the right display, this would look like how it was shown in theaters.

This was made during when computer coloring began to become the standard in anime, and the results are a very cold looking film. Ghost in the Shell‘s aesthetics has slightly over exposed whites, creating a dream like haze through out many scenes. Light sources have a hint of smokiness in the air, adding to the atmosphere.

This is one of the most fully realized and grounded dystopian cyberpunk settings and everything looks lived in. Oshii’s adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga may not have been entirely faithful, but the man did an incredible job at visualizing a realistic depiction of the world he created.

It is 2029, and what it means to be human is almost lost since people can replace almost every piece of their being with cybernetic augmentation. Somewhere between being a political thriller and a philosophical science-fiction, Ghost in the Shell‘s plot involves a cyborg police woman investigating a case involving a hacker who can hack right into the brains of other cyborgs.

There are several memorable action scenes that define Ghost in the Shell- like the brawl with the thug, or the showdown with the spider-tank- but a lot of the substance of the film is during some heady dialogue scenes. Admittedly, some of these scenes do go on a bit long make the very lean run time of 83 minutes feel much longer.

There is a famous sequence where there is nothing happening, and the scene is just shots of a futuristic and filthy Hong Kong. It’s very atmospheric, dense with world-building details and shows how the old and new clash. The architecture is a disorderly labyrinth, like a metaphor of the infinite information we surround ourselves in during the age of the internet

Studio I.G.’s animation still holds up 25 years later. Oshii and his crew crafted some intense and striking visuals that will be burned into your memory. There are some scenes of bodily violence that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

The weaponry was given special attention. Characters will display authentic trigger discipline and motion like real operators. Even the damage caused by the weapons has an unmistakable attention to detail. Different weapons are shown to do different kinds of destruction on the same material.

Subtle shifts in weight and posture makes the character animation feel very lifelike and adds a ton of flair and personality. Details like the distance between eyes shifting ever so slightly to convey a bewildered expression in particular is very effective animation acting.

New and flashy subtitles that have a cool glow around them have been created. They do look a bit gimmicky, and take a while to get used to for anyone who has been seeing yellow text most of their life. Thankfully they chose a font that is easy on the eyes and fits with the cyberpunk feel.

This new release of Ghost in the Shell comes with several audio channels for both the original Japanese language track and the English across both discs. The Blu-ray disc has a very basic 2.0 PCM for the Japanese track, and an almost flat 5.1 for the English audio.

This is the bare minimum that can be accepted, and is likely the best that can be done with the old master for what Blu-ray can do. The 4K disc on the other hand pulls no punches, and goes Dolby Atmos for some hefty crunch to your sound system.

The special features are on the Blu-ray disc version. Included are two informative short videos about Ghost in the Shell‘s 25 year legacy, and details surrounding the design of the setting.

The commentary track features several animation industry experts and Richard Epcar (English voice of Batou), who is the only person in the commentary who actually had anything to do with Ghost in the Shell. The commentary track is mildly entertaining, with some interesting bits of information, but is otherwise forgettable.

The biggest missed opportunity was that there is no commentary by Masamune Shirow, the original artist and writer of the Ghost in the Shell manga. He is elusive and reclusive, rarely expressing much thought on adaptations of his work. It would have been interesting to finally hear what he has to say on the film that catapulted his creation to mainstream success.

This latest edition of Ghost in the Shell is the definitive way to experience it. The unparalleled image and sound quality ranks this release high, demoing classic anime in 4K. It has options for everyone; subs or dubs and no matter what, it will sound terrific.

If you already enjoy Ghost in the Shell, this is a must-own. Anyone who is interested in meta-physical sci-fi political thriller that has a deliberate pace should finally give this a watch. This is a film that poses heavy questions at the viewer, and some people may not be able to process. It is not for kids.

If you own Ghost in the Shell 2.0, you can throw it away. This is Ghost in the Shell as it was seen in theaters 25 years ago. The only other 4K anime film that can potentially eclipse this, is maybe Akira.

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The Verdict: 9

The Good

  • 25 years later, the animation and artistry is still some of the finest
  • Excellent acting for both language tracks
  • A deep philosophical script and masterful directing
  • Highly creative action scenes and shocking violent imagery
  • Superb image and sound quality of the original version of Ghost in the Shell

The Bad

  • For a film that is under 90 minutes, it feels like it drags at times
  • There needed to be a featurette focusing on Masamune Shirow
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A youth destined for damnation.