Today I experienced my first viewing of an Anime film (Ghost in the Shell) in my Digital Asia class…and let’s just say my engagement with the film was difficult as the conventions (other than knowing that characters have big eyes) of this genre are foreign to me. While i’ve never properly experienced an Anime text as I did today, I’ve always known that I’ve never been a big fan of this genre. But perhaps that stems from the fact that I’ve never really like cartoons. Nevertheless, —to my surprise— I found a few aspects of Ghost in the Shell quite intriguing and engaging.
The foreign conventions of Anime made it quite difficult for me to initially engage with the storyline of the film. For example, the fast-paced dynamic shots and the constant cutting from scene to scene and shot to shot made it quite difficult for me to understand what was going on…especially considering the film is animation, a few abstract shots left me feeling confused and disengaged as they came off as irrelevant and out of place for me. As a result, my mind wandered off to different places on my laptop.
While the cutting of shots appeared to be fast paced in the beginning, I noticed how —unlike Disney and Pixar animation —throughout the film, there was little movement of the characters, and more focus on the actual artistic detail of the characters and landscapes in the frames. This is another reason why I struggled to remain engaged as I found it quite boring and difficult to follow — especially after my sheer confusion with the first 15 minutes of the film. But I guess it also does not help my engagement when the film is science-fiction (I hate sci-fi!!).
I also found the constant nudity of the characters quite confronting as you never see such explicit images in cartoon form. But then again, I had to remind myself that this was not cartoon for young children, but anime! Such images left me wondering whether it could still be considered blatant nudity when Motoko was really a machine. Could a machine be naked? Although I did not appreciate how the producers had no problem in showing a naked female body, yet never showed a naked male body. It left me thinking that Motoko was objectified and sexualised in some instances.
While —regretfully— I was disengaged for quite a bit of the film, I found the underlying theme of the film quite interesting. Considering the film was made in 1995 and by traditional Japanese filmmakers, I was was surprised that such deep philosophical concepts on gender identity as well as selfhood and self-identity would be explored in such a film. The film appeared to be quite ahead of its’ time. I honestly did not expect an Anime film to confront me with the questions of ‘what it means to be human?’; ‘what is the purpose of life/being human?’ ‘Can an object or a machine have a soul?’ Nevertheless, I appreciated those thought-provoking moments when my eyes were glued to the screen.
Other aspects/themes of the film I found interesting included:
- The exploration of ethical considerations when balancing human life vs machinery
- The fact that the ‘hero’ was female was interesting and new as in Hollywood films, ‘heros’ are usually cast as men.
- Here, for a change, robots/machines appeared to be better than humans.
- The androgyny of the female character — she seemed feminine but also non-feminine.
- The ‘othering’ of the Western world
Finally, I appreciated the class discussion after we finished Ghost in the Shell as it helped me develop more of an understanding on the conventions of Anime. It also helped me to understand elements of the film I missed. It was actually quite nice to hear the views of others who are quite passionate about Anime. It’s always great to be exposed to new things and hear about different passions and hobbies you aren’t familiar with. While I know I will need to watch Ghost in the Shell properly again to understand and appreciate it better, I have definitely learnt that Anime has the capacity to explore really deep philosophical ideas in a sophisticated manner. I definitely appreciated the viewing of Ghost in the Shell. The tutorial forced me to do something I never thought I’d do — watch a sci-fi anime film, but I did and I appreciate it! It was definitely a unique experience.