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Ghost in the Shell (1995 Anime): Mondo Steelbook Blu-ray Review

Ghost in the Shell (1995): Mondo Steelbook Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Movie & Blu-ray Disc Details

Theatrical Release: February 2, 1996 (Japan Release: November 18, 1995) / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Mamoru Oshii / Writers: Masamune Shirow (manga), Kazunori Itτ (screenplay)

Japanese Voice Cast: Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko Kusana), Akio ?tsuka (Batou), Iemasa Kayumi (The Puppet Master), K?ichi Yamadera (Togusa), Tamio ?ki (Chief Aaramaki), Yutaka Nakano (Ishikawa), Tessh? Genda (Chief Nakamura), Mitsuru Miyamoto (Mizuho Daita), Kazuhiro Yamaji (Garbage Collector A), Shigeru Chiba (Garbage Collector B)

English Voice Cast: Mimi Woods (Motoko Kusana), Richard Epcar (Batou), Tom Wyner (The Puppet Master), Christopher Joyce (Togusa), William Frederick Knight (Chief Aaramaki), Michael Sorich (Ishikawa), Simon Prescott (Chief Nakamura), Richard Cansino (Mizuho Daita), Kevin Seymour (Garbage Collector A), Doug Stone (Garbage Collector B)

1.85:1 Widescreen / 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), LPCM 2.0 (Japanese) / Subtitles: English
Blu-ray Release Date: March 14, 2017 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25) / Steelbook in Clear Slipcover
Also available on Instant Video
Previously released as 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray ($9.96 SRP; September 30, 2014), Steelbook Blu-ray ($17.99 SRP; April 12, 2016), Special Edition DVD (January 11, 2005), DVD (March 31, 1998)

Buy Ghost in the Shell from Amazon.com: Mondo Steelbook Blu-ray • 25th Anniversary Blu-ray • Special Edition DVD • Instant Video

Tomorrow night, a major motion picture called Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson will be released to thousands of theaters all over the world. But nearly thirty years ago,
the same title was introduced in Japan as a manga. That manga became an animated feature in 1995, which went on to inspire several television series and the imminent ScarJo vehicle.

With Paramount's new movie opening, what better time than now to revisit the 1995 Japanese animated feature Ghost in the Shell? No better time, decided Anchor Bay Entertainment, who rereleased this popular anime in a "new" Steelbook edition Blu-ray two weeks ago. Anchor Bay released the film to Blu-ray back in September 2014 as a 25th Anniversary Edition. Then they gave it a new Steelbook edition in 2016 with a limited edition collectible 24-page book. Now, there's this new Mondo Steelbook, which includes Digital HD with UltraViolet but nothing else in the way of bonus features.

Ghost is set in the near-future. A hacker known only as The Puppet Master is believed to be responsible for an attack using an outdated virus. Two police officers fitted with augmented brains and cyborg bodies pursue the hacker, narrowing their efforts on a garbage collector whose memories of his wife and daughter are subject to doubts.

Cyborg-bodied police officers Motoko and Batou ride an elevator to their destination in the 1995 Japanese anime "Ghost in the Shell."

Few plot specifics of this sci-fi action film seem worth detailing. It runs just 83 minutes with a long end credits reel.
And it is nothing like the animation that America was producing at the time. This actually opened in Japanese theaters the day before Toy Story premiered at the El Capitan Theatre, a release that would initiate dramatic change in the world of feature animation.

Ghost bears more resemblance to the widely beloved fantasy films of Japan's Studio Ghibli, but it is darker. There is nudity, profanity, and violence. And there's enough of each to easily earn this an R rating had it been submitted to the MPAA. That makes it kind of a strange choice for PG-13 tentpole treatment, inviting some skepticism from fans of the anime as well as complaints from those perceiving the casting of Johansson as "whitewashing."

The animated Ghost boasts some creative setpieces, generating atmosphere from the settings it features. Some of its most compelling moments are those that play out with no more than music and Blade Runner-esque scenery, with rain falling over the post-World War III Japan. These are probably taken directly from the source manga. The film also raises some interesting ideas about the nature of humanity, consciousness, and one's soul. There's nothing too profound, but there's at least enough to distinguish this from the standard-issue action flick I'm guessing the live-action movie will be.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The disc here was authored in August 2014, so it seems safe to say it is identical to the two previous Blu-rays Anchor Bay has issued for the film. Ghost in the Shell does not quite possess the sharpness and clarity we expect on Blu-ray, probably due to its origins. Still, there's a good amount of detail to the presentation, which is mildly windowboxed within the 16:9 frame but measures 1.85:1. Some of the visuals are stylized to resemble security camera footage, making them look even worse. The default soundtrack is an English dub offered in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. It is okay. One line spoken from the back of a van is oddly a lot quieter than it should be. Otherwise, the mix is fine without really immersing you as a modern production might. English subtitles are offered, as is the original Japanese soundtrack in LPCM 2.0.

Ghost in the Shell gets the same menu for its third Anchor Bay Blu-ray release.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

As stated above, Ghost's only extra here is Digital HD.
(A trailer for the movie is actually attached to its end, though the movie stops playing before that can run.)

The full-color disc is held in a Steelbook which also includes the Digital HD insert. That Steelbook is topped by a clear slipcover that bears the title, some logos, and the back cover description.

On the animated menu, clips and static images hang over listings that kind of resemble a video game's.

This garbage collector's memory isn't what he thought it was in the 1995 Japanese animated feature "Ghost in the Shell."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This third North American Blu-ray release of the 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell offers the same audio/video presentation but with Digital HD and new Steelbook packaging. That hardly seems like cause for a repurchase, but it does make this as viable a first-time purchase as the other two for someone wanting to own it on Blu-ray. The movie didn't do enough for me to warrant a recommendation. However, if you're interested in the Scarlett Johansson movie or, against all odds, end up enjoying it, it might be worth checking out the animated movie on which it is based.

Buy Ghost in the Shell from Amazon.com:
Mondo Steelbook Blu-ray / 25th Anniversary Blu-ray / Special Edition DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Moana • Doctor Strange • The Secret Life of Pets
1995-96: Virtuosity • Whisper of the Heart • Toy Story • Space Jam
Sci-Fi Action: Renaissance • Jupiter Ascending • Looper • Ex Machina

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Reviewed March 29, 2017.



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