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Ghost In The Shell: The New Movie (2015)

Ghost In The Shell has recently found itself making headlines thanks to the controversy surrounding the upcoming live-action adaptation. Forget all that for now though, as in animated form the franchise is still going strong, with this most recent theatrical outing, originally released in Japanese cinemas last year.  GITS has quite a complex history, existing in several different continuities.  There is the original manga, the classic 1995 movie and it's sequel and the Stand Alone Complex TV series, it's sequels and several spin-offs. All three have similarities but are separate and distinct from each other. Latterly though, it was made into Ghost In The Shell: Arise- yet another take on the universe, which focusses on a younger version of the cast before the Major and her allies joined Section 9. Ghost In The Shell: The New Movie, takes place within this continuity, with the Major working on assignment for S9, but not yet a full paid-up member.

The question is, do you need to have seen all of Arise to be able to understand this? In short no, but you will be at an advantage if you are familiar with the characters from previous iterations. Come having seen only Stand Alone Complex, for example and you'll be fine. The truth is that you couldn't see all of Arise even if you wanted to, as only the original OAV, and not the Television series- subtitled Alternative Architecture- have been released in English at this time.

The TV series contains an arc that sets up the film, but it's not essential to have seen it, nor any of the preceding video series for that matter. If you are a complete newbie to the world Ghost In The Shell however, this will be slightly harder- but by no means impossible- to follow, as there are few concessions to newcomers here.

The film involves the appearance of a ghost-infecting virus called Fire Starter, that leads to a series of deadly attacks, one of which results in the death of the Prime Minister. Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team are charged with getting to the bottom of it.

Arise was an interesting take on the material, as it seemed to combine elements from the movies and TV series to create something fresh. Although Production I.G. returned to the franchise that made their name, it was aesthetically quite different from the earlier incarnations. With the earlier versions so popular to this day, it's not surprising that many fans consider this to be a lesser incarnation.

Although occurring the Arise continuity, and retaining both the visual style and the Cornelius soundtrack The New Movie feels much more like old-school Ghost In The Shell. Maybe it's just because all the key players are back in the roles where we remember them- more or less- but tonally this feels much more in keeping with the earlier movies and shows. It seems unlikely that is a coincidence, considering the rather lukewarm reception Arise has received to date. Even if Arise left you cold, this is still worth a look.

This has everything you want from a Ghost In The Shell Movie- ghosthacking, spider-tanks, a spot of philosophising, ingenious future technology and most of all: the Major being generally bad-ass. The Major is one of the most iconic characters in anime and manga, and she has plenty of time to shine here, notably in the film's numerous exciting action set-pieces. The other characters such as Batou and Togusa are also now much more in line with the characters as we remember.

If the rest of Arise up until now was like the Casino Royale style reboot of the franchise, the new movie is its Skyfall. Continuing the world created in the earlier series, but smartly working in more familiar elements to create a glorious hybrid. In a wonderful touch, the film even ends with a scene that will be rather familiar to fans of the  Mamoru Oshii's movie. By the time the credits roll GITS fans will be feeling right at home.

The biggest issue The New Movie has is probably the fact that it isn't The Old Movie. The shadow cast by one of the undisputed classics of the Cyberpunk genre is considerable- and the TV series is held in a similarly high regard by many. In comparison, this can't help but come up short.

Still, this is not a million miles away from the TV show at least, delivering plenty of awesome action, wonderful (and totally believable) sci-fi concepts and plenty of cool visuals. With Production I.G. on board, you know that this is going to be a treat for the eyes at least- and it doesn't disappoint.

Ghost In The Shell- whichever incarnation you favour- presents arguably one of the most fascinating and absorbing sci-fi universes out there, with some of the greatest characters too. So even if this isn't the best GITS movie out there, it's always going to be fun to spend some more time in this world.

This is a franchise that is always entertaining, exciting and thought-provoking. This may not reach the heights of earlier parts of the cannon, but is easily the strongest part of the Arise series to date, and a highly enjoyable movie in its own right.