Following up a landmark work like Ghost in the Shell (1995) surely would have been daunting – and maybe exciting too – even for an ace team that worked on the first film.
And if you’re thinking of watching Innocence, I reckon you’ll quickly see where this one takes a lot of steps to both differentiate itself from its predecessor while at the same time feature enough links to the past to satisfy most viewers.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Inosensu) 2004
The first thing I noticed was the colour palette – while GITS used lots of blues, greens and white throughout, Innocence relies on browns, orange and yellow quite often.
The other obvious thing fans of the original will notice is that CGI is fairly heavily integrated to the 2D animation here. For me, this is a bit of a deterrent actually, as I feel too much of that early-2000s CGI just doesn’t gel as smoothly, at times looking a bit like game graphics rather than feature film visuals.
Of course, that’s a little unkind – it’s still arresting imagery. And often the shadow and lighting are fantastic from scene to scene, and while things like the super slick cars stand out, the parade scene is truly stunning.
However, since the storyline didn’t grip me as I thought it would, I found myself more inclined to focus on the visuals and thus notice when they didn’t always feel ‘right’ compared to what I’m used to with newer film.
Still, it was fun to see returning characters – like Togusa (Kōichi Yamadera – who you may know as Spike from Cowboy Bebop) and of course, main character Batou (Akio Ōtsuka, who I recognised as Captain Nemo from Nadia).
And where the story falls down a little for being a somewhat like collection of impressive scenes rather than a driven cyberpunk/thriller narrative, there’s still something compelling about Batou’s morose determination – though I wished we’d seen a little more of him post the climactic scenes.
If you’ve never seen Innocence maybe consider doing so; because while I don’t think it’s a classic, there really must have been a lot of love and labour put into this ‘stand alone sequel’ (as Mamoru Oshii intended), and not just due to the budget.*
*You might notice Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki in the credits – I believe he was contacted to help finance the film’s giant budget 🙂