The original Ghost in the Shell is a compact, dense, and complex film. It’s a solid unit of artistic storytelling, so perfectly composed and self-contained, despite being connected to a manga series and eventual franchise. Of the Oshii movies I’ve seen (all the major ones), Innocence has persisted as my favorite — despite the departure of the Major, this is a work that engages me completely.
Too completely. And in fact, beyond me, much like when the Stand Alone Complexes start to curve down on their final arcs. But this is most of what I gathered:
So what’s going on here is Locus Solus had been using yakuza trades routes to traffick in these girls, and Jack Volkerson wanted to rescue them without putting himself in the crosshairs of the yakuza, so programmed the gynoids to malfunction and murder people, thereby attracting police. It’s one of these journeys of predestination unbeknownst to the hero. What kind of person is fated to reach this end laid out by the departed Volkerson? Not Togusa, family man.
Now the girls are free but Batou and the Major aren’t celebrating. Batou is angry, asks if this girl ever wondered about the robot she was overdubbing for this end. Making them commit suicide. We don’t think about the consequences, and that’s the ultimate point of criticism, that we don’t think about these things. But that’s only a step to the real end.
We engender dolls with human shape and features, try to mirror ourselves, as Haraway was talking about, but again, we don’t think about the consequences. And this is literalized by the final revelation of the case. The Major says that if the dolls had voices, they’d scream they didn’t want to be human.
This is a violation of forms. In the spectrum we have the Major, who has transcended her body, and Batou, the lonely man whose only humanity is embodied in a pet dog. How does the doll burdened with humanity color these two characters, what does it all mean? Well it’s just like what Kim was talking about. We don’t cry for the gutted fish. We need to expand our definition of life. Okay, that’s cool, I like that. But is that really what the movie is about?
This is where we return to the idea of the sequel. In the beginning, the people speaking for Batou’s loneliness are Togusa and Ishikawa, because he’s quiet about it. Clearly sensitive. But then we see what his personal life is like. There’s something missing.
Brian Ruh, in explaining the connection to the novel Locus Solus, mentions how this is a movie about grief. As the Major tells him, he hasn’t changed one bit, up to old habits like putting a jacket on her naked body, no matter what that body looks like.
So my question is how does the idea of coping with loss connect to the indicted idea of recreating ourselves? Dogs and robots and these things are individuals, they shouldn’t be overwritten. We shouldn’t try to recreate our image in them. The Major recreated herself, but didn’t coopt somebody or something, except for a gynoid, briefly. So that’s okay, but it leaves Batou in limbo. So maybe it’s not okay.
No, I think that now it’s time for Batou to understand what the Major did at the end of the first film. This is his movie, his journey, and so he has to put together the whole puzzle of the movie in order to be at peace. And the primary issue I think people have with the movie, is that there’s never an indication that he’s reached that point in the end. Character-wise, it’s an abrupt ending. But I think it’s all there. We assume that it’ll be okay, but for now, as the credits roll, the movie’s more about ideas than emotion.
Even still, overall there’s a deeply embedded message of hope. Batou has empathy for the gynoids in the end, and so his definition of life is broadened, expanded to now encompass the Major, who’s a mystery to everyone else. The Major will always be there for Batou, so he doesn’t have to let go because she isn’t gone. She’s become a guardian angel, this is one of her new forms, just like a gynoid or any other robot she can possess. She’s amorphous.
The first film is the Major’s, and the second is Batou’s. They’ve both played main, and now they’ve both played support. Much as we’d love to see a Ghost in the Shell 3: Guilt, it’s not necessary. The two movies compose a whole in that way sequels add and complete what began as complete. Ghost in the Shell is a great movie, and Innocence is somehow even better.