My favorite Japanese movie is hard to pick, because I love Japanese movies in general and I like quite a lot of them specifically. There are too many TV shows I’d like to mention. However, one of the movies that I like the most is Ghost in the Shell, the original animated movie by Mamoru Oshii. It was one of the things that really cemented my love of Japan and its culture.
The movie Ghost in the Shell had a huge impact in the United States. Before movies like Ghost in the Shell and Akira, animated movies were seen as childish, as only films for children. There were plenty of Disney films, but even those with more mature themes like Bambi were largely still for children. Ghost in the Shell is unapologetically adult, in its themes as well as the violence depicted in the film. It was more than just a cool film about androids and robots but dealt with more serious themes and what it means to be human. It is also really beautifully animated, with great music, and a really interesting setting.
I can’t remember the first time that I saw the movie; but I am sure that it must have been when I heard about it and rented it from the local video rental store. I was pulled in right from the beginning of the film. The visuals and the music were really captivating: from the first assassination scene to the dream the main character Mokoto Kusanagi has of her body being created. She dreams of the “birth” of her body, and it visually drives home the sense of doubt that the character has about her identity and whether or not she is really human. The movie’s plot continues along with an intriguing plot about international and corporate espionage and a rouge AI hacker. It is set in a cyberpunk futuristic city in Japan.
The movie continues with a plot about what it means to be human, especially as technology changes our understanding of what being human means and as we become more connected to technology and to the net. The movie contains a really cool fight sequence with the main character fighting a tank and the movie gets more interesting from there. I love watching the movie, even though the original English dub is not always perfect. Ghost in the Shell was based on a manga series by Shirow Masamune, and after the film came out it went on to have two tv series (Stand Alone Complex 1 and 2), and a sequel animated film. I have seen all of them, and even played one of the games. I deeply love the series that it spawned, except for the live action movie that I refuse to see.
Through the film I was eager to see other films like it and have ended up seeing a huge amount of movies. I really like how varied and interesting so many Japanese films and media are. It becomes more interesting, I feel, the more you learn about Japanese mythology and history because archetypes of characters become easier to predict and understand. You will see the same types of characters in different movies and TV shows, in games and books, and it makes it all the more interesting. Ghost in the Shell is a great movie and if you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to see it.
cement (verb) – to make a relationship, an agreement, etc. stronger
unapologetically (adverb) – without saying or showing that you are sorry about something, even in situations in which other people might expect you to
captivating (adjective) – taking all your attention; very attractive and interesting
cyberpunk (adjective) – stories set in an unpleasant imaginary future world controlled by technology and computers
archetype (noun) – the most typical or perfect example of a particular kind of person or thing
owe it to oneself (idiom) – to deserve to do something enjoyable