Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

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I’m still not sure what an “e-brain” is, but I’m pretty sure you need one to fully understand the technobabble that permeates Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

Thankfully, intimate knowledge of “e-brains” and the inner workings of cyborgs isn’t required to enjoy the sequel to Maromu Oshii’s anime classic, Ghost in the Shell, but a doctorate in philosophy might help.

In Oshii’s vision of 2032, humans mingle with “doll” and cyborg counterparts. Cyborgs, for those who don’t speak sci-fi, are mostly robotic but still possess some human traits. Oshii’s dolls are robots, with no human essence.

Batou, a cyborg member of the government’s elite Section 9 anti-terrorist unit, still has parts of his brain, enough to haunt him with the memory of a woman called the Major, and allow him to have unlimited affection for his dog.

For those who missed the first film, it helps to know that the Major was a cyborg cop who discarded her body, or “shell,” to become pure soul and disappear into cyberspace.

In Innocence, Batou is a loner, pining for the Major. This time, he is paired with a young detective, a family man, to investigate a murder committed by a sexbot gone bad.

As the barely human Batou and his human partner investigate the sexbot’s malfunction, they expound on centuries worth of philosophy about humanity — what it means to have a soul and what makes us human.

Throughout the film, Oshii has characters frequently quote Confucius, Grimm, Asimov and Descartes as they sort through a complicated series of clues.

The incomprehensible technobabble (I’m still uncertain how to define “e-brain.”) is forgivable. That’s typical sci-fi stuff, and this is a story about robots and terrorist hackers.

The relentless pontification about the human spirit, however, drags on and on, detracting from the real artistry of the film. The rampant navel-gazing gets in the way of enjoying some really cool animation.

The gothic, futuristic world created by Oshii and the animators at Japan’s Production I.G. studio is dark and ominous, littered with skyscrapers and communication towers. Some scenes, however, are ablaze with color, especially a particularly hypnotic scene of a festival in a temple, and a trippy hallucination sequence involving Batou’s partner.

Watching the animators play with this futuristic word is fascinating. Listening to Oshii’s dissertation on the human spirit, on the other hand, is not.

Showing at the Main Art Theater, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak. Call 248-263-2111 for more info.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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