Many films have recently been given a second or third (or more) treatment on Blu-ray. Sometimes these are revisions for the annals of history, slight editorial changes that hone the message of the film, or update the transfer to a newer, better resolution. Others bring with them a host of unreleased special features on the making of the feature so we can learn about the experience of making the movie. But others are simple repackaging of material we’ve already seen, collectors editions for the obsessive collectors among us (I say this lovingly as one of this group), with little changed but the cover. One such re-release was just presented on Blu-ray as GHOST IN THE SHELL was given the “Mondo X Steelbook” treatment, complete with a beautiful cover inlaid with artwork inspired by the original manga.
As I said, GHOST IN THE SHELL has now been released a total of 4 times on Blu-ray in North America. There is a standard edition 1-disc Blu-ray, a “Beyond High Definition” (heavily edited) edition titled GHOST IN THE SHELL 2.0, a 25th Anniversary edition (which I reviewed here), and now the Mondo X Steelbook Series edition. The fact that one of the most revered anime films in history is available with variable packaging isn’t unbelievable in today’s world, but the fact that most of these editions (including this “Mondo X Steelbook”) include almost zero special features despite the films cultural impact and deeply developed mythology is a mystery to me… and a caution to anyone looking to pick up another edition of this beloved film. Anime fans are avid but at what point do we stop shelling out for another edition with almost nothing new to offer?
If you don’t own it or haven’t seen it already, though, you should know: GHOST IN THE SHELL is a phenomenal film. With breathtaking animation that was truly groundbreaking when it was released, beautiful scenery and interesting characters, it struck a cultural nerve with audiences around the world. The prescient storytelling of Masamune Shirow (who created the Manga upon which this film, and the more recent live-action version, is based) feels more deeply disturbing to me today than it did upon my first viewing twenty-odd years ago. That may lend to age, experience, or to the fact that so many of the things that felt so ‘science-fictioney’ about this story in the original telling seem to be coming nearer and nearer to possibility.
GHOST IN THE SHELL is the story of a character named Major Motoko Kasunagi, a government agent who’s body has been heavily modified so she can be a more effective combat agent for the secretive Section 9, an elite special forces police division in Japan. Section 9 is currently on the trail of ‘the Puppetmaster’, who has been hacking into other’s brains and controlling them remotely to both obtain information and commit crimes. Section 9 is trying to uncover the reason for these hackings to stop them from potentially disrupting the security and peace in the world.
GHOST IN THE SHELL was lauded at the time of its release and it continues to be a major cinematic influence in both the science fiction and action genres, though as I said the story is growing less fantastic with the changing times. Earlier this year an artificial intelligence (AI) won a game called Go, a complicated strategy game with far more moves and countermoves than chess, against the world’s top players. These changes in the world all around us make GHOST IN THE SHELL feel both more prescient and more dated at the same time, but it’s still a pleasure to watch. I can’t recommend purchasing this specific Blu-ray but, if you don’t own it already, you might check this one out if you really like pretty cases.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.85:1) GHOST IN THE SHELL features a poor transfer. Rather than taking the opportunity to update the transfer or make some corrections, it appears to be the exact same digital image from some earlier releases.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The sound quality on both the English and Japanese tracks is worth checking out, very nicely done.
GHOST IN THE SHELL Mondo X Steelbook Series comes with an UltraViolet digital HD digital copy. Otherwise the Blu-ray is completely devoid of special features, which is more than disappointing, it’s insulting after the several previous versions with no special features or new footage.