Ghost In The Shell by Andrew Osmond (book review).

Probably in common with a lot of the audience who have seen the 2017 live action film ‘Ghost In The Shell’ starring Scarlett Johansson, I was aware that the story originated as a Japanese anime title, but otherwise I had no idea about its background. In fact, my knowledge of the genre is rather paltry and this became evident as I read through Andrew Osmond’s fascinating history of the film. This 120 page book, animated with stills from the anime film, gives the entire history of ‘Ghost In The Shell’, focusing on the 1995 anime version and discussing the live-action film in its relationship to the overall franchise.

After the first chapter of the book discussing the plot of the anime film, the story of goes back to the beginning of the original manga comics, which comprised several linked episodes totalling 350 pages eventually. Various chapters and sections of the book then discuss the manga version and its creator, Masamune Shirow, as well as his other work and how he came to collaborate with director Mamoru Oshii on the anime film. Oshii’s other films are also discussed as well as his style and recurring motifs which culminated in ‘Ghost’ becoming his most popular film. The film’s sequels and reboot are also discussed and there is much cross-referencing the artists, scriptwriters and musicians who worked on several of these films and TV series. I felt like I was getting a good insight into the world of manga and anime and the elements that make these popular in Japan.

Andrew Osmond has written several other title on the subject of anime and shows his knowledge of the subject here in the profusion of quotes from numerous obscure sources that he has brought together. Many of them are quotes from various interviews, particularly with director Mamoru Oshii, which add together to form an insightful picture of the man and his work. There are also comparisons with numerous other anime titles, most of which were unfamiliar to me except ‘Battle For The Planets’ which was my favourite childhood cartoon, but turns out to be a reworked, Anglicised version of the original Japanese series.

I watched the live action film the day before I started on the book so that it was fresh in my mind, then watched the anime version when half-way through the book. The unplanned advantage this gave me was that I could pick up on lots of the points made by Andrew Osmond as I watched: the eerie music; the lighting and animation effects; the significance of the characters’ philosophising and of things that tied into the original manga but were left unexplained in the film and the way the tone of some scenes differs in the English dub compared to the original Japanese.

I enjoyed both versions of the film, though I can see why fans of the original would find fault with the remake, but then that’s not a problem unique to this film. Andrew Osmond’s book was a great companion to both and really deepened my appreciation of the film and the story behind it, as well as the wider world of anime.

Gareth D Jones

October 2017

(pub: Arrow Books. 120 page illustrated square softcover. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-99330-602-0)

check out website: as its cheaper direct

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