AKA: Kokaku Kidotai Arise: Ghost Whispers, Mobile Armored Riot Police: Arise -Ghost Whispers-
Genre: Cyberpunk/Action/Crime Drama
Year Released: 2013
Running Time: OVA, 56 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-MA
Related Films/Series: Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Ghost Pain-, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Ghost Tears-, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Ghost Stands Alone-, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Pyrophoric Cult-, Ghost in the Shell: AAA, Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie, Ghost in the Shell (2017 American Live-Action Remake), Ghost In the Shell: SAC 2045
For Fans Of: Texhnolyze, The Matrix, A Scanner Darkly, The Island, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Live Free Or Die Hard
-The English dub was used for this review.
-This is the 2nd of 5 films in the Arise prequel series. Watching Ghost Pain first is recommended given some of the progression of that plot.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: When Paz tries to cut Ishikawa with his knife, but only cutting part of his beard in the process, did anyone notice that Ishikawa was bending much like how Neo from The Matrix does when he’s dodging bullets? That’s a nod to a movie that acknowledged the influence of Ghost in the Shell. Oh, how things come full circle.
-The English VA of the Logicoma is played by Jad Saxton who you might know as Carla from Fairy Tale.
Alright, I get to tackle the second installment of the Arise prequels in the Ghost in the Shell universe. After checking out Ghost Pain, I wanted to see more with the Major trying to become this tough cyborg woman that everyone knows.
Ghost Whispers takes place right after the events in Ghost Pain where Motoko Kusanagi is trying to adjust to being a freelance agent while finding the right people for her own team. There’s a massive hacking spree going on in Newport City which affected the traffic systems, air control and Motoko’s Logicoma unit despite that machine being outdated in the context of Japan in 2027. This hacking has been tied to war criminal Colonel Soga who attacks people as he’s sentenced to be executed in a tribunal for the massacre of people in the fictional Kardistan (yes, I know it suspiciously sounds like Kurdistan, and I’ll leave it at that). On top of that, there’s a mysterious agent code-named VV who joins Motoko’s team who may know some things going on in Newport City.
The production values are still good as it continues from the first Arise film. I will say that there were some cooler elements this time around. The fight scenes are still great, but the visuals get really creative with some of the hacking scenes and especially the famous barrier shield scene. As Motoko’s mind is getting hacked, she’s “transported” to another world with a violet hue as she’s driving around on her motorcycle while pursuing an image of a younger Soga. It gets bizarre in it’s splendor as Motoko clones herself in this alternate reality in trying to find this rogue war criminal hacker. It then ends up where she’s underneath a sea of data while Soga is above in this heavenly sunlit sky with various hologram monitors. It needs to be seen to be believed in it’s execution. There was a minor hiccup with the Major confronting sniper Saito in a distant shot that looked off-model, but that was only for a few seconds and it didn’t hamper the overall effect of the animation quality. The CGI is still great and it is cohesive with the numerous futuristic urban environments.
The story is something that I found to be a slight improvement in Ghost Whispers. Sure, there was still the memory manipulation factor much like Ghost Pain much less the Ghost in the Shell franchise at large (let’s be honest here, GITS fans), but it’s not as emphasized as much compared to the previous Arise film. The stakes were much higher as not only the traffic control is out-of-whack, but even the AI systems in these vehicles get hacked as they accelerate without the driver controlling the speed or the brakes which reminded me of the firesale scenes from Live Free or Die Hard, but with a cyberpunk twist. It was also good seeing Motoko develop as a character when even she makes mistakes trusting the wrong people for her team even though she also has some good allies. I was unsure about the war crimes angle which made Soga look like an anti-hero at first with his memories of giving water to a refugee child, but I’m glad there was clarification as to why he thought that way in the final act of Ghost Whispers. There were some good plot twists and not all of them were reliant on the false memory/memory manipulation which was a relief although some of that plot device was used in a reasonable manner this time around. I really liked Logicoma in this film adding some needed comic relief. Two of my favorite quotes from her are “I have a false memory? Wow!” and “I’m all kinds of important today.” Her naivete was hilarious without being overbearing or saccharine. I’ll say that Jad Saxton had a lot of fun voicing that character in the English dub.
While I enjoyed Ghost Whispers, it’s not a perfect movie. I thought the war crime elements were forced when it came to giving heat on Soga. I’m glad there were some mysteries that were addressed, but it also sounded like other people in the military were culpable. Granted, I’m certainly not excusing Soga’s actions, but everyone else who was involved in that massacre (avoiding a certain aspect to avoid spoilers) and the fact that a conglomerate was in on this slaughtering of people should stand trial with Soga himself. I don’t know if this is further explained, but there was a missed storytelling opportunity with aspects of imperialism and potentially a metaphor for a military-industrial complex. That would have made this film braver and the topics are still relevant today. While I also get that Motoko is still starting out on her post-military career, I found some of her motivations confusing when she assembled her team. Why would she give people who have hurt her a spot besides their qualifications? This makes her partnership with Batou even crazier in hindsight given the stuff he does to her in Ghost Whispers alone which anyone could argue was worse than Ghost Pain. I also thought the VV character had some predictable elements. It was obviously her who was involved with the false memory with Logicoma despite not working for Sago, but I knew she was obviously hiding something from Motoko after they started working together. There was a legitimate surprise about what she really is and how it compares and contrasts to the Major’s inorganic body, but part of it involved a plot twist that wasn’t as clever as the creators thought.
The second installment of the Arise series was a bit better than the initial one. The production is still at high-quality, but with more creative usages of animation this time around. The music is more of the same, but I was a bit fond of the ending theme by Ichiko Aiba and Cornelius. The plot itself was more intense and I did enjoy some of the character development involved. There were some predictable elements when looking at the right signs and there were some missing plot opportunities with the Kardistan massacre which did downplay my grade. This was a good addition to the Ghost in the Shell series, and I do hope to see more of Arise in the near future.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re a Ghost in the Shell fan
Add 1 point if you like cyberpunk or crime dramas
Subtract 2 points if you want more straightforward action flicks
-Great visual production and creative scenes
-Logicoma’s humor sprinkled throughout
-Nice character development
-Lost storytelling opportunities
-Some of Motoko’s recruiting decisions
-Some plot twists aren’t clever enough
Final Score: 8/10 points
Content Warning: Definitely TV-MA still. There’s no nudity or sexuality in this Ghost in the Shell film which makes it slightly tamer in that aspect, but the violence is ramped up. There’s a character who does Russian Roulette in virtual reality and one character does shoot himself in real life. Limbs get blown off in the last 3rd of the film. There’s some blood and one fatality involves a child getting shot before a massacre happens. Some strong language is there, but it’s not as intense as the violence.
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