It’s time to get your nerd on. You ready?
Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 sci-fi “Ghost in the Shell” is often considered one of the best anime films of all time. For those who haven’t seen it, the film is about a female cyborg police officer in the (now much nearer) future who goes after a mysterious and dangerous hacker. The notion of identity plays a key role in the film, resounding as one of its primary themes. In the most recent addition to their “Understanding Art Case Study” video series, Nerd Writer drew an interesting correlation between identity and space (not as in outer space, but physical environment). Nerd Writer explains, “There’s a 3-minute and 20-ish second long scene in the middle of the animated, sci-fi action thriller ‘Ghost in the Shell’ that doesn’t really qualify as sci-fi, action, or thriller. It’s a sequence of 34 gorgeous, exquisitely detailed atmospheric shots of a future city in Japan that’s modeled after Hong Kong.” In just over 8-minutes, Nerd Writer brilliantly and in true nerdy fashion digs into this interlude, studying the role it serves and the themes it highlights in Oshii’s film.
Before it was a film, “Ghost in the Shell” was a manga series written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow that ran for 20 months in Japan, starting in April 1989. Thus, it makes perfect sense that Nerd Writer’s analysis comes from a solid and informed understanding of comic books and their structure. The video turns to Scott McCloud, a legendary comic book writer and illustrator who has written one of the most definitive books on how to understand the medium, for insight. As presented in the video essay, McCloud describes the transitions employed in the above-mentioned 34-shot sequence as aspect-to-aspect, a style ubiquitous in Japanese manga. In aspect-to-aspect framing, “time is virtually abandoned for the exploration of space.” Or, think about it from a different angle; “the emphasis is on being there, rather than getting there.” (In the States, by contrast, our comic book pages more traditionally employ action-to-action framing, wherein consecutive image panels are aligned to track action, often with very little time elapsing between each frame.)
These 34 brief shots collectively emphasize the themes ‘Ghost’ explores, cementing the bond between the characters and the world they inhabit. By infusing the film with the three-minute sequence at this precise spot, with its “strong break from the rhythm of the plot,” Oshii sews the notions of “city and body, network and ghost” together. Nerd Writer explains the point, “Spaces are made by humanity, but humanity is made by its spaces, too.” The video further points out, “To drive this home, the rest of the film is framed with characters set against the city they live in.”
Watch the full video below, and let us know your thoughts on the commentary and film.