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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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Ghost in the Shell: Innocence 2 (Absolute Edition) [Blu-ray]

(aka "Innocence")

 

(Mamoru Oshii, 2004)

 

NOTE: This is the Deluxe edition re-release of Mamoru Oshii's "Innocence" on Blu-ray.

 

 

 

 

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Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: I.G. Cinema Selection

Blu-ray: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Japan

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 100 min

Chapters: 20

Size: 50 GB

Case: Heavy metal case (slightly thicker than standard blu-ray size)

Release date: August 6, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec:

 

Audio:

Japanese Dolby True HD 6.1; Japanese DTS HD Master Audio 6.1

 

Subtitles: Japanese, or English

 

Extras:

• Conversation with filmmakers in the context of new movie

• Trailer in audio and video HD for The Sky Crawlers

• Promotional inserts

 

 

 

The Film:

[see review of the original Blu-ray release (with subtitles) located on DVD Beaver HERE]

 

Following upon his first Ghost in the Shell animé feature film, as if two entire TV series did not exist between them, Mamoru Oshii picks up after Major Kusanagi retires herself (sort of like Dr. Who, I always thought).  Batou, her bionic partner in the special police unit known as Section 9 that investigates cybercrime, together with Togusa, one of the younger, mostly human, cops (with a family, no less), is now looking into the murders of owners of robot-dolls by the dolls themselves who, in turn, self-destruct.

 

I've seen the movie three times now, twice on SD-DVD and just now on Blu-ray.  I can't say that I can follow the convolutions of the plot exactly – not, I suspect, because it is opaque or confusing – though there are those aspects, but because I get utterly caught up in the astonishing visuals, the music and the soundtrack.  From its first frames, we are aware that Ishii has taken the art form in a new direction – as did Wagner between the second and third acts of Siegfried.  Purists will have complained about so much CG in what, after all, had been a fairly static presentation, with time-honored, if parochial, conventions: Animé should be thought of as a comic book in motion, rather than a stand-in for real people and places.  This is why jaws go up and down, but lips don't sync, and why backgrounds are relatively immobile, and why lateral motion is so staggered, suggesting movement from graphic pane to graphic pane.

 

Over the few years since the movie's release I've read the occasional review, hoping to gain some further insight into its context.  I can only say that there are some disappointed critics out there.  One of their complaints was how much intellectualizing and philosophizing there was in this movie – as if that isn't what characterizes animé more than any other cinematic medium – and that the sheer volume of dialog threatened to overwhelm the story.  But I suspect that many are simply not up to the task of sifting through the layer upon layer of interdependent literary, philosophical, cultural and political references.  Not that that I'm that much more astute – I'm just reluctant to kill the messenger just because I don't get it.  I was fully prepared to write a review that would say just about that much and throw in some nice comments about the picture and sound and, hopefully, not embarrass myself.   But then . . .

 

Last week I had a few friends over to choose whatever BD they wanted to watch and, to my surprise, they picked Innocence.   True, they were enticed by the brief segment I played (you can probably guess which), but what really got their juices going was the screenplay (in translation, no less) and how the visuals supported it.  So, without getting into the plot, here's their summary (with many, many thanks to Lee Chen & Michael Barry).  There's a feast to chew on here, so sit back and make yourself comfortable:

 

The film, Innocence, expresses an acute cultural anxiety through its use of simulacra, namely dolls, ghosts, puppets, cyborgs and prosthetically modified humans.  It draws heavily on the tradition of early twentieth-century literature that invokes anthropomorphized objects (especially those with human form) to make social and metaphysical commentaries and criticisms.  The primary references here are E. T. A. Hoffman’s short story Der Sandmann (the inspiration for the ballet, Coppélia) and Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies.  Both works attempt to position the human between the material/mechanical world of puppets and the immaterial/spiritual world of angels.  Puppets and angels, unlike humans, are inherently innocent, but both are “dead,” as we all will one day be.  Therefore, the puppet and angel stand, potentially, as past and future selves.  Rilke’s Fourth Elegy makes this explicit.

Cited From HERE

 

One cannot view Innocence thinking that the imagery in this poem was implicitly present throughout. The Fourth Elegy, in turn, was inspired by a Kleist essay Puppet Theater.  Also, Rilke wrote an intriguing essay entitled On Toys which can be found in the book Rodin and Other Prose Pieces.

 

Interestingly, the early 20th century anxiety surrounds the “mechanization” of the world – hardware approximating human body.  In Innocence, the anxiety surrounds the “computerization” of the world – software approximating the human soul.  Unlike Blade Runner, where the main questions seem to be “How long will I live?” and “Does she love me?” (both very American concerns), Innocence presents the Japanese concern of “Do I still have a soul?”

 

Also note that, in Innocence, the photo book that has the picture of the little girl in it was a title by Hans Bellmer.  Given that the dolls depicted in the movie were virtual copies of Bellmer’s, I can see why the filmmakers felt the need to reference him directly.

 

Cited From HERE

As we can see, crises of identity invariably create artistically-rendered sexual mutilations of the body to represent the corruption/deformation of the “soul.”  This arises from the fact that, as William Gass wrote, “Consciousness is nothing.  No thing.  A gunnysack full of Polish teeth occupy for space in this world than all the agony of their extraction.”

 

 LC/lmn

Innocence portrays a Japan that has ceased to be the maker of things.  Material production has become China’s province, as represented in the lavish, brilliantly colored Chinese barge imagery that dwarfs the grey-garbed Japanese interlopers.  The question for the Japanese then is less “Do I still have a soul?” than “Am I real?”  Although Japanese animé is one of the more successful Japanese exports at present - their bleak vision reflects the depressed Japanese business market.  The absence of Japanese automobiles in the future is also telling. The ersatz “nostalgia” for foreign cars bespeaks a rejection of the mundane – preferring instead the hyper-reality of “noir.”

MB/lmn

 

 


 

Image: 9.5/9.5
Despite some specifications listing this edition with a different aspect ratio from the first Japanese Blu-ray edition from last year, it is identical in size, shape and content. The difference comes in terms of contrast, shadow detail and color saturation, all of which are improved somewhat without adding noise or other artifacts or processing anomalies - none that I could observe, anyhow. By itself, this would not justify an upgrade. On my scale, I would give it a half point or so over the previous edition.

RE: Bitrates - The 2006 hovered right around 37 Mbps, regardless of light/dark scene content. The 2008 was much more dynamic, yet generally did not rise above 32 Mbps!

 

 Original Blu-ray TOP vs. Absolute Edition Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

(CLICK to ENLARGE)

 

 

Original Blu-ray TOP vs. Absolute Edition Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

(CLICK to ENLARGE)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 10/10
It is the existence of the latest and greatest uncompressed audio formats that are the principal raison d'etre for this "Absolute Edition." Here we are given not one, but two 6.1 mixes, either one of which are more than a point improvements over the previous edition. This, of course, will come as quite a shock to my score of 10 out of 10 for that edition, but in my defense, I note that I listened to that soundtrack mixed down to 2 channels via an extraordinary digital-to-analogue conversion playback system. Since that review, I have been able to put into place a pretty good surround system that preserves much, though not all, of the dynamic resolution of my previous 2-channel system. The new surround mix played through my new system truly deserves the 10 point score as compared to other mixes listened through the same system. Playing the 2006 blu-ray edition through this system, even using the PCM track, tends to be shrill comparison. Many enthusiasts will prefer the punchier DTS HD mix to the more natural Dolby True, but either represent a serious bump up in the audio chain.

NOTE: Unlike the 2006 edition that has Japanese, English, French, Korean or Chinese subtitles - this Absolute Edition edition has only English or Japanese.

 

 

 

Operations: 8
The menu, still entirely in Japanese and laid out in a similar manner, but at the bottom of the frame instead of the top, is simpler due to the comparative lack of extra features.

 

 

Extras: 6
Ah, here's the rub: None of the extra features form the previous edition are to be found in the Absolute Edition, meaning - among other things - that the 2006 ought not be traded away until those features appear in a North American Blu-ray edition with subtitles, preferably in HD. What we have on the new edition is essentially an extended promotional piece in two parts for Mamoru Oshii's new two-hour feature film, The Sky Crawlers, just released in Japan on August 8. The first part is a talking heads interview, in very poor HD I might add, with Oshii and two others being interviewed about the background of what led up to their making the movie (or so I assume, not speaking Japanese). The second is a lovely trailer in AVC/HD and Dolby True HD for the new film, which reminds me of nothing less than Last Exile, which can only be a good thing.

 

 

Bottom line:

NOTE: This I.G. Cinema Selection Blu-ray DVD of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence will play on North American Blu-ray players. Blu-ray discs are usually region-coded (e.g. Warner Blu-ray are not, Buena Vista are). Unlike SD DVDs, which are coded for one or all of 6 regions - see HERE, there are only 3 regions for Blu-ray: North, Central and South America share Region A/1 with Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and most of what we call Southeast Asia. Europe, Greenland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East comprise Region B/2. Region C/3 is the remainder of Asia, including: (Mainland) China, India, Pakistan and Russia. See Blu-ray region Coding map HERE

For lovers of the film who want the best rendering possible, there is no choice. The case is nice, but I recommend you take extra care about how it is sent. FedEx'd from Amazon/Japan still resulted in a bent case for me. Amazon Japan swiftly replaced it.

Leonard Norwitz
August 31st, 2008

 

 

 

 

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

 


 

 





 

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