Book Review: Ghost in the Shell by Andrew Osmond

Ghost in the Shell began life as a manga series that lasted from 1989 to 1997. In 1995, Marmoru Oshii directed the cult film of the same name based on the manga. From there came a video game, a sequel to the movie, a TV series, a movie (and more games) based on the TV series, another different TV series, then games and a move based on that series, and recently an American live action film.

And now we have a new book that tries to understand this massive franchise by anime expert Andrew Osmond. It mostly covers the 1995 film but in trying to understand it, the book spreads its tentacles into nearly every other aspect of the series, paying special attention to director Oshii, his life, and numerous other projects.

Oshii’s film was largely overlooked when it first came out. Championed by James Cameron and the Wachowkis (whose Matrix trilogy was clearly influenced by Ghost), it has become a highly influential cult classic. It is a cyber-punk noir where humans are augmented by computer parts and the line between humanity and robots is blurred. If you aren’t familiar with the film, then this book isn’t for you, but if you need a refresher, you can read my review.

Osmond begins his book with a long, intricately detailed synopsis of the story. It’s a bit much actually as presumably anybody reading the book knows what happens and Osmond steers clear of discussing the film’s meaning. Later, he does the same with the original manga and while I haven’t read it, I must admit I skipped those pages not wanting got be spoiled.

Outside of those chapters, the book is a great read delving into Oshii’s background, his previous films and art. He devotes chapters to the film’s writer and its music. He discusses the art of the film from conception to final product. Plus, how it was adapted from book to screen and the many other incarnations of the story.

I do wish he had spent a little more time digging into the film’s themes and the various interpretations one can take away from it. Ghost in the Shell is a philosophical film, but Osmond barely touches on its meanings. It reads more like a really in-depth, very well-written Wikipedia entry. This isn’t a complaint at all as it’s a great resource for fans and those looking to dive into the franchise. Osmond references dozens of other works from films like Blade Runner to obscure Japanese animated series, which will surely give everyone additional works to look for.

This is one of the first books published under the ever expanding Arrow name. It’s a very nice, if rather small (it’s about the size of a Blu-ray case) book. It’s loaded with lots of full color photos from the film and printed on quality paper.

Andrew Osmond’s Ghost in the Shell book is an excellent resource and highly recommended for fans of the film looking to expand their knowledge of it and the rest of the franchise.

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Mat Brewster

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