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Ghost in the Shell (1996)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ghost in the Shell is an anime movie with lots of stylized violence along the lines of The Matrix. Many people get shot. Blood spurts and heads are crushed. The lead character has a tendency to fight in the nude. There are other assorted scenes of animated nudity. Characters frequently use profanity. The movie's philosophical and metaphysical ideas blur the line between good and bad.
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What's the story?
Set in the year 2029, GHOST IN THE SHELL is a detective noir story centered on Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg undercover agent on the trail of the Puppet Master, a powerful hacking virus run amok. Kusanagi has been cybernetically altered to the point of questioning her humanity and the existence of her "ghost," or her soul. The Puppet Master's quest for a human shell and thus, sanctuary as a life form, only adds to Kusanagi's existential dilemma.
Is it any good?
In a post-Matrix world, this landmark Japanese animation film may seem dated, but it's one of the most daring anime films to make it Stateside. It's a classic provocative piece of animation that works alongside Blade Runner in the sub-genre of philosophical science fiction. The special effects and shoot-em-ups do not get in the way of the story's question about what it means to be human.
On the other hand, the movie can be turgid; alternating abruptly between fast and furious action and slow and stilted dialogue. Thoughtful as it may be, the film's plot is at times, too complex for its own good. Nonetheless, this is a unique movie, and in the U.S. lent much-needed credibility to anime, consequently paving the way for more adult-themed animation. Ghost in the Shell may have its faults, but no one can deny its status as a trailblazer.
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For kids who love anime and sci-fi
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.