Almost ten years after the acclaimed Ghost in the Shell, Japanese anime master Mamoru Oshii has delivered a new episode of his existential cyber-thriller. In the year 2032 a number of doll-like female robots designed for sexual purposes have gone haywire and killed their masters. Cyborg detective Batou and his mostly human partner Togusa are assigned to the case. Clues lead them to Locus Solus, the company that makes the ‘gynoids’ and soon they are on their way to its headquarters, situated in a remote Northern region.
Visually, Ghost II is even more impressive than the original film, which is no small feat. The incongruous Gothic fortress in the midst of a stunning post-apocalyptic landscape, the procession of gigantic automated figures that greets Batou and Togusa on their arrival there, the sinister mansion by a lake where they fall prey to evil cyborg Kim’s enchantments all contribute to create a wonderfully surreal, unsettling world.
It is a world where the boundaries between human and robot, animate and inanimate are entirely blurred. In this Oshii reprises the theme of the first Ghost and furthers his reflection on what it is to be human in the computerised age. In Oshii’s poetic vision, dolls with human souls deliberately malfunction and humans turn their bodies into machines to transcend their limitations. A highly literate work, Ghost II opens with a quotation from Villiers de L’Isle-Adam while the name Locus Solus is a reference to the world of fanciful machines dreamed up by French maverick writer Raymond Roussel. However, although Oshii’s ambitious approach is admirable, the dialogue is overloaded with too many opaque philosophical aphorisms. This is the only weak point in a film that is in all other respects truly remarkable and one of the most thrilling and sophisticated animes this reviewer has seen.