Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is good example of a show that I normally wouldn’t feel like writing about. It is like trying to make a review of Confucius’s works, you wouldn’t attempt something like that just for fun. Innocence is probably the only movie so far that made me feel like I’m not educated enough to be watching it. The characters are literally talking in quotations, referencing European philosophers, Buddha, Confucius and some Japanese writers. And in my limited experience, quotes from philosophical texts make sense only in context. The text may have a couple paragraphs that build up reader’s intuition before delivering a few sentences that contain the core meaning of the text. Without a context these sentences are just mysterious collections of words, almost indecipherable. So because I wasn’t familiar with most of the texts cited in the movie, I just had to accept that I have no idea what characters imply by their words, which is a weird experience.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Batou

Spoilers below

The movie is focused on questioning the boundaries of what a human being is. Not the word itself, but the classical interpretation of it. When you say ‘human’, you may think of one of the existing humans, or you may think of a being with the biological properties that we associate with being a human, or you may think of a being that looks and behaves as a human should, or maybe something else yet. The variety of the ideas that are covered by the umbrella word ‘human’ is interesting in itself. What’s even more interesting is how fragile these ideas are, and that is what the movie displays.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

The main character of the film is a cyborg Batou, the former partner of major Kusanagi, who ceased to be a human in the previous movie (watch it, the phase will make sense then; the movie is too good to be spoiled here). The main plot line starts with Batou looking into a case of robots killing their owners. Those were so-called ‘sexaroids’, the term is self-descriptive. As Batou proceeds with his investigation he has conversations with all sorts of crazy people, like a woman cyborg who makes a convoluted argument about these androids being the same as people, somehow implying that their imperfections compared to humans are similar to the imperfections children have, compared to adults.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Carnival, monk

A little bit later Batou talks with a guy who converted his brain into a computer program and his body – into a robot. This person was saying so much crazy stuff that I hesitate to even summarize it. One of the things he said was that humans’ limited perception causes the incompleteness of their reality, and the species that have a ‘complete’ reality are the ones that either have no consciousness at all, or those who have an unlimited consciousness. As examples of the two he mentions dolls or gods. Obviously there is a little difference between a doll and a robot and it all gets extra weird because the guys saying those things is essentially a robot himself, though he had started his life as a human. Also, if you had to make a mental effort parsing that sentence about perception and consciousness – there you go, that is how the whole movie is.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Batou

The reason I described these episodes was to give you a sense of how the characters in this movie think. You show them an android and they wouldn’t say “yep, that’s a robot, just a moving piece of metal, not a human at all”, rather they would avoid categorizations altogether, and more importantly they would avoid assigning emotional labels to these categories. Normally we consider robots to be things, objects that don’t have intrinsic value other than their cost. Not so in this film. I’ll give an example.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Carnival

At some point Batou finds the source of the problem with the killer robots. The facility that produced these androids was giving them emotions by effectively copying a human brain into their system (they refer to it as ‘ghost dubbing’, and a ghost is a little different from a brain in GitS universe, as far as I understand). The procedure is very damaging for the human who’s brain is copied, a few sessions are rendering the person an invalid. They used children for this, against their will, of course. So one girl who was used there decided to try and make the robots go berserk, I guess by directing her emotions a certain way during the copying process. As the result the robots produced during this session were murdering their owners.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Carnival

So, when Batou heard that the robots were murderous because this was the girls’s way of sending out a help me signal, he gets angry. You think he is angry because she caused many deaths? Nope. Here is the quote:

Batou: “Don’t you realize what kind of chaos you have caused? I am not talking about just the humans. Didn’t you think about the dolls who were forced to have malicious ghosts dubbed into them?”

Girls: “But.. but.. But I didn’t want to become a doll!”

Another character: “You cry for bird’s blood, but not for fish blood. Fortunate for ones with voice. If dolls also had voices, they would have screamed ‘I didn’t want to become human!'”

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, doll

This dialogue is so weird. You can’t have your main characters be so cold, to have them equate the value of a child’s  life and the well being of a bunch of robots. Yet, this is the movie that can do it. If this ghost dubbing procedure somehow takes away the ‘human essence’ from the donor and transmits it to the recipients, then maybe it would make those dolls partially human. Does it justify treating them as humans? Or maybe ‘treating someone as a human’ is an inherently flawed idea in a world populated by dolls with human minds, AI who used to be people, cyborgs that can’t be sure if whether what they experience is reality or a simulation.

Hope this wasn’t too boring to read. See you next time ^^/


8 thoughts on “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

  1. I like this movie’s art *-*

    Batou being angry at the girl for turning the robots into malicious machines is pretty weird. I only think of robots as convenient and expendable machines. My feelings about a robot getting damaged are no different from a laptop getting damaged. The idea of someone actually attaching value to a machine and getting mad at people who damage those machines is strange but then again, why shouldn’t they attach value to a machine, especially in a world where a human’s brain can easily be copied into a machine. If emotions became simulations and memories became data, the very idea of a ‘human,’ might become abstract.

    • It is beautiful =) The blend of CGI and flat drawings is pretty great too, though it works better with movement, the screenshots aren’t showing this.

      Right, that is why I wanted to bring this up =) I guess for Batou it was like those robots became beings comparable to humans, since they acquired their own emotions. Having feelings is the most straightforward way to distinguish between a human and a machine, but these machines transcended this distinction. I wonder if a normal person would learn to think of them as of equals after spending some time with them. The fact that those robots have plastic bodies doesn’t make much of a difference, and other than that it is hard to say why they are not humans o.O

    • If artificial intelligence reaches the point that machines – androids – can achieve self awareness, self preservation, and sapience on par with humans, that’s not just a machine anymore. It’s a person, albeit an artifical one. I don’t think person = human. I think humans are one example of a person. Personhood shouldn’t be dependent on what your body is made of, but what your mind is capable of. Synthetic or organic, human or something else.

      So the androids in the movie are on par with the girl whose mind was copied into them. There’s nothing truly *special” about human beings. We just think that because we have yet to meet any other creatures who display intelligence recognizably equal to our own. But those robots? They *do* have that kind of intelligence. They’re people, they have a person’s mind and all that entails.

      So I think that Batou’s anger is justified, even if it doesn’t encompass the whole situation. Like obviously the girl is a victim. She was forced into imprinting on the robots. But she also knowingly imprinted a chaotic, destructive mind into them, which is a reckless thing to do for a lot of reasons. Not only did her choice kill people, but it tortured a bunch of newly sapient beings who had no say in the matter and were literally born with destructive, painful anguish and then sold into slavery. No wonder they lashed out.

      Plus, of course Batou is going to be sympathetic after Major’s transcendence in the first movie. He understands that machines aren’t just machines anymore, better than most people seem to. Everyone else thinks that being human doesn’t mean anything anymore, but Batou understand that with synthetic intelligence, being “human” just means *more* than it used to.

      • I don’t think a robot will be allowed to achieve self-preservation. Sure, if something is going to crash into it, it can dodge.
        Imagine this scenario. A child is in danger and a robot will have to sacrifice itself to save the child. People will *expect* the robot to sacrifice itself. It will be programmed that way. If the robot decided to run away and save itself, it will definitely be regarded as a bad robot and will likely get sent to a junk yard, unless it is a war robot that is.
        Most of the robots are built with the sole purpose of making our lives easier and reduce any causalities. As long as we keep expecting robots to devote their lives helping us, it will be hard to think of them as people.

        There is also something else. Robots’ memories are just data. They can easily be rewritten or manipulated. You can abuse a robot, do whatever you want to it and then simply reset the data or roll back it’s state to a point in time before you started abusing it. It will be like the abuse never happened. As long as they can undo the damage they have done, most people don’t feel any need to be nice to a robot. They will not treat it with respect. A being that is not respected or cared for cannot become a real person in the eyes of people.

        Yes. There is nothing *special* about human beings. We are just a cluster of memories with a personality that can easily be replicated. All the differences I have mentioned above don’t really make much sense if we are talking objectively either. The difference will lie in how humans are bound to see these beings. People tend to be very careful when the damage they inflict on something cannot be undone.

        I don’t think those robots are equivalent to the girl though. They just have her data is all. And data is just a bunch of zeros and ones in the end. Also, I might be a bit biased here. I write programs and fix bugs for a living. So I get a lot of insider peeps regarding how all those complex looking bots work. When you get to see the data and the program flow, the little machine in front of you will just appear like a big doll with good processing power and complex algorithms. I can’t see it as a human. Also, it will be just as easy to delete the girl’s memories from them and give them a whole new personality. They don’t have an identity of their own.

        I don’t know much about the GitS universe yet. I might feel a bit more sympathetic towards those robots after I complete watching all the episodes but I doubt I will ever be able to attach any real value to a robot.

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