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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!'”
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 ^^/