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'Ghost in the Shell 2': Anime Malfunction

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2004; Page WE46

Surprisingly talky for a sci-fi action thriller, this inscrutable sequel to the 1995 Japanese anime film about cyborgs and humans coexisting in a noirish future spends as much time dabbling in Cartesian philosophy and ideas about the nature of consciousness as it does advancing its ostensible story.

To the extent that a narrative can be articulated, it centers around Batou (Akio Ohtsuka), a cop with the body of a machine and the soul of a man, who, along with his mulleted human detective partner, is investigating the murder of a human master by a female "gynoid" sex slave. As the plot thickens -- or, I should say, congeals -- the "Ghost in the Shell 2" script alternates between such faux-Confucian epigrams as "No matter how far a jackass travels it won't come back a horse" and "We weep for the bird's cry but not for the blood of a fish" and exclamations of tech-talk gobbledygook like "Rebuild the logic firewall!" Neither tone is particularly effective at transcending pretension, and, while the visuals are at times stylish, "Ghost" suffers most from a distinct lack of anything, well, cinematic.

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Do aficionados of Japanimation really want to waste their time attempting to swallow more indigestible pearls of dime-store wisdom or do they, as I suspect, not so secretly want some cyborg-on-cyborg action? As one character in "Ghost" notes, "When dialogue fails, it's time for violence."

GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (PG-13, 100 minutes) --Contains violence (but not nearly enough) and some obscenity. In Japanese with subtitles. At AMC Hoffman Center, Landmark's E Street Cinema and the Majestic.

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