Ryu’s Musings – Ghost in the Shell

9781593072285Language: English
Direction: Left to right 
Pages: 368
by: Masamune Shirow 
Publisher: Dark Horse Manga
Type: One-Shot
Genre: Seinen


Deep into the 21st century, the line between man and machine has been inexorably blurred as humans rely on the enhancement of mechanical implants and robots are upgraded with human tissue. In this rapidly converging landscape, cyborg super-agent Major Motoko Kusanagi is charged to track down the craftiest and most dangerous terrorists and cybercriminals, including "ghost hackers," capable of exploiting the human/machine interface by re-programming human minds to become puppets to carry out their criminal ends. When Major Kusanagi tracks the cybertrail of one such master hacker, the Puppeteer, her quest leads her into a world beyond information and technology where the very nature of consciousness and the human soul are turned upside-down and inside-out.

This is the Dark Horse Manga version of the manga, and it is, i feel, the superior version, though I’ll be covering both this and the Kodansha release.

This was the original form of the sensation, and for me it was the third bit of GitS i saw. Initially i watched Stand alone complex, then the Original Movie, and finally the manga. The difference between the anime and the movie isn’t all that much. however the difference between the anime and the manga is huge and led to me hating the manga for a long while. It’s only been recently that i picked up the manga again and found i actually rather like it.

The problem stems from the way the manga and anime handle things. The anime is rather serious, with only a little bit of humour in the right places. the manga however is the complete opposite, with humour all over the place. For fans coming from the anime, the manga can be a bit jarring. However the manga has it’s own charms which if given a chance make for a really fun read.

There is one problem i have with Shirow’s manga, and that is his art style is all over the place. One minute the art looks awesome, then next average, then total crap, even the way he does chibi styled characters ranges in quality. This is the same in all of Shirow’s titles, none of them seem to have a consistent art style. This at times works in Shirow’s favour, a lot of the average style chibi art is done for the humour sections. However i feel that the humour is at times misplaced, and at others just doesn’t work at all.

The other thing he has going for him in the art is that his character designs are well fleshed and consistent throughout. The characters Shirow created in this series are pretty awesome, with well conceived and matching character designs for them.

The cityscapes we get, as well as other scenery is among some of the best I’ve seen in a manga. Ranging from futuristic cities to forests and fields, to open seas. These are all well drawn. Shirow also coloured a lot of the pages, and these look even better. the colours bringing an additional layer of life to the scenes. He’s also not ashamed to included adult material in the form of lesbian sex (though if it’s cyborg x human or cyborg x cyborg is it even considered sex anymore >.<). I have to wonder why they were in there, since they had no real reason to be there, and I’m not really sure it fit the personality of the Major.

The story that Shirow creates is well thought out and investigated. His science, while is pure science fiction, is believable. He explains a lot of the science used through side boxes, which can be a bit distracting at times. However i still feel that they were needed, since if we understand the science used (from a story aspect) then it helps with the story flow.

The story does have a few flaws in it, mainly with the way it flows, there seems to be some issues with the way characters are introduced and progress. The time flow at times seems to be way off bat, though it’s not a huge problem, just a bit annoying at times. The various ‘stories’ we get range from good to great. Some of them ended up in both the SAC series and in the movies, it’s really interesting to see how they originated.

Of all the Shirow titles I’ve read, Ghost in the Shell is undoubtedly the best of them all. As i said at the beginning there’s now two versions of this available, the original Dark Horse release and the new release from Kodansha USA. Here’s my thoughts on them both.

The Dark Horse version is undoubtedly the best version to get for several reasons. Firstly, the price, i picked this up from my local Waterstones for a mere £7.99, the Kodansha release goes for around £14-£20.

Next we have the size, the Dark Horse Manga version is 14.6 x 1.9 x 21 cm, slightly larger than a normal manga, but still easy to hold one handed and read. The Kodansha release is a whopping 17.8 x 2.3 x 25.2 cm, making it a beast of a book. Holding and reading it one handed is impossible, it’s heavy and frankly uncomfortable to read.

The big difference and selling point however is the quality of the release, and the content of the release. The Dark Horse release has a good strong front cover on it, the pages inside are all high gloss, making this one of the highest quality releases I’ve ever come across. What’s more is that they kept all the original colour pages, which frankly look staggeringly great in high gloss, and it’s uncensored.

Dark Horse also kept all of Shirow’s comments and authors notes, and added a biography for Shirow. All told this is frankly the best I’ve ever seen from a publisher. Hell the only complaint I’ve got for this was that it was flipped. If they’d left it un-flipped this would have been the best manga EVER released in the west. Sadly it’s very hard to get this copy of the manga anymore, since Kodansha took back a lot of their licenses and started to release directly to the west.

The Kodansha release isn’t as good, for one big reason, they’ve not done anything to the release. In fact rather than releasing their own new version of the manga, possibly leaving it un-flipped, new translation, etc. etc. Instead all they did was blow up in size the original Dark Horse release and print it on less than good paper. As a result the colour pages don’t look as good as in the Dark horse release, they look faded and pale.

The only thing they did was rewrite the biography, and add a postscript that Shirow wrote for the english release. Overall i was unimpressed with this release, especially with the significant cost increase. If you can find it get the original release, but as time goes by only the Kodansha one will be available.

The release is only bad when compared with the Dark Horse release. In truth, if the Kodansha one was the sole release available the only complaint I’d really have is that it’s way to big and over priced.

Author: Ryu Sheng