Title: The Ghost in the Shell Deluxe Edition 1
Series: Ghost in the Shell #1
Author(s): Masamune Shirow
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Format: Hardcover – Deluxe Edition
Release Date: February 21st 2017
Genre(s): Manga, Science Fiction
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆
The cyberpunk genre seems to be so much more rare nowadays, but it is the iconic classic stories of the late 80s and early 90s that remind us of its ingenuity, mind-numbing visuals and visionary story-telling. Besides Battle Angel Alita, there is one other series that has left a permanent mark in the genre, especially with its anime adaptations: The Ghost in the Shell. This seinen (aimed at adult men) manga was first serialized in 1989 and was written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. It then later got collected into volumes and received its animated counterparts that blew the minds of many fans. In this new hardcover deluxe edition by Kodansha Comics, fans can rejoice in the collection of Major’s original story arc, a couple of coloured pages at the beginning or end of each chapter, an afterword by the author as well as an extensive amount of endnotes (written in an extremely small font size and merged within the margins as often as possible) by the author himself.
Set in the mid-twenty-first century, The Ghost in the Shell explores a world where humans and machines rely upon each others biology to enhance their abilities and to blur the differences between each other within the human world. The story focuses on a counter-cyberterrorist organization known as Public Security Section 9, led by the awfully sexy and intelligent Major Motoko Kusanagi. With a peculiar and nevertheless efficient team, she tracks down cybercriminals known as “ghost hackers”. These individuals are highly complex and are able to exploit the system on which most humans and machines depend on to live their lives. By reprogramming whoever they want, these “ghost hackers” are able to manipulate individuals into doing the deeds of criminals for them. With this mission set as her purpose, the hunt for criminals begin.
One the biggest issue I had with this volume is its cohesion. Or should I say its lack of cohesion. Each chapter is a story on its own that never truly connects to one another and leaves you with a bucket full of questions to ponder on. These questions aren’t always followed with answers later on, but actually play on a much more spiritual and philosophical level. The strength of each chapter however lies in the impeccable world-building that blooms with each chapter. You’ll be truly stunned by the world that Masamune Shirow conceives in The Ghost in the Shell. Once you finally grasp the concept behind the “ghost” of each machine, you’ll see that Masamune Shirow really looked to break conventionality and bring his readers to unlock their own perception of what the body and the mind are meant to do.
The story also has an extremely heavy accent on politics and corporation baddies. It is no easy feat to untangle the corruption and the mess that follows along those lines as you dive into this volume. If you thought you’ve seen it all with conspiracies, think again. Even with each chapter following a similar structure as a police procedural story arc, you’ll notice that there’s nothing clean and coherent within this world. Speaking of cleanliness, the story also has a dose of what we’d call NSFW (not safe for work). From intense gore scenes to sexual content, there’s a clear target audience in this series. After all, our protagonist Major is nearly flawless as a character. From her outstanding fashion sense (not kidding here, she’s a fashionista who changes styles with each chapter) to her wits and unmatched fighting skills, Major is a beautiful hero that you’ll have a hard time hating on.
While the artwork didn’t venture into too much details, its style is easy to identify and appreciate. The coloured pages however make it a bit harder to enjoy as the tones used and the colour gradations were sometimes odd. Ultimately, the first volume of The Ghost in the Shell is an ambitious and visionary cyberpunk manga that blends politics, artificial intelligence and metaphysics. Its lack of cohesion will however make it pretty hard to appreciate on a first read, but at least fans are graced with the ability to reread, with a couple of anime adaptations (which is where most of its praise comes from) and a live-action movie to shake things up a bit.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!
Have you seen the live-action whitewashing-controversy-filled movie adaptation of The Ghost in the Shell back in 2017?