The much-talked about live action remake of classic Manga property Ghost in the Shell has finally arrived in cinemas, and if the badass antics of Scarlett Johansson’s Major have whet your appetite for more of the same, here’s some films that you should definitely be taking a look at.
Blade Runner (1982)
If the vivid neon of Section 9 in Ghost in the Shell looked a little familiar, that is probably because 1982 classic Blade Runner had a very similar aesthetic. The animated billboards adorning the skyscrapers of Section 9 were particularly reminiscent of the futuristic vision of Los Angeles depicted in Blade Runner. Thematically there are a lot of similarities as well, particularly around the questioning of what it means to be human. With the hotly anticipated sequel Blade Runner 2049 arriving in cinemas this year, what better time to head back to where it all began?
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
It seems like the obvious choice, but if you went into the new movie cold and have yet to watch the original anime, then it is definitely worth taking the time to watch this one. There’s some similarities between the storylines, but the anime spends a little more time delving into the themes of discovery, what it is to be human, and the philosophical ponderings that made the story stand out so much. The new film focuses a little more on the action and the visuals, so this is a great place to head back to if you want to understand the story on a slightly deeper level.
Masamune Shirow, creator of the original Manga, apparently wasn’t aware of the existence of the 1987 sci-fi movie, but fans quickly spotted the parallels between them. This violent masterpiece also involves a robotic law-enforcer with a human brain, who like Major, has had some of his memories tampered with or deleted, and there are also similarities between the spider tank in Ghost in the Shell, and ED-209 from RoboCop. Think of RoboCop as an R-rated version of Ghost in the Shell and give this classic a watch or a re-watch.
The Matrix (1999)
Before the supposed remake of this ruins everything that we hold dear, the Wachowski’s ground-breaking, action-packed sci-fi hit owes its very existence to the original Ghost in the Shell movie. Citing it as a main influence, the Wachowski’s pitched The Matrix as wanting to do Ghost in the Shell but “for real”, and the crossovers are clear to see. From the scrolling green text, to the wires that plug into the backs of the necks, The Matrix takes a lot of its cues from Shirow’s anime; try giving them a watch back to back and you’ll soon see how influential Ghost in the Shell was and still is.
At the risk of speaking too soon, this anime classic has as yet remained untouched for a live-action remake, but depending on the success of Ghost in the Shell, it could very well be next in line! Also set in a futuristic society, the Neo-Tokyo setting of Akira has similar aesthetics to Ghost in the Shell, and this cyber-punk, gloriously violent and wildly imaginative film is a must-watch for newbies to anime, and anyone who is a fan of modern sci-fi movies. Back to The Matrix again, but the aforementioned Wachowski masterpiece takes some cues from Akira also, so perhaps make it a triple bill of awesomeness!
If Ghost in the Shell was right up your street, then checking out the other films of Shirow is a must. However if you want even more things to add to your watchlist, then it is well worth checking out the films of Satoshi Kon, and there is no better place to start than Paprika. This colourful, trippy, and endlessly inventive anime has a storyline which perhaps sounds a little familiar. Entering dreams sound familiar? Inception anyone? Many actually accused Nolan of directly ripping off Paprika for his 2010 movie, or perhaps it should instead be considered a live-action remake? Either way, heading back to the original source material and watching 2006’s Paprika is an absolute must. Prepare to have your mind blown!
Ex Machina (2014)
Are androids capable of human emotion, and even love? This is the big question that Alex Garland’s Ex Machina poses, and as this is also something explored in Ghost in the Shell, and the very nature of what it means to be human, this makes for a really excellent companion piece. Visually stunning and with excellent central performances from Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina is brutal and beautiful and will stick with you for a long time afterwards.