The Ghost in the Shell: Deluxe Edition
The Ghost in the Shell: Deluxe Edition
by Shirow Masamune, Translation & English Adaption by Frederik L. Schodt and Toren Smith, Additional Translation by Stephen Paul
Kodansha Comics, 352 pp
Rating: Mature (18 +)
Just in time for the release of the live action, Kodansha rolls out a new edition of Shirow Masamune’s classic manga, The Ghost in the Shell!
Originally published in the late 80s/early 90s, Ghost in the Shell was one of the major manga/anime franchises to make its way to the U.S. in the 90s. Mamoru Oshii’s anime adaption was a staple of Blockbuster rental stores and helped introduced a new generation to the world of Japanese comics and animation. The manga was no different. Initially published by Dark Horse Comics 90s, the series was translated/localized by the late, great Toren Smith and his Studio Proteus, and regularly appeared on the rack of comic and book stores throughout the 90s, back before the U.S. manga scene really exploded into what it is today. Over the years it’s seen numerous reissues and reprints and now Kodansha is rolling out a new “Deluxe Edition,” just in time for the upcoming release of the live action movie!
For those not familiar with The Ghost in the Shell in one form or another, it follows the adventures of Major Motoko Kusanagi and the rest of Section 9, a Japanese “hostage rescue unit” active in espionage and counter terrorist operations in a future Japan. The series is a cyberpunk/political thriller mash up with stories focused on corporate espionage, corrupt politicians and institutions, terrorists and the mysterious super hacker known only as “The Puppeteer”.
The series consists of a number of stand alone investigations and chapters, Shirow uses each one to explore different aspects of the futuristic society and the ways in which humanity and technology interact, and how technology affects our ideas of what it means to be human. If we create technology capable of rewriting memories, then how sure are we of our own past? If robots become so advanced that they’re indistinguishable from humanity, then what does it really mean to be human? and similar ideas. The characters discuss and ponder these issues, while also engaging in incredibly goofy banter and explosive actions scenes.
Shirow Masamune’s artwork definitely looks and feels a little dated. This is most obvious in the clothing styles, which reflect an 80s era idea of what the future of fashion would look like. Poor fashion choices do nothing to obscure the quality of the visuals or the masterful storytelling in Ghost in the Shell, though. Shirow’s art is super detailed with dense backgrounds that help create atmosphere and add weight to his futuristic portrayal of Japan. The cities are crowded, people crowd the sidewalks and the open air markets, while trucks and cars fill the streets. There’s a wonderful lived in feel to the world, and it really helps breathe life in the story by conveying a strong sense of location and setting. His designs for the technology at work, ranging from the mecha-like Fuchikoma’s, cybernetic bodies and weapons are all amazing and interesting to look at. His action scenes are likewise fantastic and engaging to behold, with the Major and her opponents flowing across the page in wonderfully choreographed fights and chases. If there’s a downside to the visuals, it’s that the color pages aren’t quite up to snuff. They’re not horrible, but the colors don’t quite pop off the page, and there’s a muddy, murky quality to them.
Unfortunately, this “Deluxe Edition” doesn’t quite live up to it’s name. While it’s nice to have the original sound effects in place, and wonderful to see Ghost in the Shell finally presented in it’s original left-to-right format, there are two major issues that keep this from being the definitive edition of the material.
The first problem is the ever present issue of the “controversial” lesbian sex scene involving Major Kusanagi. Originally, when the series was released in the U.S., this sequence was omitted and Shirow redrew the surrounding scene so it’s absence wouldn’t be an issue with the flow of the story. Since then, the scene has been absent from nearly ever U.S. edition, and this “Deluxe Edition” is no different. Despite its frequent omission, it remains a point of contention among the fans. This time around the criticism of it’s absence actually garnered a response from Kodansha. The short version; they consulted with Shirow about it and he requested they use the redrawn version. It’s omission doesn’t really impact the overall story, but it’s absence does result in a potentially bisexual character being presented as heterosexual. An unfortunate side effect, to be sure.
The second issue is that, despite the claims of bonus material, there’s actually material missing from this edition that was present in earlier editions. This primarily comes in the form of nearly 10 of notes on the world, technology, and political aspects of the manga. Admittedly, these aren’t really essential to the enjoyment or understanding of the story, and the copious margin notes are still present, but its absence is bizarre and at odds with what long time fans might expect from a “Deluxe Edition.”
So is The Ghost in the Shell: Deluxe Edition worth purchasing? While the core material still holds up, the artwork is still lovely, the story and character’s are still engaging, this release does fall short of previous versions. If you’re a long time fan with some of the previous releases though, and you were hoping this might be the definitive version of the material, you’re probably going to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’ve never read the manga before, or are just checking out the series because of the upcoming the movie, than this is probably a perfectly acceptable edition to own and read.
Ghost in the Shell is available now from Kodansha Comics. Review copy provided by the publisher.