Film review: Ghost in the Shell

If you’re familiar with the Manga classic of the same name, then there’s not much in this film that is going to surprise you, and this is a good thing. It’s pretty much the same story: at some unspecified point in the future, humans enhancing themselves with cybernetic body parts has become the norm. The mysterious Hanka Corporation has taken the notion one step further: a completely artificial body piloted by a human brain.

Now, taking a classic piece of Manga fiction and turning it into a Westernised action flick is always going to be a “swings and roundabouts” proposition. The advantage is that you have a classic story to work with. The disadvantage is … that you have a classic story to work with. As long as you stick to the original plot and keep most of the classic set pieces from the original, then the fans will give your efforts a grudging approval at the very least, and thunderous applause if you’re very lucky (or very good). The problem is that something that is essentially a cartoon may not translate well into a live action movie. Ghost in the Shell gets away with it … just. They’ve changed enough of the sequence to make it worthwhile for the affeciandos to see it, but kept enough of the original to delight them. Not bad, not bad at all. Continue reading “Film review: Ghost in the Shell”

Another Netflix gem: Knights of Sidonia

Another evening of random Manga trawling (I really should read a book or something) turned up this little beauty. It’s been running on Netflix for a few years so, as usual, I’m a little late to the party, but it’s got a four-and-a-half stars so it has to be worth a look.


Travelling through space some six hundred years in the future, Sidonia – a massive chunk of rock with an equally massive engine attached –  is all that’s left of planet Earth. It’s home to half a million people, the descendents of the survivors of an attack that destroyed our Solar System.  While searching space for a new home, the population live in fear and readiness for an attack from the Guana – the race of gigantic, near-indestructible, space-faring aliens that destroyed the Earth six centuries earlier.

That’s the upshot; three episodes in and I’m hooked. It’s very similar to Attack On Titan: we have a single hero (always male) who has to carry the responsibility for saving a civilisation on his narrow shoulders. He’s aided by a supporting cast (mostly female, mostly wet and simpering) and a some ingenious tech in the form of giant space fighters/samurai robots which are deployed against an immortal enemy.

Now I think about it, this is exactly the same as Attack On Titan, except the survivors of the decimation are in space, not on Earth.

Okay, so the story is nothing new, but that doesn’t stop it from being told brilliantly with excellent animation. Aside from the story, what I like about Knights of Sidonia is the attention to detail. Someone has thought about the problems that a large community isolated on huge flying boulder would likely encounter: how many people would die if something went wrong with the gravity; what genetic would need to be taken to prevent half a million people from starving to death. And I can’t remember ever seeing the word ‘catheter’ mentioned in a cartoon before.

The enemy is mysterious and frightening, and the pilots of the flying samurai know it, which leads to some real edge-of-your-seat battle scenes.

It’s great, so if you fancy a late evening Manga binge then give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.




Weirdly wonderful Netflix discovery: Attack on Titan

Sometimes the best thing to do with Netflix is just  follow the suggestions. Do this when you’ve got a free afternoon and you might chance upon a rare gem, like Attack On Titan.


Set in the future, or maybe the past, on this Earth, or maybe another one, Attack of the Titans tells of a human race under seige from strange  near-immortal giants with a taste for human flesh. The giants (which the hapless humans refer to as Titans) have decimated the population and forced the survivors inside a cluster of cities  zoned and protected by three concentric walls.

Pretty much as expected, the human race is mounting a desperate fight back. An army of young soldiers armed with swords and grappling hooks are humanity’s last line of defence …

It’s classic Manga. the animation is nothing to write home about, but it still manages to pull of some scarily breath-taking action sequences; the subtitles and information pages flash by with barely enough time to read them (I dunno why the Japanese always seem in such a hurry), and there is an awful lot of shouting. And it’s really quire gory too. Our heroes are regularly eaten alive and then vomitted out some time later because the Titans, inexplicably, have no digestive tract.

I watched Season 1, about 25 episodes, in four days, and I’m looking forward to the next series which is just around the corner.

I’d recommend watching Attack on Titan if you’re a fan of the genre; though I suppose if you are a fan of the genre, you’ll have seen it already.

Eight out of ten.


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