“Break Out Of The Shell” – Ghost in the Shell (manga) – 8/10 Flowers

Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow

Genre: Sci-fi/Action /Psychological

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US

Art: Very 90’s, with big hair. More mature hairstyles for the time, since this does feature adults and not children or teens. The clothing also shows it, with big pants and shoulder pads. The cars are also pretty throwback. The characters have slightly more cartoonish designs than what some may be used to in comparison to the anime. The edition I got my hands on was flipped so it read right-to-left.

Summary: 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 Makoto 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.

Review: The future is an amazing place. Humans can get cybernetic upgrades, machines can take over complicated jobs that humans have trouble with. It can be hard to tell the two apart- except for one thing: The “Ghost” that marks out humans from non-humans. Call it what you will- Ghost, Soul, Spirit, they are all different names for the same thing. This manga explores the crimes that can be committed when there might be a little too much mechanizing going on with people. They can be hacked into, manipulated, even have their souls erased from their bodies and replace with someone else’s. The ultimate goal of Section Nine is to stop it, while minding international and national politics.

The politics can get a little complicated, but when aren’t they? There are heads of corporations and nations behind the worst of it, and sometimes you only get hints of who may really be behind things. The bad guys aren’t always punished. The victims can’t always be fixed or recompensed. It doesn’t take an idealistic look at the world.

For the most part, the stories are stand-alone, until the last three chapters. Those revolve around the “Puppeteer”, a cyber-criminal of immense skill. However, all may not be what they appear with this being. It is really a sentient being? Was it a person in the first place? Is it all a hoax on those who would come into contact with it?

The characters you might be familiar with from the movies and tv series are so very different here. The characters all feel more like people- they have more fleshed-out personalities. The Major in one chapter is in a relationship- a touchy-feely, loving one. Batou is even more of a joker, and Section Nine’s leader is a little more hot-headed and forceful than he ever was. With more stories covered, more detail given, this really shines as showing the personalities and quirks of people that make up Section Nine.

The one thing that I must note is that while this was made in the 90’s and is a bit dated in terms of clothes and hair, it is still solid-sci-fi. Bad sci-fi goes against what is known when it is written. Good sci-fi can last for years in terms of what’s scientific probable or possible. The science and technology that is shown within, and in one place detailed a bit, isn’t too far off from what’s being explored at the moment or is similar to technologies that we have. It makes for a pretty impressive read.

Overall, this was a fun ride into the world of cyber-criminals and future technology.

Recommended: 16+. I don’t recall a single f-bomb being dropped, and swearing is at a rate of less than one per chapter. Most of these are the d-word and h-word, but once ‘son-of-a-b*’ is used. There is one very brief, vague reference to drugs being used by one of the main characters. There are only two instances of what could really be called ‘gore’, one panel where a man is blown up and another two where you see a young man being shot (you see half his face gone, but not in CSI detail). For the rest, you see blood spatter, some injuries, and the bodies that are shown destroyed are those of robots. Human gore/death tends to be off-page. The worst the nudity gets is in one chapter where a robot, fresh off the line, escapes. As it was meant to replace someone’s actual body, it is nude, but the reader only sees it from the waist-up. The rest of the time, it’s no worse than Baywatch, or Seven-of-Nine’s bodysuit (Star Trek). Barbie-doll nudity when dealing with the “Puppeteer”.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Ghost in the Shell (movies, several series)
Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor (manga)
Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface (manga)
Appleseed (anime or manga)
Pluto (manga)
Akira (manga)
Serial Experiments Lain (anime)
Real Drive (anime)
Kaiba (anime)
Time of Eve (anime)


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