Palatable: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
Directed and written by Mamoru Oshii
Produced by Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Toshio Suzuki, Maki Terashima-Furuta
Starring Akio Otsuka, Koichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Atsuko Tanaka
With Major Kusanagi's evolutionary evanescence a few years behind them, her sometime governmental intelligence department investigates a series of murders committed by prototypal domestic androids -- who wipe their own brains and self-destruct after executing their assigned keepers -- when police officers and a politician fall victim to these inexplicable recurrences. Wizened section chief Aramaki (Oki) pairs strapping cyborg Bato (Otsuka) with whilom police detective Togusa (Yamadera) to probe the robots' manufacturer and a possible connection with a Yakuza subdivision, leading them from Niihama's seediest districts to a crumbling Chinese urban stretch of data integration firms. Fans familiar with Oshii's broody, solemnly philosophic cinematic adaptation of Shirow's playful manga know what to expect from its sequel, though its synthesis of action and introspection are hardly as balanced or effective as that of the prior picture. Bato's waned morose during the lengthy absence of his vanished superior, and his persiflage with colleagues is consequently as sardonic as his manner's withdrawn -- a plausible but terribly unengaging development for this series' most waggish character. In his interpretation of themes and scenarios derived from the first manga series' sixth and tenth issues, Oshii's strayed too far from Shirow's jocularity and technical preoccupations to focus on matters ontological. Section 9's personnel and a few of their suspects indifferently reference and quote Milton and Confucius, Saito and Weber, Shelley and Daiyuu, Buddha and Plato...but even the most acute apercus filtered through secondhand philosophy can't compensate for Oshii's recent inability to script compelling or realistic dialogue; exposition and expatiation are too often substituted for conversation rather than integrated as marrow therein. Nowhere is such claptrap so insufferably pretentious as when uttered by a smugly effete forensic analyst who propounds the transhumanist twaddle of the supremely pontifical feminist sociologist Donna Haraway while interviewed by the protagonal agents. Still, Oshii's Gordian plotting and associated visual devices are delightfully clever, and many of his best hallmarks are present: striking photic effects, detailed backgrounds, and those lovable basset hounds. Animation beautifully rendered via cel and CG mesh at least so well here as in the first flick, but shots exclusively composed of computer graphics clash slightly less in collocation than those of the Golgo 13 feature from 1983, and while their depiction of vehicular and architectural subjects shine, natural phenomena are far less adequately imaged. Kenji Kawai's music includes some fine ambience, but none of it's as haunting as any single track from the first GitS score, and his main theme is but a wan, wearisome reprise of that from the preceding suite. For all its superbly realized violence and insight, Oshii's drably sober conception of Shirow's series seems too often a vehicle to explore his own idees fixes pertaining to the correlative and emblematic nexus of organisms and artifices, death and disposability, societies and networks -- and for all these characters' ruminations regarding the nature of existence, too little humanity's in evidence before the third act.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Ghost in the Shell.