Virtual Reality Dive Of ‘Ghost In The Shell’
by Jordan Mounteer
To Western audiences, anime has traditionally had a few key hits which set the precedence for their popularity. One of these has unabashedly been ‘Ghost in the Shell’, the futuristic cyberpunk world of virtual reality, cyberbrains, and political intrigue, and has been touted by many as one of the best examples of anime, and a result has been instrumental in terms of its influence on other filmmakers. It’s only been in the last few years that current virtual reality technology has reached a level that is somewhat on par with what the Ghost in the Shell movie universe showed us. With the latest release of the new live-action adaptation featuring Scarlett Johannsen as the eponymous protagonist Motoko Kusanagi, Production I.G. – the same studio behind the original anime and many other famous anime (including PsychoPass and Guilty Crown) – debuted a special virtual reality dive exhibition at the Tokyo Game Show.
One of the most pivotal moments of the original film is actually the introduction. As the title sequence begins, we see the Major being assembled in her cybernetic body through a very fluid – and quite frankly beautiful – montage that seems to blend the ideas of technology and birth. Layer by layer she is slowly constructed as a host of machines lift her through the air until finally covering her in pale skin and she opens her eyes. This lovely sequence was the target for Production I.G. and the Ghost in the Shell Virtual Dive sought to recreate this scene – except this time with current graphics and rendered in 360 degree virtual reality.
The short trailer shows an artificial spine and brain floating into view. Suddenly it is overlaid with a holographic nervous system and an automated heart sinks into place and begins to pulse with a blue light. This is followed by a skeletal system, muscle, and at last skin and hair. The Major opens her eyes and looks right at the camera as we zoom forward in on her eye.
In April of last year the ‘Full Dive’ exhibition actually took place across the Kanto region in 31 specially chosen Internet cafes and let visitors strap into a VR headset in order to experience the re-imagined opening shot of Ghost in the Shell. Fans of Ghost in the Shell, as well as anyone attracted to the iconic franchise and the cultural, political, and spiritual implications that it introduced, gave it an overwhelmingly positive review, and on their website sponsored by Kotaku is an actual downloadable file of the preview.
Reportedly Production I.G. has plans to further develop the intro and perhaps make it even more interactive – and longer, upwards of 15 minutes – which is a big step. With VR headsets becoming more and more accessible and affordable, we can expect to see the entire videogame and movie industry change in order to keep up. Which, in this case, means more virtual reality content. At the same time, the difference in costs of production between normal anime and VR CGI is quite extensive, so we might still have to wait several years before we see a fully virtual-reality anime hit the big screens.
Nevertheless, it is an interesting convergence between contemporary technology and the world portrayed by Ghost in the Shell, so it feels somehow appropriate that one of the more important VR events in the world should coincide with both a new live-action adaptation of the film as well as a new anime series Arise which has rebooted the series with a younger Motoko Kusanagi voiced by the incomparable Maaya Sakamoto.
For more information, be sure to check out their website where the trailer can be purchased from Google and the App Store. Also be sure to check new updates as it becomes available on other devices (in particular, a launch on the Playstation VR is expected for the new year).