Derik Badman's Journal

2021-06-25 08:22

Reread Ghost in the Shell 2 and Ghost in the Shell 1.5 (in that order, which is the publication order though not the creation order) to finish up my Shirow reread (I don't have any of his post GitS 2 work, and from what I've seen of it online, there's not much to "read" in it). GitS 2 is perhaps one of the oddest and most incomprehensible comics I own (and I say that as someone who owns a significant number of abstract and non-narrative comics). Shirow moves heavily into digital art, but in a way that is completely unusual and feels really dated (not exactly like Batman: Digital Justice does, but sort of). There is a still drawing going on, but also manipulated photographs, 3d modeled imagery, copy/pasted assets, digitally added overlays, gradients, metallics, even digital blurs for motion. The plot is abstract, still spy/hacking/fighting/intrigue stuff but burdened by layers and layers of neologisms related to the futuristic cybertech that can make whole pages mostly abstract from a story point of view. Shirow peppers the text with annotations explaining different aspects of the story that are not at all clear from images or dialogue/narration, even he seems to understand the opacity of much of it.

Someone probably has (or could) do a whole analysis about the nudity (or kind of lack thereof) in the comic. Clearly the last stage before his subsequent work that is really just barely narrative illustrations/panels about impossible woman in states of undress in various genre settings, GitS 2 finds the protagonist in an almost constant state of floating around in cyberspace (or underwater, very rarely on the ground amongst any people or physical objects) in a kind of sexless nudity like she is wearing the tightest, thinnest, full bodysuit with no seams. Even when in the physical world, there are constant references to her clothes, like why as a robotic/android/cyber body she wears them at all, or how ridiculous some of the clothes are (in their practicality). It's like Shirow is obsessed with drawing these woman's bodies and their nudity but also... almost completely avoiding drawing them actually naked. It is so fetishistic and it almost (completely) takes over the comic.

I think it is very telling about the popularity/quality/comprehensibility of GitS 2 that I don't think (I haven't seen them all, though I've seen most of the animes) any of the many multilmedia franchise works that continue to come out (mostly anime, but some other manga, video games, that movie with ScarJo) have not adapted or even seem to borrow from this volume.

GitS 1.5 is thusly a strange change of pace, until you realize that despite its "later in the publishing timeline at the back of the books" status, it was an aborted earlier attempt at a sequal to the original GitS (like that incomplete Appleseed book). This has a much more traditionally cyberpunk/esponiage/detective plot focusing on the other characters from the first volume, with the former protagonist Kusanagi only appearing a bit in one or two chapters. It's not hard to see why Shirow gave up on it, as it feels like just a not very exciting retread of the first volume without the novelty or the most interesting character.

I also tried (and failed) to reread his Orion which has a lot of neologistic incomprehensibility like GitS 2 but is even worse because it's a combination of sci-fi, buddhism, lovecraftian magic, and other things all wrapped in a plot that is mostly long science-magical fights.

In total, having reread all these manga, Shirow is on one hand very consistent (his interests in technology, his reliance on police action tropes) but also wildly inconsistent in his implementations as stories that are enjoyable and readable.