Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence: After the Long Goodbye (2007)

Author: Masaki Yamada | Translators: Yuji Oniki & Carl Gustav Horn
Page Count: 197 

"I'm not all that popular. At the same time, I hardly ever meet someone I like. In that sense, my life is balanced out."

A prequel to the second Ghost in the Shell feature film, Innocence (2004). Unlike most TV and film tie-in novels this one is actually good—damn good. It creates a singular narrative that doesn't rely heavily on the film but remains referential and respectful to it. Knowledge of the characters is obviously necessary to fully appreciate the small intricacies, but the text also manages to stand on its own two feet admirably.

It,s told first person, from the cyborg Batou's perspective  Batou isn't the most intelligent or passionate of individuals, so it may come as a surprise to find that his sensitive side, a secretive part of himself that he reserves for mostly one person in the films, could be so well-developed without compromising the integrity of the character. It gets deep into the mind of the man, the only part of him that's still human, to explore the themes of self that René Descartes popularised. That self-analysis is the novel's greatest strength, and what Ghost in the Shell is perfectly suited to.

If you want an action-packed Section 9 novel you'll be disappointed. After the Long Goodbye is a Batou book from beginning to end. It expands upon the feelings he was left to nurture at the end of the first film, and further develops the philosophical questions that were a large part of the second. It embraces the personal in an impersonal world. It's sci-fi with heart that doesn't shy away from the bigger questions. I only wish it had been longer.

With regards the translation, the prose flows beautifully, never feeling clunky or awkward. It's one of the most successful translations from such a difficult language that I've ever encountered.

Included at the end is a transcript of a short talk between author Yamada and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence director, Mamoru Oshii. It's fascinating, but, unless you want spoilers, don't read until you've viewed both films.

4 specific brands of dog food out of 5

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