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

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ghost in the Shell: Vol 2: Man-Machine Interface (2001)

Author: Masamune Shirow | Illustrator: Masamune Shirow | Page Count: 312

"Characters and letters are mirrors on the soul—books are their body. Life can be defined in so many different ways…"

If you've read either of the previous books in the series (Vol 1 (1991) / Vol 1.5: Human-Error Processor (2003)), the first thing you'll notice about M-MI is the difference in art style. The technology needed to fully visualise the future world as Shirow imagined it had finally caught up with his vision. His obsession with depicting the future as detailed and as sexy as possible took him approximately four years and five months to achieve. It's the most perfect blend of traditional manga and digital colouring that I've ever seen. I don't generally like the technique, but it's almost impossible not to be awed by the result.

It’s set in 2035, five years after the events of the first book, but it's not a direct continuation. Section 9 feature occasionally, but mostly it follows the Major, who's now the chief security officer for a huge conglomerate. She protects their business interests while also financing some of her own.

As ridiculous as it may sound, your enjoyment of the book will be partly dependent on your reading speed. If you're a slow reader, the rigid, tech-talk will appear to reduce everything else to a stuttering pace. Conversely, if you can read at a steady and moderate speed, you'll be able to better balance the action that's happening around the information overload. Yes, Ghost in the Shell is about lofty concepts, but it's also about action and about moving from problem to solution in the quickest possible time. Unfortunately, Shirow throws constant interruptions at you in the form of lengthy and atmosphere-breaking footnotes, further impeding the all-important flow.

It's a feast for the eyes, there's no doubt of that, but the plot is much too complicated for its own good, so expect to be overwhelmed and possibly even completely lost on your first read through. For me, the deeper understanding that came with repeated readings was accompanied by a realisation that a sizeable part of the first half could've been cut with no great impact to the resolution.

3½ remotely controlled humanoid terminals out of 5

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