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Ghost In The Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface
Shirow Masamune
Dark Horse Manga paperback $24.95
UK distribution by Titan - £19.99

review by Ian Shutter

This follow-up volume to Ghost In The Shell isn't so much a narrative sequel as a diversion from the norm. Like its predecessor, this is strictly for mature readers. Far less concerned with clunky cyborgs or robots than with what could more accurately be called 'synthetic beings', Man-Machine Interface explores the practical consequences and theoretical ramifications of an imperfect (yet seemingly inevitable) future of technologically augmented people leading increasingly computer-enhanced lives. Motoko is now a freelance antiterrorist expert who projects her conscious will into human-analogue androids, while she investigates a series of extraordinary crimes. She's not alone, though. Psychic girl Tamaki, who works for the Channelling Agency, also embarks upon similar investigations pursuant to the prevention of a seeming cosmological apocalypse. Reality itself appears threatened by adverse pressures from the complexity and activities of e-brain networks. This is not about the end of the world; it's about the end of existence...

As before we have an almost random mix of colour and b/w artwork, while the female characters are drawn with the familiar manga traits of big eyes and overly sexualised bodies, but this time the photorealistic CGI backgrounds are exceptionally intricate and frequently quite dazzling. This is especially true of arrayed control panels and virtual cockpits that are wrapped around our skimpily attired heroines. Gratuitous up-skirt views and profuse crotch shots will doubtless endear the book to male fans of Ghost In The Shell (unfortunate acronym GITS), and in glamorised visualisations of both Motoko and Tamaki in the dramatic null-gravity realm of cyberspace (boasting multi-image overlays of quirky avatars, 'desktop' icons, blazing light-swirls on billowing wire-frame schematics, reminiscent of Tron), they appear naked - sans nipples and pubic hair, of course, in the prescribed Japanese style.

The hectically paced action and fighting scenes are incredibly dynamic, with cinematic effects like slickly convincing motion blur. It's an artistic breakthrough that heralds a brand new age of ultra sophisticated manga imagery, attaining higher production standards than ever before. Purely in terms of on-the-page perceptions, the already fine line between software and hardware is erased. Simply put, GITS: Man-Machine Interface does for 21st century comicbooks what Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within did for animated movies.
Ghost in the Shell 2

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