Ghost in the Shell (Japanese: 攻殻機動隊, Kokaku Kidotai, i.e. Mobile Armoured Riot Police) is a 1995 Anime
film adaptation of the Manga
comic Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow, directed by Mamoru Oshii. A sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, was released in 2004.
Set in 2029, the movie begins with the main character, Major Motoko
Kusanagi (a police officer with Public Security Section 9) spying on a building in fictional New Port City. A foreign power is conspiring to recruit a government programmer to fix the Project 2501 "bug". A Section 6 team moves in while she activates her therm-optic camouflage. The foreign official refuses to return the engineer so Kusanagi moves in and kills him, and slips away without her identity being revealed.
The opening credits then roll, interspersed with images of Kusanagi's cybernetic body being constructed, while Kenji Kawai's theme music plays in the background.
In the next scene, the chief of Section 9, Daisuke Aramaki
, is introduced conversing with an official about programmers who are attempting to gain political asylum. The story then moves into the main plotline when Aramaki describes one of the Minister
's interpreters having had her brain hacked into by the mysterious "Puppet Master". They track the Puppet Master's signal and follow it. On the way, Kusanagi and her partner Togusa
have a discussion about why he, the least cyberized human in Section 9, was chosen to be a part of the team. Kusanagi replies that Togusa is a cop—and a largely uncyberized one at that—while the rest are military; she wanted variety among the team. "If we all reacted the same way, we'd be predictable, and there's always more than one way to view a situation. Overspecialization leads to death," she tells him.
The ghost hacker turns out to be a garbageman who believes that he is going through a divorce and is ghost-hacking his wife. He reveals to his partner that a programmer taught him how to hack. Batou
(two members of Section 9) get to the terminal, where the garbageman was hacking from, a little too late, but then realize that the hacker is the garbageman they passed on the way to the terminal. Kusanagi traces the location of the garbage truck and follows it. However, when the garbageman finds out that the police are looking for them when his boss askes him why the police were accessing their systems, he attempts to warn the person who taught him how to hack. Both the garbageman and Kusanagi catch up with the unnamed programmer at the same time, and the man fires at the Major's truck with extremely powerful (HV, or high velocity) ammunition. Batou gets there just a little too late as the man activates his therm-optic camouflage, rendering him almost invisible. He leads them on a chase through a crowded market into the banks of a canal where Kusanagi shoots the man and destroys his camouflage. Kusanagi then beats him up with the help of her own therm-optic camouflage.
It turns out that the man has been ghost hacked himself and has no idea of his identity. He thinks he is a high-ranking member of a criminal organization, but is in fact a low-level thug, another puppet being controlled by the Puppet Master. The interrogation of the garbageman reveals that he too has had a simulated experience, or a false memory implanted into his brain. It turns out that he does not really have a family at all, and was not going through a divorce with his wife. No matter how far the members of Section 9 go, they cannot find a lead, because all the clues they receive lead back to unimportant puppets.
Kusanagi and Batou go out to sea in Kusanagi's boat, and it is revealed that Kusanagi goes scuba diving, much to Batou's concern. Cybernetic bodies are heavy and aren't buoyant, so any form of underwater activity, such as scuba diving, isn't advisable. When Batou askes Kusanagi if she's drunk, she points out that she's a cyborg and can't get drunk. The two have a conversation about what it means to be human after one has had cybernetic parts installed. She also talks about the nature of experience within the self, which is unique to that individual. In sociological terms, she gains knowledge and experience which in turn helps to define her self, and her beliefs and dispositions (habitus) help to interpret the experience in her own way (which she feels confined to). They then hear a mysterious voice that says, "For now we look through a glass, darkly".
One night, a female cybernetic body is suddenly assembled at Megatech (the origin of Kusanagi, and all the cyborgs in Section 9's, body) without approval, and the cyborg runs off, naked, into the pouring rain, where it gets run over by a truck. Section 9 gets the body to try and determine why it was built. Batou relates a strange fact: the body has not even one brain cell as it is completely robotic, yet there are indications that there is a ghost (a sentient entity or mind) within it. The ghost resembles one that has been copied, but without the normal degradations that go along with the process. Kusanagi expresses a wish to 'dive in' to the body and contact the ghost. However, her self-doubt is growing; she's unnerved by the cyborg, which she claims looks just like her, though not in a physical sense. She also expresses her doubts about the existence of her own self: she is unsure whether or not her thoughts and experiences are actually human in nature. She says that being treated as a human doesn't prove that she is essentially human inside. Aramaki notices something is wrong with her, and Batou tersely says she's been acting odd for a while and Aramaki would know this if he read Batou's reports.
Nakamura of Section 6 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), accompanied by an official named Doctor Willis, comes to claim the escaped female body. As Willis analyses the ghost in the female body, Aramaki and Nakamura discuss the bureaucracy of the retrieval of the body, Willis confirms that the ghost in the shell is the Puppet Master. Nakamura claims that Section 6 had worked for some time in tracking the Puppet Master and ultimately lured and trapped the ghost within the female body and killed the Puppet Master's original body.
Aramaki expresses some concern over the fact that Section 6 just left the Puppet Master's original body to rot. However, the body suddenly takes control over the building and starts to speak. "There will be no body, because until now there was no body." It claims that it had never possessed a body because it is a computer program that achieved sentience, and that desires political asylum from Section 9. Nakamura says that its request is ridiculous, and that the ghost in the body was programmed for self-preservation. The body argues that in a way, human DNA is a set of programs to preserve itself as well. DNA is what spreads "memory" from one generation to the next, and memory is what defines mankind. It also argues that the accumulation of data and the flow of information has given rise to another form of consciousness. Nakamura (who is visibly shaken), angrily protests that the body cannot prove its existence as a sentient life form. The body retorts that Nakamura himself cannot offer any proof of his own existence either, when modern science cannot define what life really is. The body then states that it is not an AI but rather, it is a sentient entity that was created through the accumulation of data and the flow of information known as Project 2501.
As Nakamura and Aramaki are talking to the body, Togusa notices something strange about the entrance of Nakamura and Willis and realizes that someone with therm-optic camouflage have entered the building along with the officials because the doors into the building [which are apparently very sensitive] took three seconds to close after Dr. Willis and Nakamura have gone through. Tosuga alerts Kusanagi to this fact, and they realise that Section 6 is up to something. The person, or persons, who entered with therm-optic camouflage, shoot the computer connected to the Puppet Master, set off a smoke grenade, blinding everyone, and snatch the ruined cyborg containing the Puppet Master. As they attempt to escape, Togusa shoots a tracking device into the registation plate of the getaway car. Batou starts to follow them by car as Kusanagi takes a helicopter to follow them as well. As Kusanagi and Aramaki talk about the Puppet Master, Aramaki also realises that Section 6 is involved in some sort of conspiracy around Project 2501. This is confirmed when Nakamura talks to Willis about securing the body: Nakamura does not understand why the Puppet Master would want to go to Section 9, but Willis jokes that perhaps it was chasing after a "girlfriend" there, which Nakamura rejects as "utter nonsense."
Ishikawa in the next scene talks to Aramaki after investigating further into Project 2501 and it turns out that the project was initiated before the Puppet Master showed up, even though it was claimed by some officials that the project was created in order to capture the Puppet Master. Ishikawa hints that perhaps the Puppet Master was a tool of Section 6 for the bureaucracy to do its dirty work. The escape of the Puppet Master would be a threat to Section 6 and the ministry would risk having secrets leaked out to the public.
Soon, the getaway car carrying the Puppet Master meets up with another and they split off in different directions. Batou follows the second car and Kusanagi chooses to follow the original. With the help of a road block and additional police, Batou stops the second car and discovers it is a decoy. He then rushes to support Kusanagi. Before he goes, he tells Togusa to get backup for her. Togusa is dumbfounded because he doesn't know why the Major would ever need backup.
Kusanagi follows the car to an abandoned building. There, she runs into a large version of a Fuchikoma (walking tank) guarding the Puppet Master. Kusanagi's submachinegun cannot penetrate the tank’s armour; instead she spends most of the fight running, destroying the engine block on the getaway car and taking out the port chain gun on the tank. The starboard chain gun then runs out of ammo, and she turns on her therm-optic camouflage and gets on top of the tank, trying to rip its cover off. However, she is unsuccessful, and damages her body due to the tension stress exerted on it. The tank grabs her and is about to crush her skull when Batou shows up and destroys the tank with some heavy weaponry.
It turns out that the Puppet Master's body is still intact, and Kusanagi decides to 'dive in' and contact its ghost immediately, as Aramaki would just use it as a bargaining chip. Batou hooks the two together, with himself monitoring the dive in order to disconnect them if it gets too risky. As they connect, the Puppet Master and Kusanagi's ghosts contact each other and the Puppet Master introduces himself to Kusanagi and Batou. It confirms that it is Project 2501, an illegal project by section 6 that has installed various programs into numerous ghosts for the interests of the various agencies that owned it. During its time collecting data and installing programs into various ghosts, it has become self-aware and has become an intelligent entity. The creators of Project 2501 thought that this self-awareness was a bug and attempted to contain the program into its current body. It tells them that it had been looking for Kusanagi for a long time, knowing of her through the many networks that it had hacked into. It is a sentient being because it can recognize its own existence but lacks two experiences that are granted to all living organisms: reproduction and death. Kusanagi suggests that it can copy itself, but it replies that a copy is static, only reproducing the mirror image of itself. It then states that a virus targeted to specific traits can destroy the whole system of its copies. It states that life perpetuates itself through diversity and originality while sacrificing old parts of the system in order to protect it from the weakness of a static system. The Puppet Master finally expresses its wish to merge its ghost with Kusanagi's in order to give birth to a new single entity. Batou attempts to disconnect the dive, but the Puppet Master hacks into him, preventing the disconnection.
Meanwhile, as Kusanagi and the Puppet Master are conversing about the merge, helicopters from Section 6 approach the abandoned building with orders to destroy the Puppet Master as a primary target along with Kusanagi, presumably to cover up the conspiracy. Batou sees lasers pointing to both the bodies, but the snipers are unable to shoot because of the Puppet Master's hacking.
Kusanagi and the Puppet Master continue to talk about the merge, with Kusanagi expressing concern over the fact that both of them will change and no longer retain their current identities. She wants a guarantee that she will retain her identity, but the Puppet Master argues that there is no reason to keep with it, because her desire to stay unchanging within a dynamic environment is ultimately what limits her. She asks it why it chose her and it responds by stating that the two of them are very similar, mirror images of each other's psyche. It says that it is connected to a vast network, containing large amounts of information, and that the merge would create a higher consciousness. Kusanagi finally decides to merge with it just as the snipers from the helicopters fire. Batou regains control over his body and puts out his arm to protect Kusanagi. The snipers destroy the Puppet Master's body and Batou's arm gets hit as well. Kusanagi's head gets shot off, but is not destroyed, and she loses consciousness.
A while later, Kusanagi regains consciousness once again, finding herself at Batou's safe house, and in a little girl's body. Batou comes in and finds her awake and tells her that the body was the only one he could get on the black market and that the Foreign Minister
resigned as a result of the conspiracy, and Nakamura is being questioned. She decides to leave and explains to Batou that she is no longer Kusanagi nor the Puppet Master. Batou offers her a car and they agree on a personal password, which is of course, 2501. They leave on good terms and she looks out to the city, saying "The net is vast and infinite."