With its sprawling neon cityscapes, silly techno-sex and preponderance of flapping leather trenchcoats, the cyberpunk genre felt dated almost as soon as it arrived. But a few key artefacts have survived the ravages of time: the early novels of William Gibson, the first ‘Matrix’ movie and this dizzying, ideas-heavy 1995 animated action flick.
In a rain-flecked dystopian city, hybrid human-machine souls, or ‘ghosts’, patrol both the physical world and the knotted networks of cyberspace. When a rogue hacker known only as the Puppet Master manages to infiltrate government firewalls, it’s up to relentless, frequently nude female cyborg Kusanagi to track him down.
There are moments of sheer visual poetry in ‘Ghost in the Shell’: its crumbling metropolis is vaster and more detailed than anything this side of ‘Blade Runner’, and the interface between the real world and cyberspace is beautifully realised. The plot is impossibly dense and the characters – perhaps appropriately – feel like little more than cyphers, but for sheer mind-expanding sci-fi strangeness this is hard to beat.