Considered one of the greatest cyberpunk films to date, (you can find another masterpiece on this list too!) Ghost in the Shell (1995) predates the TV series by almost 10 years, but also predates the TV series within the series by about 3 years. The year is 2029. Cybernetics have allowed humans to replace the more fragile parts of their bodies such as organs, brains, skeletons, and more, with robotics. The playing field is leveled a bit more as for the most part, those who can get the parts, are suddenly stronger, faster, more intelligent, and connected to the web at all times. Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team known as Section 9 are hunting down a series of hackings that are being carried out. Once they do catch these hackers, they all have the same issue; they have no memories, and the ones that they do have, have all been implanted and are fake. It then becomes clear that there is another. A darker force in the shadows is pulling the strings. Known as “The Puppetmaster”, Motoko, her right-hand man Batou, and the rest of Section 9 set off to track him, her, or is it them, down and bring them to justice.
Ghost in the Shell enjoys asking its audience many, many questions varying from “What does it mean to be human?”, “How can you prove that the memories that you possess are organic, you own, and actually occurred?”, and even “Where does the line between human and machine begin and end?”. These and more are asked to viewers while they enjoy this truly deep and complex movie. Whether you have come here after seeing the 2017 live action adaptation, the 1995 original that this article is talking about, or anywhere else in the franchise, this list is for you. Join us as we explore 6 different anime movies across the sci-fi, steampunk, and police anime spectrum similar to the masterpiece from creator Masamune Shirow and director Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell.
Similar Anime Movies to Ghost in the Shell
- Genres: Action, Police, Sci-fi, Mecha, Drama
- Release Date: Apr 17, 2004
Appleseed (2004) is another work born from the genius that is Masamune Shirow. While it is not as outstanding as Ghost in the Shell is, many fans find that the overlapping themes, ideas, and concepts are more than reason enough to enjoy a viewing. Deunan Knute is saved by a soldier known as Hitomi. She tries to escape but it stopped by her ex-lover Briareos and finds out that the war she was fighting is over. Deunan finds herself living in a utopian city known as Olympus populated with humans and artificial humans known as bioroids. As with any utopia presented in anime, the false visage is hiding a much more dystopian reality. After venturing to a facility to learn more about Bioroids, Deunan and Briareos are besieged and cornered. They must kill to escape while terrorists and the government that is supposed to be protecting everyone, is out to kill the Bioroids for fear that they are taking over. Dark past or not, Deunan is now faced with a choice, go with what she knows and is being told, or risk it all by challenging them.
As we pointed out at the beginning, both Appleseed and GITS are created by Masamune Shirow for starters. The theme of questioning authority while working for it is something both Deunan and Motoko face. Deunan must question what is misinformation, and what is not, while Motoko, or the Major, purely pursues her desires on whim and curiosity even if this means going against authority. Humanity and what it means to be human are sharply questioned as well here as people try to understand more and more what makes a machine and what makes a human. There is also the existential question of “is it taking a life if it is more machine than human?” Both of these police sci-fi dramas are fantastic watches and if you are looking for more after these series, well there is more to the franchise! For what it is worth, both soundtracks have been heavily praised as well.
- Genres: Action, Sci-fi, Futuristic, Supernatural
- Release Date: Jul. 16, 1988
This is the other cyberpunk masterpiece that we were teasing in the intro! Really though it is not a surprise that Akira is here as it deserves to be here on its own merits. It just happens to also share some elements and aspects as GITS too. In 1988, there is an issue with a boy who creates explosions with his powers that ushers in the era of World War III. Caught and taken away, humanity progresses towards another fantastic dystopia in the year 2019. Civilians have risen up against Tokyo in this new era performing acts of terrorism and violence against their so-called government that rules over them. It is here that we meet Shoutarou Kaneda, leader of “the Capsules” who not only have a constant beef with a rival gang known as “the Clowns”, but ride fantastically large and exaggerated motorcycles throughout Neo-Tokyo. One fateful day, Shoutarou’s best friend, Tetsuo, has an issue with an esper who is escaping from the government. Due to his exposure to the esper, and some other details we cannot reveal without spoiling the plot, Tetsuo develops powers that the government is keen to contain and study. Why? They do not want World War IV on their hands. Thus Shoutarou and Tetsuo’s adventure begins…
Akira and Ghost in the Shell are all over the place but the biggest few things that stand out are the societies that they live in. Slimy, grimy, gritty and more, these false utopias are believed by some but known to others as true dystopias. Centered in mystery, both series also explore what it is that makes us human or rather what makes us “us” and them “them”. Technology is light years ahead in these series as well as the struggle against the system is ever present as they attempt to move the story along. We could keep going on and on about Akira, but honestly, you just need to see it.
3. Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
- Genres: Sci-fi, Action, Psychological
- Release Date: Oct. 8, 2010
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is the first movie in a series that follows Rune Balot, a child prostitute in Mardock City. She meets Shell, an elite, one day who gives her everything she wants. Though one day, Shell grows tired of her after Rune learns about his past and so he has her killed. However, Scramble 09, tries to piece everything back together with her memories in order to help her achieve justice. She wakes up in a new, prosthetic body with her memories intact and Scramble 09 at her service. With the help of an experimental mouse named Oeufcoque, and the doctor who brought her back, Dr. Easter, Rune learns about her new body, how to use it, how to fight, and how to get her Justice.
We can start right off talking about the blurred line between machine and human in both Mardock Scramble and Ghost in the Shell. These two cyberpunk works feature betrayal, danger, sci-fi and rebirth as well. While Ghost in the Shell does rely more heavily on psychology while Mardock Scramble is more about action, but do not let that turn you away as both talk about futuristic settings, and have strong female characters, mystery, suspense, and action. Sit down, buckle up, and get ready for a wild ride.
Mardock Scramble Trailer:
Any Anime Like Movies to Ghost in the Shell ?
4. Jin-Rou (Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade)
- Genres: Military, Police, Drama
- Release Date: Nov. 17, 1999
Harking from an era before many, Jin-Rou follows Kazuki Fuse after he has just seen the most horrifying scene that he can think of; a young girl who is a suicide bomber. He undergoes psychological therapy and training to deal with it after the effect but he has been disgraced within the military. He visits the grave of the girl who blew herself up. A peculiar relationship begins to form between the two until Kei lures Kazuki into a trap that sets himself against everything that he knows, where he makes a grave mistake. Now that they are on the run, Kazuki has the wool pulled from over his eyes and everything that he thought was the truth, is brought into question.
GITS and Jin-Rou center on a rather corrupt or broken governmental organization that just happens to be located in Japan. Both also center on police and their actions within and outside of the law. Mamoru Oshii has directed both of these movies, as well as Jin-Rou, also does what Ghost in the Shell is notorious for; You are not told the story verbatim and via the characters relaying every single shred of detail. Rather, the viewer is left to think for themselves and form their own opinions as they discover the story. Take a look and do not miss this one for sure!
5. Kara no Kyoukai 1: Fukan Fuukei (The Garden of Sinners Chapter 1: Overlooking View)
- Genres: Action, Mystery, Supernatural, Thriller
- Release Date: Dec. 1, 2007
Kara no Kyoukai looks at a string of strange suicides that are occurring with a few peculiar similarities, All of the girls are high school girls, they all have been jumping from the same building, and not a single suicide note has been left. Shiki Ryougi, a mysterious girl with special powers known as “mystic eyes of death perception” and Mikiya Kokutou are dispatched to investigate these deaths. However, not all is as it seems as suddenly strange apparitions are attacking, powers have to be used, and maybe quite possibly, what is and is not human all of a sudden?
GITS and KnK right off the bat have very similar protagonists. The Major and Shiki are very similar in both appearance, attitudes, and personalities. Both are, at the end of the day, trying to solve problems and save others from cruel fates even though they go to different measures to accomplish their goals. While we know almost immediately that the Major has a robotic body, we learn more about Shiki’s body as the story goes on and learn that parts of her are in fact, unique and not organic. Drama, action, as well as conflict abound at certain points which are guaranteed to keep your attention!
The Garden of Sinners Trailer
6. Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled from Paradise (Expelled from Paradise)
- Genres: Sci-fi, Action, Mecha, Space
- Release Date: Nov. 15, 2014
Society is ruled by DEVA located on a space station orbiting the earth. Everyone lives here virtually after a disaster ruined Earth years ago. Everyone lives in false happiness until Frontier Setter, a skilled hacker begins to hack into DEVA and talk about leaving Earth in hope of living on other planets. Considered subversive, Frontier Setter is pursued by Angela Balzac, an officer for DEVA. She makes a clone body and drops down to earth to meet Dingo, a man who should be able to lead her to Frontier Settler. However, the more time she spends trapped on earth racing against other hunters like herself, what she learns will rock her world to the core as the rose glasses come off.
GITS and Rakuen Tsuihou focus on what look like utopian societies, or at least societies where the people think that they can trust the government. However, the government is the last place that people should be placing their trust. Truly dystopian, they have many issues and can be rather cruel or corrupt when dealing with their own people. Rakuen Tsuihou does not go as far with the “what is human” concept but it does question the whole “us versus them” argument. Both the boundaries of virtual and reality are questioned and featured while both headstrong main characters swap bodies, downloading their identities into their robots. Bonus! Both movies feature hackers as the antagonists. We can’t go too much further, but you will sure like them both!
Rakuen Tsuihou: Expelled from Paradise Trailer:
And here we are again at the end of this list. Sad, yet true. Ghost in the Shell is a classic that has inspired for 22 years and probably will for years and years to come! This cyberpunk classic is going nowhere and we at Honey’s Anime are happy to know this. What about you? Have you seen other anime movies that you find to be similar to Ghost in the Shell? Be sure to let us know below what you think. Till next time!