The strange but familiar world of a Japanese TV cartoon.
by Anders Sandberg
A woman with purple hair stands on the edge of a skyscraper's roof, watching the green-lit cityscape beneath her. She jumps -- not quite flying, not quite falling -- while coolly preparing her equipment for a political assassination.
Sound familiar? It's the opening scene of the animated Japanese film Ghost in the Shell (1995), but you don't have to know the movie to recognize it. It's been recycled everywhere from music videos to The Matrix.
Ghost in the Shell was based on Masamune Shirow's comic book by the same name. The film, in turn, has spawned the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which debuted in Japan in 2003 and may soon be available to Americans on the Cartoon Network. Between its dystopian politics and its postmodern take on identity, the cartoon engages issues far more interesting than those you'll find on most live-action shows.