Matrix and Ghost in the Shell comparison
January 5, 2005 1:02 PM   Subscribe

A scene by scene comparison between the Matrix and Ghost in the Shell, a critically acclaimed japanese anime that was released four years before the Matrix.
posted by disgruntled (43 comments total)
I've always thought Matrix owed everything to Dark City. The french agree.
posted by damehex at 1:07 PM on January 5, 2005

That site is dying. Violently.
posted by kavasa at 1:09 PM on January 5, 2005

Love the URL.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:25 PM on January 5, 2005

I don't get why every example is given a "Conspiracy Rating." It's not like the Matrix was a shameless plagiary; the Wachowskis have always been very open about how Ghost in the Shell was a major inspiration.

A little more research, and the investigator would have discovered that the reason that the Matrix glyphs look similar to Japanese characters is that most of the glyphs are mirror-image flips of Kanji.

On preview: damehex, the Matrix v. Dark City debate is eternal and enduring, but it's hard not to owe something to a movie when you use its sets to save $$$. However, besides how the sets forced a visual similarity, I don't find much common ground between the films. Sure, they're both sci-fi and deal with the nature of identity in a PKD-esque style, but at its heart, Dark City is really a noir mystery, while the Matrix is an action flick. The driving theme of Dark City is "What's left of who you are when everything you remember is a lie?" while The Matrix is more "Why do you fight on against authority when your destruction is inevitable and the authority controls the very nature of reality?" Dark City is a more thoughtful, stylish, pensive examination of the weighty questions the Matrix (ab)uses for exposition.
posted by jbrjake at 1:30 PM on January 5, 2005

Isn't it pretty much agreed upon that the W Bros. put anime, wire fu, star wars, video games, Philip K. Dick, hacker culture, and various flavors of mysticism in a pot and stirred?

on preview: and what jbrjake said.
posted by gwint at 1:32 PM on January 5, 2005

Um, Neuromancer...
posted by luckyclone at 1:38 PM on January 5, 2005

The Matrix is a dumb-downed hodgepodge of a lot of greater sources and while it wouldn't surprise me if Ghost in the Shell was one of them, I see nothing truly damning here. The creator of this site is really stretching. He gives one of the higher 'conspiracy ratings', 8 out of 10, to this:

"Batou(Motoko's partner) chases down a suspect down a crowded market area, while an Agent is chasing Neo also down a crowded market area. They also both happen to pull out a gun while in the crowd as well(not shown)."

Yes, because Ghost in the Shell pioneered the concept of the chase through a crowd. Have you no shame, Wachowski Bros.? At long last, have you no shame?

Oddly enough, the site's author never actually gives out a conspiracy rating of 10, which suggests to me that even he realises how weak his premise is.
posted by picea at 1:41 PM on January 5, 2005

What a tremendous waste of effort. Give me some spare time and I can publish a site conclusively showing that The Matrix stole everything from Gone With The Wind. I like both films quite a bit, but the similarities pointed out are on the level of noting all humans have noses. How about we go back and show how Ghost In The Shell stole from Blade Runner, and how Blade Runner stole from Metropolis, and how...
posted by Vaska at 1:43 PM on January 5, 2005

I can't view the site, but I agree, the entire premise is dumb. The W Bros have never even tried to hide the influence of anime in the Matrix. They even state in the DVD documentaries about how one of the things they wanted to do was make a live-action anime. They talk at length about influences, including GitS, and how they'd pour over anime looking for ways to incorporate its design astethics into the Matrix. Personally, I think it's just fun looking for all the homages. I love the Akira-blast explosions during the showdown at the end of Revolutions, and the way their CG fire moves in an almost-intelligent way.

But then, I'm a pretentious jerk who LIKES all three movies, so what do I know?
posted by InnocentBystander at 1:45 PM on January 5, 2005

What a tremendous waste of effort. Give me some spare time and I can publish a site conclusively showing that The Matrix stole everything from Gone With The Wind.

Now THAT would be an awesome FPP.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 1:55 PM on January 5, 2005

I watch my Dark City DVD more often than my Matrix DVD.

And I never bothered to watch Ghost... it looked dull just from the art.
posted by linux at 1:59 PM on January 5, 2005

thank you.
posted by blendor at 2:06 PM on January 5, 2005

Since we're all geeks by virtue of being in this thread, and we're talking manga/anime plagiarism, how about Battle Angel Alita (Gunnm) vs. Frank Miller's Elektra?

Exhibit A
Exhibit B

In these examples, the picture on the top is from Battle Angel Alita, and the picture on the bottom has the same picture with the elements that were stolen from Frank Miller overlaid in their place. There are a whole slew of other ones, but this all came out when the net was still new in Japan, and have been lost to the ravages of time...
posted by Bugbread at 2:07 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

GITS was really really really brilliant.

GITS2 didn't wasn't good but it wasn't terrible either. It was a huge disappointment after the subtle brilliance of GITS.

And yeah, I liked all the Matrix movies.

Could I be... a geek?
posted by nixerman at 2:16 PM on January 5, 2005

picea, I haven't seen the site yet (doesn't work for me), but I have to say it's funny that you mention that bit because when I saw Matrix for the first time that's the exact moment in the film I exclaimed, "wow, this is _totally_ like GitS". I don't believe any conspiracy nonsense either, but I did notice distinct similarities (and not just plot stuff).
(for that scene in particular, I believe (from memory) that it was the _way_ in which the gun was pulled out and something to do with a watermelon that made it seem like such a rip-off)
posted by imaswinger at 2:23 PM on January 5, 2005

I just saw GitS (hee -I'm so mature) the other day for the first time and was tremendously underwhelmed for what is supposed to be one of the more reputable japanimations - though I was glad the eternal question "When is an AI not an AI" was answered (apparently the answer is "When it says it isn't"). And the final note was just not nearly as clever as it thought it was (like much of the movie).

It was the same with the previous Anime I saw that was supposed to be the equivalent of Hitchcock, only less credible and with a hugely implausible ending. I haven't seen much else beyond Akira (which rocked), Legend of the Overfiend at a film festival a decade ago (tentacle porn - never again), and that one that won the oscar which was so profoundly 'meh' that I can't recall the title. Please tell me there's more substance to this whole thing than this. How can so many geeks be so wrong?
posted by Sparx at 2:25 PM on January 5, 2005

Could I be... a geek?

You didn't include The Standalone Complex (which is much fluffier than the films, but I'm enjoying it) or the original manga (which trumps them all). You may want to try harder ;).
posted by eyeballkid at 2:31 PM on January 5, 2005


There's better stuff out there, but it is really spare and far between unless you're enamored of anime in the first place.

As a former anime fan who now cowers his head in shame just thinking about the stuff I used to like, the only things I can recommend offhand are Miyazaki stuff (Laputa is probably the best regarded, though it is very oldskool and low budget compared to GITS or even Akira).

When it comes to manga, there's a bit more, but anime has been manga's bastard child for a while now. With absolutely no reservation whatsoever, I can recommend Nausicaa as being just plain good, independent of your like or dislike of the medium. But not the anime version, which is really weak.

But a lot of manga is good for reasons other than art or sci-fi-ness, which has (historically) thrown off much of the Western anime/manga crowd. I really like Naniwa Kinyudo, which is about loan sharks, and Gabbachitare, by some of the same folks, about, uh, according to my dictionary, "judicial scriveners". Basically, paralegals.
posted by Bugbread at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Have to admit I never noticed a strong similarity between Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix, but I wasn't really looking. Come to think of it, it wouldn't be hard to find similarities, but this sort of strikes me as conflating influences with plagiarism.

I don't even like anime and I think Ghost in the Shell is superb. It's one of the only anime flicks that doesn't grate on me. Maybe it's because I'm into animation in general, but not anime as a style. OTOH, Akira never impressed me.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:37 PM on January 5, 2005

Akira is only really good if you've read to comic, I find. And, once again, in comics as well as books, the printed version is usually better than the movie adaptation.
posted by Bugbread at 2:42 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Did anyone else notice the similarity between Nickelback and the Matrix?
posted by euphorb at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2005

I haven't seen much else beyond Akira (which rocked)

Watch Tezuka's Metropolis. It's fantastic (I say as only an anime amateur but a film fan).

But then, I'm a pretentious jerk who LIKES all three movies, so what do I know?

I liked them too. *shrugs*
posted by The God Complex at 2:45 PM on January 5, 2005

Heh. Doesn't the Lion King top them all for ripoffs, though?

As for what else there is to anime, that depends on what you're looking for. What's your flavor? While Akira and GITS are both somewhat overrated if only because they're the only ones on the radar for many Americans, there's all sorts of quality to be found through various genres.

Might I suggest Battle Angel for sci-fi with action and a fair amount of brains that doesn't try too hard (unlike the above)? The Escaflowne movie had good art, nice action in a fantasy setting. Very sweet story, if slightly overblown. The new Vampite Hunter D movie was quality, and actually at least mildly thoughtful about what vampires are in that setting. But I loved "Spirited Away" myself... but I suppose lovely little fairy tales aren't everyone's taste.

Not saying any of those are "the equivalent of Hitchcock." Just some pretty enjoyable movies off the top of my head. I could go into TV series of course, but those take a little more investment of effort.

There is substance... the two moments that have made chills run up my spine (one for sadness reasons, the series Saikano, one for resonating creepy imagery in End of Evangelion) were both in anime. But yeah, there's crap out there, and there's stuff that's just supposed to be fun, and there's stuff that's ambitious but not consistent, and there's all sorts of flavors. Ask the geeks you know which anime might be similar to stuff you know you do like.
posted by e^2 at 2:46 PM on January 5, 2005

Freaky... Just been watching Ghost in the Shell: The animated series, and I come upstairs to this.
I don't think you can compare Matrix and GitS. Matrix obviously draws from it, but to say that the stories are similar is to say that every SciFi book written in the early '90s is the same. It's cyberpunk. Get over it.
posted by seanyboy at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2005

e^2: Check out the links above for two examples of the author of Battle Angel ripping off Frank Miller.

Also, non-anime-watchers, keep in mind that most anime is made for anime fans, and either released direct to video or features very small movie releases. There's a lot less creativity, for the most part, in these direct-to-video productions, because they are targetting a captive audience (in a way). On the other hand, due to the lack of restrictions, there is sometimes (though seldom) a lot more creativity. Most Japanese don't really watch anime, it's seen as the domain of children and geeks, but most Japanese read manga.
posted by Bugbread at 2:55 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

I agree, incidentally, that GitS Innocence was disappointing. (although I've never been the biggest fan of the original) He managed to make a movie with even LESS plot than the original. And while it was impressive in the tone and mood it strikes, that and thundering surroundsound chants just can't carry a movie on their own. (just a soundtrack CD which is great for annoying the downstairs neighbors)
posted by InnocentBystander at 3:13 PM on January 5, 2005

It was my understanding that, amongst many other sources, the Wachowskis willfully "tipped their hats" (and openly admitted to doing so) at several specific sources... GitS among them.

I've been a GitS fan since it was released and a Matrix fan since it was released and I see no problem with this cinematic "borrowing" at all. In fact, I rather enjoyed their "remix" of the material.
posted by basicchannel at 3:25 PM on January 5, 2005

bugbread: never said it only went one way. Just throwing out some suggestions, and that's one of the few cases where compression was actually done well, fitting the best parts of the plot of a many-volume series into a couple of hours. (Leaves out some of the genuinely boring bits I could've done without in the manga.)
posted by e^2 at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2005

e^2: Sorry, that wasn't meant as an attack or a counterargument. I was just throwing something out that I thought was pretty interesting. I really liked Gunnm (Battle Angel) back in my day, and while I was disappointed that he took a lot (a lot) of art from Miller without credit, I still think it was an OK-to-good comic. Consider it "random trivia".

(Never saw the anime, though, so I have no idea how good the conversion was).
posted by Bugbread at 3:39 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

jbrjake: I think they're Katakana, not Kanji.
posted by abcde at 4:17 PM on January 5, 2005

The Matrix stole the hero's journey from Joseph Campbell. (See chart)
posted by BleachBypass at 6:48 PM on January 5, 2005

abcde: You are correct.
posted by Bugbread at 7:04 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Isn't it pretty much agreed upon that the W Bros. put anime, wire fu, star wars, video games, Philip K. Dick, hacker culture, and various flavors of mysticism in a pot and stirred?

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Well, maybe it is, if you stir too much and it all mooshes together like pabulum.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:34 PM on January 5, 2005

I, too, found Ghost in the Shell and the Matrix to have remarkably many obvious visual similarities when I saw the latter for the first time, though the website is doing a pretty poor job at explaining the many similarities.

If you've seen both films the borrowed material is hard to miss. But drawing inspiration in this way isn't (necessarily) a bad thing! The Matrix gives the GitS's effects a much more polished and smooth style and chucks loads of other equally impressive visuals effects into the movie: It's a rollercoaster ride!

I've tried to point people who liked The Matrix in the direction of Ghost in the Shell to show them where many of the ideas in the Matrix originated. GitS is intellectually less fast food-ish than the Matrix and if you're not in the right state of mind it might be somewhat boring, but the action scenes (most of them mimicked in the Matrix) are still cool.
posted by cx at 9:27 PM on January 5, 2005

Regarding the concept of "why do so many people like anime when I have watched X, Y and Z and thought it sucked?"

There are multiple things at play here. One of them is that we all have different asthetics. Not all that surprising.

Another is the "anime" is no more useful of a category than say "animated movies" except it's worse because it's really "animated movies and/or television shows and/or direct to video shlock". Even people who thought the Lion King was good (I imagine there are some) thought that the subsequent direct to video releases were horrible. Even people who liked Aladdin thought that the TV show based on it was crap. I liked GitS but thought Standalone Complex was pretty crap. Anyway, you might as well ask "I watched Casablanca, His Girl Friday, and Scream, and these seem to be well regarded movies. Do all movies suck, or what?"
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:59 PM on January 5, 2005

cx: Bluh. I was planning a comment in my head, but I scrolled to the bottom and saw everything I wanted to say. I definitely agree with paragraphs 1 and 3 in their entirety. The first time I saw the Matrix, I thought, wow! This is visually very much like GitS! And the first time I saw the website comparison, I was like, wow! Underwhelmed!

Though I do agree with the website's "conspiracy rating" regarding the exploding watermelons--the first time I saw that scene in the Matrix, I thought, in that particular case, that the homage might have crossed the line into, well, pickpocketing. Ah, well.

In college, I did an unexciting video montage comparing GitS imagery to Blade Runner's. Which begs the question, who's "stealing" from whom?
posted by jennanemone at 11:04 PM on January 5, 2005

I don't think this is plagiarism at all. Nothing is truly original. Star Wars borrowed from Kurosawa, Disney's The Lion King was a remake of a Japanese anime (Kimba the White Lion). They later backtracked and claimed it was original because they couldn't get the legal rights, leading many people to say they "stole" it. The truth is that they intended to do a homage/remake of the original, but legal reasons forced them to deny everything.

As for Joseph Campbell, well, he's full of it. You can shoehorn any story into a mystic framework if you try hard enough. Anyone who buys into his "theory" obviously has not spent any time seriously reading mythology or literature.
posted by aerify at 6:55 AM on January 6, 2005

I thought the Matrix was supposed to be an Invisibles homage...
posted by ipe at 8:49 AM on January 6, 2005


A Wired article on the W brothers last year also stated that Ghost in the Shell was the primary influence for the Matrix.
posted by adampsyche at 8:52 AM on January 6, 2005

The Matrix stole the hero's journey from Joseph Campbell.

And he stole it from everything else!
posted by squidlarkin at 11:19 AM on January 6, 2005

I remember seeing this at least a year ago, but not on here, apparently. What geek rating does that earn me?

If I recall the comparisons are interesting, but, as others have noticed, the brothers Wachowski did not exactly work in a vaccuum.
posted by codger at 12:53 PM on January 6, 2005

Also, the Wachowski brothers showed GITS to the studio as their pitch, saying - we are going to make a live action film that looks like this.

Endy story.

Next week: Simularities between Matrix: Revolutions and a loose bowel movement revealed!

Uncomfortable and draining, one is continually hoping for the conclusion.

Loose bowel movement -
Uncomfortable and draining, one is continually hoping for the conclusion.
posted by asok at 4:34 AM on January 7, 2005

No one noted the similarities in plot (not style) between The Matrix and Virtuosity. (So *I* will.) Also, liked the comparison between Martix and Star Wars using Campbell's metrics - but when Batman Begins arrives (I've seen the script) you'll want to post it right next to them.
posted by humannature at 11:17 PM on January 8, 2005

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