Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface is the second volume collection in Masamune Shiro's Ghost in the Shell series, based on eleven chapters of manga first serialised in Kodansha, Japan. The review is based on the Dark Horse Comics trade paperback edition A5 size, published in January 2005. Like the previous Ghost in the Shell manga adaptation, the localisation is wonderful, but suffers from the art being flipped/mirrored. Shame on the publisher for not doing what Tokyopop and Viz Media has been doing for years.
As with Ghost in the Shell and other Masamune's cyber-punk mangas such as Appleseed, GITS2: Man-Machine Interface is filled with a quisi-humanity plot and pseudo-intellectual narrative in a typical futuristic setting. Despite Masamune's warning/apologies that Man-Machine Interface isn't a direct sequel to Ghost in the Shell, I can't help but comparing this 'sequel' to the original classic. Truthfully, despite sharing the same protagonist and the same title, Man-Machine Interface is a far departure from GITS, both in terms of ary style as well as storyline. Perhaps Masamune or his publisher(s) felt that having it associated with a highly regarded graphic novel would help sell the book better. Who knows?
For those who are fans of the original GITS's excessive and graphic violent action scenes (like I am) would be very disappointed. Man-Machine Interface's plot centers around information warfare. This is in contrast to the episodic feel of cop vs baddies narrative of the original. In GITS2, one of Motoko's children from her fusion with the Puppeteer, from the first manga, continues the fight against the baddies - just not with brawn this time, but with geeky computer commands instead. In between these Cyberbrain warfares are more techno-babble talk and fan service in the form of Barbie style virtual nude ladies with plenty of crotch shots (even surpassing that of Ikkitousen). Yep, those infamous crotch shots from the first book has returned ten-fold, with a far far higher frequency this time round. The sequel also lacks the variety of fully developed characters from the first book, instead presenting only a couple of two-dimensional plot advancers (with the occasionally funny characters).
Even within GITS2, the quality of the artistic direction differs wildly. Masamune has decided that the coloured pages of GITS2 would consist of plenty of computer generated backgrounds. Some support characters are also computer rendered. While main characters are beutifully drawn, the 3D CG backgrounds are just hedious. Regardless, with the help of CG, there are more coloured pages in Man-Machine Interface than the first volume, which some may see as a bonus. To me this allowed me to appereciate the B&W pages even more. Masamune's talent for drawing in B&W is more pronounced here than ever especially in contrast to the fugly coloured pages.
Don't let that Ghost in the Shell title fool you. This isn't it.