Ghost in the Shell 2 - Man-Machine Interface
Masamune Shirow
Science Fiction
* Grade withheld until series ends.

Initial Impressions - The following are impressions based on the first three issues. Expect a final review and grade when the final issue of the series is released.

Man-Machine Interface is the long-awaited sequel to Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell. The sequel finished its Japanese serialization in 1997, after which Shirow began a laborious recreating of the original artwork. Having recently discovered the joys of digital coloring, Shirow took his time in recreating his original story, adding 150 new pages and giving the manga a fully colored, digital embellishment, which was released in hardcover in 2001, and subsequently in softcover with a few more changes for good measure.

And, finally, the "Westernized" version finally made its way to American shores.

Once fans of Shirow put their hands on Man-Machine Interface, they will be sure that the wait was well worth the time. The base illustration for the series is some of the most refined that Shirow has done. But, the quality of Shirow's illustrative work pales in comparison to the digital color that's used to not just embellish the story, but totally sculpt it into an such an impressive printed piece that the competition will have a hard time trying to compete. A lot of detail is crammed into each and every panel and the digital coloration of the characters is exquisitely done, so much so that a lot of the characters look hand-painted. The inclusion of color photos and fully digital characters (most notably Motoko's robot aides) all work wonderfully in the digitally sculpted illustrations.

The story behind Man-Machine Interface is a noticeable departure from the original series. Set some time after the events of the first story, our heroin now goes by the name Motoko Arakami and is running freelance. She lives a double life as an executive and a secret operative under the employ of the "Doctor", in which she performs mercenary jobs to repay her debt for her artificial body. Motoko has the ability to to send her e-brain into alternate bodies, so that she can perform tasks away from original body, not only to keep up her double life, but to be in locations to keep her own self out of harm.

One of main aspects to this world is the focus on the connectivity of the world in which so many people have been augmented to connect to each other in a manner not unlike how e-mail is in this day and age. People can carry on conversations from different locations and can even visit locations by accessing certain robotic drones that are in the location.

Fans familiar with Shirow's storytelling methods should expect a very theory-intensive story. The world of Man-Machine Interface is handed to readers with very little attempt to ease the readers in. It may take some readers a few read-throughs to fully comprehend the events as they unfold. Things are made especially confusing when Motoko changes bodies as the concept of e-brain and using alternative bodies isn't really explained.

If you've been waiting for something, anything, new from Shirow, do yourself a favor and go grab these issues while you can. If you can't find any copies locally, try and order them from Mile High Comics.

- - Vane

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