I was [-] close to ordering this -- and then checked the reviews. And it's the censored version -- not censored in the context of "Oh, there's boobs! Put mosiacs over that," but entire scenes are removed due to nudity being prominent in them. And some of those scenes come back to haunt ( pun intended ) the characters.
For anyone not aware, though:
Ghost in the Shell deals with the "soul" inside of sentience -- more specifically, machines. It asks the question:
"At what point do we constitute life?"
Humans begin replacing appendages and organs with cybernetic enhancements, near-android-like-people walk the streets, and the web is basically everywhere. You can "jack in" to almost anything, and a lot of people (see: cybernetic people and sentient machines) can connect to it straight from their bodies, ala The Matrix. Only without the painful looking cerebral cortex spike.
That's the underlying theme, though. There's ... so much going on, at any given moment. Motoko ( Major Kusanagi -- purple haired protagonist ) and her teams past, cyber terrorism, machines feeling as though they have a soul, the technological advancement that removes more and more "humanity" and puts more emphasis on cybernetics and the cyber world, etc.
There's a lot of subliminal messaging scattered throughout, too, which I thought was interesting. A big example of this can be found in the Tachikoma -- they're the walking/rolling AI machines that often assist Motoko throughout her field work.
They're often the ones who, in their own subtle way, ask, "Do we deserve to live? Are we not also alive?" -- and do things outside of their own programming on a regular basis. Or rather, it errs JUST within the side of being an irregularity.
Their conversations with each other give rise to individual personalities within the machines. They begin to form nuances that resemble humans, opinions that defer outside of the normal programming routine of AI, and begin to think not just outside the box, but in creative methods. They begin to express feelings of remorse, regret, happiness, joy -- and ask, "What are these feelings? Why do we have them? HOW did we get them?"
But those questions are never blatantly asked -- they're sort of nudged at through their conversations with each other and with the team. And when a new Tachikoma unit is put into service, we can almost SEE the "social influence" on the machines -- how they form groups with each other, despite not having that kind of logic inside their programming.
While not an official review, Ghost in the Shell ( and the sub-universe of Stand Alone Complex ) is definitely a 5/5. One of the very few things I absolutely, completely, loved -- and would recommend everyone watching/reading at least once.
The uncensored version is out of print, and is expeeeeensiiiiive. I suppose it'll go on the "maybe someday when I really need something to cheer me up and don't care how much it costs" list.