So there’s a new Ghost in the Shell film, spun off from ARISE. It’s called Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie. Just remember, someone had a meeting about that, and that’s the title they brain-stormed. Someone got paid to say: “We’ve got a title that everyone’s going to sit up and take notice of. It’s Ghost in the Shell. And it’s NEW!”
Seriously, did nobody in the room raise a hand and point out that the last Ghost in the Shell film was also new when it came out? And so was the one before that.
Maybe you missed it at last year’s Scotland Loves Anime, because you, like a number of other punters, thought it was the old new Ghost in the Shell until it was too late. And not just the punters; some journalists also confused this new film with the last time a Ghost in the Shell film was new, and used the wrong stills in their coverage. This new film will only be the new film until a new new film comes along, and then it will be the old new film.
Is there method in the madness? Quite possibly, what with a live-action Ghost in the Shell movie also coming soon. Internet search engines are sure to confuse this new film with Scarlet Johansson’s. Who knows, maybe the distributors will end up like those sneaky bastards who released Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings cartoon with an all-typography cover just before Christmas, hoping to fool shoppers at the checkout that they were snagging Peter Jackson’s. In movie distribution, such sleights-of-hand are called “spoilers”, not the least because they’re going to ruin someone’s day, possibly yours.
Meanwhile, Makoto Shinkai’s latest film Your Name (Kimi no Na wa…) just happens to have the same title in Japanese as a radio series that was a massive hit in the 1950s, and adapted for television in the 1960s and the 1990s. When the Japanese publicity kicks off, it’s going to trend through the roof on social media with three different generations of tweeters, all of them crossly telling each other that it’s nothing to do with the show they loved from their youth. Someone, somewhere in a Tokyo cocktail bar will be patting herself on the back about how high the title is trending, even though half of the hits will be noise.
Ah, I hear you say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Does it really matter how these people get the public talking about their movies? It matters to me, because in five years time when the perpetrators of these crimes are back selling soap powder or brushes, I’ll still be here, dealing with angry letters from people who’ve bought the wrong DVD, or who missed a cinema screening.
Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #147, 2016.