This review includes some spoilers
Angela Balzac is one of the inhabitants of DEVA, a space station where everyone has an entirely online existence. When someone hacks DEVA to deliver a message, DEVA's ruling body sends Angela and others down to Earth to try and track them down. Because it's her first time in a physical body, Angela is paired up with Dingo, a man on the planet who has done jobs for DEVA in the past. Angela's time on Earth causes her to doubt the superiority of life on DEVA.
I knew nothing about this movie, going in. Even the animation, which was primarily 3-D CGI with some hand-drawn animation, was a surprise to me. I have to say, I hope this kind of animation doesn't become popular with studios. Although I eventually adjusted to it, I could instantly tell that there was something off. Shadows, in particular, looked odd, and Angela's hair bugged me, seeming too stiff at times. But the animators did find the time to make female characters' breasts bounce in almost every shot.
The story wasn't bad, but it also wasn't very good. Almost every major development was predictable. I knew, well before the characters did, that Frontier Setter was probably a sentient AI. Also, the reaction of DEVA's ruling body to Angela's decision to trust Frontier Setter was utterly unsurprising. The only thing I wasn't completely sure about was what Angela's final decision would be. Going with Frontier Setter would have made more sense, but there was so much emphasis on how wonderful physical bodies and senses are compared to life as a virtual being.
I probably liked Frontier Setter the best out of all the characters. Hurray for a sentient AI that isn't bent on destroying all of humanity! Unfortunately, even Frontier Setter was kind of bland.
All in all, I didn't hate this movie, but I didn't like it either. It's somewhat tempting to rewatch it with the English dub turned on, simply because I'm a fan of the three main voice actors (Wendee Lee, Steve Blum, Johnny Yong Bosch), but then again it was a struggle just to make it all the way through my first viewing. If you do watch it and like it, though, I'd recommend watching all the way through to the end of the credits. There are two extra scenes, one just before the end of the credits, and one after the credits. Neither one of them is really necessary to watch, but they might be nice if you're interested to see a little more of Frontier Setter and DEVA's ruling body.
- Ghost in the Shell (anime movie); Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (anime movie); Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (anime TV series); Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig (anime TV series) - In this franchise, flesh-and-blood bodies have become almost obsolete, although instead of living virtually, a large portion of the population is cybernetically enhanced. This, unfortunately, opens the average person's very senses to being hacked. The shows/movies sometimes get bogged down by philosophy, but it still makes for interesting viewing.
- .hack//SIGN (anime TV series) - If I remember correctly, this series has a similar situation: a virtual world is being disturbed by someone or something hacking into the system.