This last weekend marked the Japanese premiere of Ghost in the Shell: Arise border: 1 Ghost Pain. Needless to say, I enjoyed the film. What I didn’t enjoy was the incredibly blatant and distracting product placement surrounding the film — like this three-minute commercial for the Microsoft Surface.
The commercial stars the cast of Ghost in the Shell: Arise as they attempt to steal some data and upload it to a Microsoft Surface tablet PC… for some reason. It’s actually rather well animated and has some seriously entertaining action scenes.
So, as just a fun little commercial, I suppose I don’t have too much of a problem with it. It’s the fact that this product placement is also in the film proper that really gets in my craw.
In the actual film, the Surface showed several times. Twice on a giant, flashy billboard in the background and several more times being used by the Major as her personal computer. This is annoying on two levels.
First, this is a 2013 tablet PC being actively used in 2027 — which would be like any of us using a PC from 1999 in our daily lives. And second, Ghost in the Shell is set in a world where cybernetic technology is the central component of everyday life. If you have both full-dive capability (like in The Matrix) and a permanent AR interface, why would you ever use a tablet? It would be faster and easier to simply call up the data on your cybernetic eyes.
That isn’t the only product placement in the film, of course. An Infiniti luxury car shows up in a few scenes. But at least it makes sense to see a classy luxury car 14 years in the future — unlike an ancient tablet PC.
In general, product placement has been becoming more and more common in theatrical anime over the past few years. The Evangelion rebuild films have had long lingering shots of a Lawson’s convenience store — not to mention the loving shots of the beer in Misato’s fridge — and the characters of Macross Frontier actually go into a FamilyMart convenience store as a plot point in one of their films.
And frankly, I am OK with that kind of product placement. After all, it makes sense that convenience stores (and beer for that matter) would exist in those anime. It’s when products are being shoehorned into the movie whether they make sense or not — when the product placement starts to devalue the world being created — that I start to get angry.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise border: 1 Ghost Pain was released in Japanese theatres on June 22, 2013. Funimation will be releasing it in the United States; but if you can't wait, the Japanese Blu-rays — which include English subtitles — will be released on July 26, 2013.
The second chapter of this series Ghost in the Shell: Arise border: 2 Ghost Whisper will be released in Japanese theatres on November 30, 2013.