August 13, 2018 by bck1402
Surprisingly, the set is about ten years old now and it’s still free from defects, and will hopefully remain so. Unlike with previous entries, I won’t be reviewing the entire series as a whole, but will be taking them a few episodes at a time. After all, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is way too dense to really tackle as a whole.
Set in 2030, the series is a variation of the original movie by Mamoru Oshii, itself an adaptation of the original manga by Masamune Shirow. It takes the world and the characters we know from the movie or manga, and apply a whole different set of philosophies within the narrative. While the original movie touched on (among many many other things) the sense of self and identity, or “ghost”, beyond our “shells” or outward appearance. The series goes into the nature of those “ghosts” and their purposes in various forms. That’s an over simplification, of course, but that is going to be my approach (and there are many others) for this round.
Coming back to the series after a long while, the first episode is really familiar starting with the Major, Motoko Kusanagi, atop a building looking over the city. Then there are the robot geishas, the political intrigue and its a decent starting point where we get introduced to the team that is Section 9 and how they operate. Even in comparison, this version of the Major isn’t as dour or as cynical as the movie version, seemingly happy doing her job.
Episode 2 felt way less familiar as it highlights the Tachikoma mini tanks that assist Section 9 in the field. There’s also a concern regarding their behaviour, particularly where their AI is concerned. While members of the team and technicians are concerned over the behaviour indicating individualistic we are more privy to their behaviour when the Tachikoma are among themselves. The episode also touched on the advancement of technology, particularly with cybernetics and their applications, making a point of noting that Togusa is the single member of Section 9 who is wholly human with zero cybernetic enhancements.
The nature of the AI and the development of “ghosts” arising from the advancements in those applications is highlighted in episode 3. A spate of androids self-terminating, or committing suicide (depending on perception) draws the attention of Section 9. They find the perpetrator and apprehend him, but it is the behaviour of his android behaving outside of the normal parameters that is ultimately noted by Togusa. The evolution of AI is a thread that continues here, be it in the Tachikoma or the Jeri androids in this episode. It’s also the basic (simplified) concept of The Puppet Master in the movie, one of the core themes from the original source.
The series is made up of what are considered “stand alone” and “complex” episodes. While the former is self-explanatory, episodes 4-6 are the first of the “complex” episodes dealing with the over-arching plot of “The Laughing Man” case. Togusa is contacted by a former colleague who is working on the six-year old unsolved case of The Laughing Man requesting a meeting, but the colleague dies en route. Togusa is given permission to look into the matter and Section 9 is drawn into this rather convoluted conspiracy case involving the use of a certain spyware called “interceptors” by the police on their own investigators.
In the process of conducting their investigations, they manage to draw out the mysterious individual known as The Laughing Man, an individual credited with a scheme to blackmail several tech companies 6 years prior, but who was never caught or identified. What follows are interesting examinations on the nature of societal behaviours and the question of certain people’s cyber-brains were hacked or if these people were making use of an idea to pursue their own, seemingly shared, agenda… like a meme (as episode 6 is titled). And to think this series was initially broadcast in 2002, it all feels strangely prescient now.
Calling these “complex” episodes would be an understatement as nothing is really made clear where certain events are concerned. There would appear to be a conspiracy at play, and there is a suggestion that The Laughing Man may be a product of an inciting incident and not necessarily the original perpetrator. It also appeared that the Police Investigation may have been a sham all along, or certain individuals among the top brass may have been using it for their own personal benefits.
Hindsight and the passage of time, added with how the world itself has progressed with the application of technology, the way media is used and the dissemination of information in this day and age, not to mention how individuals and society behave online gives a different light to the series. Science Fiction has a tendency to determine how certain things will play out, and it looks like GitS: SAC hit the nail in a few places just from these few episodes.
Well, moving on… I know I have that chat-room episode coming up, like anyone could forget that one particular episode (9) where nothing actually happens. It’s an info-dump episode too. And there’s also a tachikoma focussed episode somewhere down the line.
Series Directed by Kenji Kamiyama
Stars (vocally) Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka, Kōichi Yamadera, Osamu Saka, Taimei Suzuki, Takashi Onozuka, Tarô Yamaguchi, Toru Ohkawa, Sakiko Tamagawa, Kōichi Yamadera