August 22, 2018 by bck1402
Episodes 13-19 are a slew of “Stand Alone” episodes and yet just maybe there was a hint of the arc story somewhere in there, not that it was standing out. The closest thing to an arc within these episodes is the issues of the evolution of the Tachikoma AI, particularly with episode 15 “Machine Desirantes” where the Tachikoma discuss the concept of individuality, the concept of God to a machine, and even manage to come up with paradoxical arguments to stump an android. This is another ‘heavy’ episode rooted deep in the philosophies of the show and its concepts. We’ve got machines talking about their burgeoning intellect and the possible consequences while one of them is reading “Flowers for Algernon”.
It’s layers upon layers here, and the ultimate decision to send them back to the factory for a reset weighs heavily on Batou in the following episode “Ag20” (16) that it affects his judgment during an undercover case.
The episodes reflect the characters and how they operate within this world of theirs. While the original movie seemed to take place more in a place outside of Japan, more likely Hong Kong, the SAC series is firmly rooted in Japan. This allows for outside elements such as the Chinese assassin in episode 14 (¥€$) or the one set in the UK “Angel’s Share” (17) where Aramaki is taken hostage during a robbery (of sorts) and Kusanagi has to figure out how Aramaki would act within that situation.
Aramaki’s past remains in focus for the next episode when a seemingly dead comrade appears to be alive and planning an assassination of a visiting Chinese dignitary. This continues to show the uses and abuses to the technology within the world and how the cyberbrains that most of the population has can be manipulated.
Episode 19 “Captivated” again displays the political intrigue that Aramaki deftly manipulates while the rest of the team race against time to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a former Prime Minister.
These few episodes give some insights on the mentioned characters and little else where the whole team is concerned, that aside from Kusanagi, Batou and Togusa, the rest are there as back-up and auxiliary functions, not that they don’t have their moments. We do learn that sniper Saito is the second most human member of the team where cybernetic prosthetics are concerned.
Episodes 20 to 26 are all listed as “Complex” episodes which focus on The Laughing Man case, and the not really convoluted history of the events. The nature of a stand alone complex is the real cause of the complexity, that the concept of The Laughing Man was conjured as a sound-bite, either by the media or the authorities. That concept then spreads like a meme linking several disparate events, or is used as a scapegoat for other crimes, such as the blackmail cases against several tech companies.
According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of a Stand Alone Complex is “a phenomenon when a collection of similar, but unrelated, behaviour by unconnected individuals creates a seemingly concerted effort.”
The case in GitS: SAC simply resulted out of a simple debate that got out of hand, compounded with two other incidents that occurred at the same time revolving around one company, all making it look like one major situation. By the time Section 9 escalate their investigations, the guilty parties who are situated among the upper echelons of the government strike back with ruthless efficiency, leaving Chief Aramaki to employ a highly risky political manoeuvre that would have him betray his own team.
I want to say that this almost seems typical of the narrative in various series like these when events come to head, that the conclusion coming after all the intense action is more downbeat and cerebral than it needs be; a discussion of what came before, how it came to be and what actually happened after some time has passed. Still, as a whole, it is an interesting examination of how this stand alone complex occurs, and how society as w hole might react or behave under such circumstances. It’s almost easy to see how our current environment with its various memes and screams of fake news, along with the various disparate individuals or parties somehow working collectively or independently to achieve the same goal over the internet might make the series as a whole seem prescient. A world where a tiny grain of truth can be twisted into full blown highly layered conspiracies through the acts of unconnected individuals with the same agenda.
Sometimes, you just need to step back, take a look at what’s going on and simply ask, “Who benefits?” As the layers are peeled away within the final discussion, the tiny kernel of truth may seem completely innocuous, but the truth will always matter even if society as a whole may not want to acknowledge it.
One quote within the series still stands out though…
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
Written by JD Salinger in Catcher in The Rye (a book heavily referenced within the series, see video below, but Spoilers), supposedly misquoting Wilhelm Stekel, who was paraphrasing Otto Ludwig (according to Wikiquote).
There is a condensed version of the main arc, released as a movie, Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex – The Laughing Man. It runs 160 minutes.
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