Review: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Mimi: Truth be told, I used to feel a little intimidated by Ghost in the Shell. While I do prefer anime that are directed towards a mature, intelligent audience, I feared that this one would just overwhelm me and that I’d have to drag myself through Wikipedia’s page of episode summaries. At last I took a deep breath and dived into the Ghost universe, but rather than drowning, I found myself to be immersed in its fascinating premise. The adrenaline-pumping action, futuristic setting, and music by Yoko Kanno (which I’ve been listening to for years already) make this series rock like no other.

Granted, the plot is difficult to follow if you’re not prepared to give your undivided attention. Japan’s secret crime unit called “Section 9” cracks down on all sorts of tough issues, such as government corruption, terrorism, forensic psychology, and technology abuse. The series has two types of episodes, ‘stand alone’ and ‘complex.’ The stand alone episodes, as the name implies, are not related to the main plot. You could very well skip them if you wanted to, and you wouldn’t miss out on anything important. On the other hand, the complex episodes deal with Section 9 trying to uncover an expert hacker called The Laughing Man. He always hides his face behind an image of a smiling figure wearing a cap, and text circles around it quoting a line from J.D. Salinger’s novel, “The Catcher in the Rye.” That really struck a chord with me, considering that I read the novel when I was in high school.

As with most episodic series, some episodes are fantastic while others dull in comparison. Particularly the ‘stand alone’ episodes are not as intriguing as those focused on the main plot. However, each one is very well-written and intelligent–if you want mindless action, definitely look elsewhere. The characters often get into lengthy, deep discussions about their missions, which are better understood by watching them a few times. I think what I feared most was that I’d fall behind, get bored, and have trouble understanding everything that was going on. However, I realized that the complex dialogue can be broken down easily when you take it slower, and the content is actually very engaging.

The members of Section 9 aren’t much to talk about at this point in the franchise; we don’t get to know much about them on a personal level, but despite that, they’re fun to watch, especially when they crack a little humor, kick into gear, and confront the most intense of situations. The character you get to know best is Major Motoko Kusanagi, the sexy squad leader and cyborg. However, I had actually taken a stronger liking to Togusa, the only guy on the team who has not received any cyberization apart from his brain.  And of course, I can’t end this section without mentioning the Tachikomas, which are cute, talkative AI machines that serve as comedy relief. Most of the characters are fairly likeable, but their personal backgrounds are saved for the next season, so I hear.

Perhaps what captivates me most is the advanced technology and how it ties into some philosophical concepts, such as consciousness, reality, and evolution. It’s not just the dialogue and subplots that make this anime super complex, but the ideas that drive the Ghost universe. I certainly haven’t caught on to everything just yet, but it’s all extremely fascinating nonetheless. I plan to watch the second season whenever I can grab some free time again, but until then, I’ll be excited to start rather than feel intimated.

Mimi’s Score: 9 Meeps out of 10 (Great)

    

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