This weekend’s review is of the spinoff/reboot TV series from the manga by Masamune Shirow. Hopefully, the characterization problems with the first movie can be resolved with a 26-episode TV series. Are they?
Cast, Crew, and Other Info
Akio Ohtsuka as Batou
Atsuko Tanaka as Motoko Kusanagi
Kouichi Yamadera as Togusa
Kouichi Yamadera as The Laughing Man
Osamu Saka as Daisuke Aramaki
Sakiko Tamagawa as Tachikoma
Taimei Suzuki as Kubota
Takashi Onozuka as Pazu
Tarô Yamaguchi as Boma
Toru Ohkawa as Saito
Yutaka Nakano as Ishikawa
Animation by Studio IG
Directed by Kenji Kamiyama
Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow
Following World War III, Public Security Section 9 responsible for dealing with terrorists threats in Japan’s new capital of Newport City (Tokyo was apparently destroyed during the war). Lead by Daisuke Aramaki, Section 9 finds itself facing various terrorist threats from foreign and domestic enemies, as well as from within the Japanese Government.
The whole series is impressively well written, such that with a few exceptions all the characters are three-dimensional in their motivations. The Tachikomas are also hilarious. Also, while it may seem ham-handed, the writing staff takes advantage of the medium of science fiction to slip social commentary about modern Japan in there (an allegorical version of the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea – as well as criticisms of the Japanese government’s denial of the kidnappings, complaints about lack of actual journalism in the Japanese news media, and criticisms of the lack of public outcry to violent crime, and crime in general*). Now, it may seem ham-handed to a domestic audience, but it worked for me. Also, The Major’s bisexuality is handled very well here, and in my opinion she is one of the best lesbian/bisexual characters in anime.
For all the three-dimensionality of the characters, Section 9 does a very impressive job at coming of as jack-booted thugs at times. At times this can seem semi-justified., and their opponents in the Japanese government are practically fascist, but still. Also, there are geo-political bits of backstory that seem a little odd – Tokyo is destroyed while London is perfectly intact (despite Japan not getting involved in the war until they were apparently attacked).
Nudity and Violence
The violence here is realistic, but not gory. There is little-to-no actual nudity in the show, but there are references to using androids as sex-bots. Also, the writers do carry over The Major’s bisexuality from the manga. She’s not sexually active in the show, but it is carried over, if anyone’s worried about that sort of thing.
Originality: While it is an adaptation, all it really carries over from the original manga is the setting and the characters. The Puppet Master does not appear here, and part of the assumptions that the writers of the show was “What if Motoko never met The Puppet Master?” Consequently, the show treads a lot of new ground. 5 out of 6
Animation: The animation is pretty well done, though it’s nothing mind-blowing. The best animated bit are the Tachikomas, which are done entirely in cel-shaded CG and look and move extremely well and don’t look fake in the slightest. 4 out of 6
Story: The story is very well written, and brings out a great deal of emotional impact for the characters. It is also worth mentioning to those who have already seen the Laughing Man’s “logo” but haven’t seen the show yet – the references to Catcher In The Rye aren’t just name-dropping, the writers did apparently read the book, and some of Salinger’s other stuff as well. 4 out of 6
Voice Acting: The voice acting is excellent, especially the voice acting for the Tachikomas, which have at least 3 different, distinct personalities, all played by one actress, who pulls it off very well. Some of the peripheral characters aren’t quite as good, but that’s to be expected. 5 out of 6
Emotional Response: I came to like a lot of the characters in this show. One of the weaknesses of the first Ghost In The Shell movie is you don’t get to know, particularly, Motoko, or Batou, or Togusa, or Aramaki, or any of the other leads. Here everyone (except for maybe Paz, Borma, Saito and Ishikawa) gets a great deal of character development. Oh, and if you don’t get weepy when the Tachikomas die, you have no soul. The show also has a lot of the humor that the manga had and was taken out of the first movie. 5 out of 6
Production: As already mentioned, the voice acting and animation is excellent. The sound design is also very well done, with the glitching effects for a few of the android and cybernetic characters at certain points being done very well. Also, the score for the show is done by Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and many more) and is top notch. The guns kind of sound all generic though. 5 out of 6
Overall: This is a great series, and if you haven’t seen the movie, or read the manga, you can still come to this and enjoy yourself. 5 out of 6
In total, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex receives a 33 out of 42.
*Note: I did some double-checking on this to make certain that the things I thought they were talking about in the show were things that were actually going on in Japan, including with people I know who lived in Japan fairly recently