This weekend we continue with the Ghost In The Shell franchise with the second season of the TV series. Can the second season build on the success of the first season to make an successful individual entity from the film series and manga, or will it stumble in its sophmore outing.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Akio Ohtsuka as Batou
Atsuko Tanaka as Motoko Kusanagi
Kouichi Yamadera as Togusa
Ken Nishida as Kazunoto Gohda
Ooki Sugiyama as Proto
Osamu Saka as Daisuke Aramaki
Rikiya Koyama as Hideo Kuze
Takashi Onozuka as Pazu
Toru Ohkawa as Saito
Yoshiko Sakakibara as Prime Minister Yoko Kayabuki
Yutaka Nakano as Ishikawa
Sakiko Tamagawa as Tachikoma

Directed by Kenji Kamiyama
Story by Kenji Kamiyama and Mamoru Oshii
Animation by Production I.G.

Premise

The events of Season 1 brought down the old Japanese government. Section 9 has been re-formed under a new government and a new prime minister, and with the influx of refugees and immigrants to Japan following a 4th World War, Section 9 will find itself facing new challenges from outside of Japan, and from within the government.

High Point

This series has more character development for Motoko than the first season, the story arc is grimmer, and the season is also in general significantly less episodic. Every episode with a handful of exceptions ties into the plot arc of this season or tying up a loose end from last season.

Low Point

I didn’t like the flashback episode where Saito recounts how he first met Motoko too much. It’s probably the one situation where, after getting character development for a member of Section 9 (Saito) I liked him less, rather than more. While Section 9 gets some new members, they feel like they’re there to be red-shirted (and one of them is red shirted, and another is nearly red-shirted).

The episode where Togusa has to testify for shooting to disable a homicide suspect while off duty (and where the suspect’s lawyer basically tries to get Togusa prosecuted) annoys me. I don’t know if it’s commentary on American courtroom dramas and the US justice system, or commentary on the Japanese criminal justice system, but there’s a whole lot of stuff there that just annoys the crap out of me, from having a scumbag defense lawyer (and practically bringing up the “all defense lawyers are scum” trope – as someone who grew up on Perry Mason and Rumpole Of The Bailey that rankles me), to the prosecutor not calling the defense on stuff that wouldn’t fly in any first world court, cyberpunk dystopia or no (leaning forward into the witness box during cross-examination, for example). It’s just one episode, but it’s the only episode this season that I was considering skipping, and I forced myself to watch it in case there were any developments in the major plot-arc, so I didn’t get lost later.

Nudity and Violence

Not a lot of out-right nudity there, but we have Motoko going undercover (as a sex-bot) on two occasions in the course of this season (with silhouetted sex in the background on one of the two occasions). Also, the violence here is much more over the top – more exploding heads, more decapitations. It’s not always gory (though we do have some gore, particularly in the case of Gohda’s death), but this season is significantly more violent by an order of magnitude.

Also, I have to say that the fact that the Tachikomas were killed off last season made the Tachikomas being killed off again this season less of a blow – but I’ll get into that under Emotional Impact.

The Scores

Originality: It’s a sequel to a spin-off, but one that expands heavily from it’s source material, bearing no story similarities to the original. 4 out of 6

Animation: The animation is still very good, and the environments are more diverse this season, which puts the animators up to a bit more work. 5 out of 6

Story: The story is very deep here, and is significantly more relevant in multiple respects. I don’t know how much of the political aspect of the story is Oshii’s idea, but it does tie into a lot of his themes about war, peace, politics and the military. 4 out of 6

Voice Acting: The voice acting is excellent, just like last season. We do get a few guest starring appearances by big-name voice actors and actresses this season – specifically Megumi Hayashibara (which is of note because this was just before her brief de facto hiatus from voice acting from 2004-2006, when she did Paprika). 5 out of 6

Emotional Response: The emotional response was very good. In particular, Togusa, Motoko and Batou emotionally get put through the ringer, and I found myself really feeling for them – particularly after the deaths of the Tachikomas, again, and (in Motoko’s case) Kuze’s death. 5 out of 6

Production: The sound quality is excellent, and Yoko Kanno’s score is top-notch as well. 6 out of 6

Overall: This season is definitely superior to it’s prior outing, and certainly superior to the original film in terms of emotional response, writing, and character development. 6 out of 6

In total, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig receives a 35 out of 42.