With the TV version of Ghost in the Shell (Kokaku Kidotai) director Kenji Kamiyama (and his production team — including the full support of original creator Shirow Masamune) is bringing a new dimension to the standard police detective drama adding a techno-cyberpunk flavour. Not only is this a very high quality show visually (HD full-digital screen to satisfy even the most hard-core fan!), but it is also full of exciting, intelligent storytelling. You can see that the writers really put forward their best efforts to attract viewers.
The story is set in a future Tokyo populated with high-tech doohickeys, and lots of cyborgs and androids. Fans of Ghost in the Shell find out immediately that this story is quite different from the manga or games. It’s a kind of alternate world created for the TV series, closer to what was already developed for the movie. The manga is funny and set in a fictitious future (lots of made-up names) where Section 9 is an international anti-terrorist unit. The TV series’ setting feels less like a militaristic anti-terrorist outfit and more like a special police force dealing with cyber crimes. It is more serious and more realistic. Nevertheless, like the movie, which was based mostly on the manga, the TV series is using bits and pieces of the manga’s story. We could consider the TV series as a prequel to the movie, whereas the new manga, Man-Machine Interface, is the direct sequel of the original manga.
So what do they mean by “Stand Alone Complex”? It could mean that the series is mostly made of stand alone episodes (self contained stories), with a few more complex episodes (the “Laughing Man” story arc). However, episode 6 also provides another explanation: it refers to the fact that Laughing Man’s imitators are independent copycats, created without an original. To me it seems that Production I.G.’s writers want to make the point that “It’s extremely difficult and almost impossible today to stand alone in this complex society of computers and networks.” Each episode throws enormous amounts of technical information and detail about computers, science and politics for the viewer to digest. At first, for an average nincompoop like myself, the contents of this show can be too much, but with a bit of patience it’s certainly educational. I think, in a way, it’s charming to see so much information on technology. Compared to ordinary anime shows, the amount of dialogue and information is quite huge.
You really have to sit down and watch this TV show over and over again to catch the small details and to understand better. In this respect it shares much in common with its source, the manga. On the other hand, despite all this, the show can also be watched as an intelligent police/detective drama. The viewers can try to solve crimes with Section 9 members and get great satisfaction to see the conclusion of each cyber-crimes case. But don’t think that the show is as slow paced as the film — there is still a lot of action!
The characters seem to be like normal humans, but in fact most of them are cyborgs (or with some sort of cybernetic enhancement). I wonder if, in the near future, when humans begin to replace body-parts to improve their lives and live more comfortably, we’ll have different kinds of crimes? It’s the same type of premise as in Patlabor : if technology takes us there, the nature of crime will change. Of course we’re all human, but how in the world can we live and “stand” with our own personalities in this extremely complex society of the future? In this show, all criminals are making statements of a kind (politically, individually or otherwise).
This is certainly a strong series evolved from speculative fiction, with excellent (and exotic Russian sounding) music by Yoko Kannno (Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne and Macross Plus) and viewers will enjoy this full-action crime fighting anime! In our opinion, this series clearly shows one thing: good writing and storytelling make a great difference! There are many shows with high quality visuals, but with weak stories. Ghost in the Shell is one of the best shows to come down the road in the last few years and hearkens back to a period where stories and strong characters were the main focus. I’d like to send out enthusiastic applause to the creators of this show!
Despite its high quality animation and intelligent story, the show has a few annoying details: the original opening is much better than the 3D one which starts with episode 3 and there are some technical impossibilities (like the cloaking devices which are not consistent with those in the movie).
This anime won’t disappoint you — in fact, you’ll be totally hooked! A must see show that I’d recommend to anyone. In order to understand the TV series a bit better it is recommended to have seen the movie or read the manga (you would already know the characters and technological background), but you will probably manage anyway if you just dive straight in (you’ll find some helpful information, right after the jump). The series was very well received with critics’ rating of 8.5 on IMDb and of 67% / 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Enjoy !
>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<
Character profiles (Section 9):
Leader and only woman of Section 9, she’s a total cyborg, except for her brain and spinal cord. In the TV series, she’s about 10 years younger than in the movie. She is the best detective and has great cyber skills (hacking, code breaking, network surveillance)! Height: 168 cm. Voice Actor: Atsuko Tanaka.
Second in command, he does everything possible to help the Major. He is very strong and has enhanced vision. His humour and calm demeanour is a great help for Motoko. Height: 189 cm. VA: Akio Ôtsuka.
He established Section 9 in order to fight cyber terrorism. He’s a very experienced man that everyone can depend upon. His nickname is the “old monkey”. He has minimal cyber-enhancement. Height: 153 cm. VA: Osamu Saka.
The members with the least cybernetic enhancements. Being totally human, he is not physically strong, but he’s an excellent investigator (and that’s why Kusanagi had him transferred from police HQ). The only member with a family. Height: 176.5 cm. VA: Kôichi Yamadera.
He is the Section 9 member who takes care of the back-up operation, using the cyber network to gather information. His skills are hacking, data retrieval, systems operation. He was previously in the army with Kusanagi. Height: 180 cm. VA: Yutaka Nakano.
Physically the biggest member of Section 9. Despite his look, he is intelligent and a skilled hacker. He operates with Pazu most of the times. Height: 198.9 cm. VA: Taro Yamaguchi.
He looks like a bad guy and loves smoking. He is often paired with Bôma, whom he considers his best friend and often plays billards with. Height: 177 cm.
He is the team’s sharp shooter and the second least cyber-enhanced member (only the left arm and his “Hawk Eye” which provide a satellite link and perfect targeting). He is also very good at poker. Height: 172. VA: Toru Ohkawa.
Their name mean “the standing-piece.” They are small AI (artificial intelligence) tanks that are owned by Section 9. They have no individual personality, but they can think, and coordinate with Section 9 members to fight against criminals. They can also carry one person. VA: Sakiko Tamagawa.
1. The Public Peace (Section-9)
An incident has happened — the foreign minister of Japan and some officials have been taken hostage by several android Geishas! Motoko and the Section 9 team get on the case to save the minister and investigate the scene in the Geisha House restaurant and succeed in rescuing them; but Aramaki, upon further investigation, unravels a larger conspiracy, concerning the Ichinose Report — important papers involving the military’s top-secret information. Aramaki also discovers that the brain of the minister had been switched – a body hijacking! Can Section 9 prevent the important papers from leaving Japan?
2. The Proof of Recklessness (Testation)
The Ken-bishi company’s trial of the prototype A.I. (artificial intelligence) tank suddenly turns into disaster when it runs out of control! The military is supposed to buy this model from Ken-bishi, therefore they don’t wish to get involved too much with the incident. Then, Section 9 get the mission to stop this reckless tank, but the tank keeps going and going… to its creator’s parents’ place! How did this happen? The key is in the life and death of the engineer who created the tank!
3. The Modest Rebellion (Android and I)
One day, a very weird incident happens. One model of android have all committed suicide at the same time! After the investigation, Section 9 find out that the incident is caused by a virus and was created on purpose by a criminal. The strange thing is that there is a “protection- code” for that model as well. The criminal, who turns out to be the son of the Canadian Ambassador tries to escape from the police and go to Italy with his one and only beloved android! This criminal is a movie buff and his strange behaviour is based around the movies he has seen. Then, the android acts oddly. How can this happen? Can an android have a ghost (spirit) like a human?
4. Vision Laughs (Intercepter)
One rainy night, Togusa receives a phone call from an old friend with whom he used to work with at the police HQ. His name is Yamaguchi and he wants Togusa to meet him right away to talk about other police officers’ weird activities. But on the way, he is killed in a car accident. At Yamaguchi’s funeral, his wife passes on a message to Togusa. Togusa starts looking at photos that Yamaguchi wanted him to see. Then, he realizes “The photos are NOT taken by a camera!!” He solves the mystery and exposes the polices’ illegal use of the device. Then the “Laughing Man” reappears!
5. The Beckoning Bird Sings (Decoy)
The special headquarters investigating “The Laughing man Case” have found an important suspect named Nanao to investigate. But Aramaki feels uneasy and thinks that the police are creating their own “show” to take the attention away from the truth. Meanwhile, Motoko Kusanagi ends up investigating the case that started 6 years earlier. Togusa and Batou enter Nanao’s room before the detectives from the special force arrive, but he is already dead!
6. The Imitator Is Dancing (Meme)
The day where the police chief is supposed to be assassinated has arrived. The virus released by Nanao becomes active. Kusanagi somehow manages to stop the chaos with her men Saito and Pazu. But right after, more chaotic incidents happen and it has nothing to do with the virus. Is there any connection? What is the cause?
7. The Idol Worship (Idolater)
Marcelo, a drug kingpin, returns to visit Japan from South America almost every 5 months or so despite the fact that he’s always reported on TV stirring South American politics. Section 9 are assigned to investigate this mysterious guy, who seems to have a strong connection with the Yakuza — the Japanese underground mafia. Unfortunately, the local prefectural police get involved and many officers get killed and things became really messy! Meanwhile, Motoko finally discovers the truth about Marcelo.
8. Those Who Are Blessed (Missing Hearts)
A medical mishap has happened. A person, who didn’t agree to donate his heart, was operated on as a donor. Section 9 get the assignment to investigate the medical crime and uncover a group that sells organs. Major Motoko Kusanagi was a victim when she was younger and had her body switched to a cyborg, so she feels it’s her obligation to catch the criminals! Medical students — one of them has the strong influence of his father — seem to be selling organs for money. Major Kusanagi wants to punish them real good!
9. The Man Who Lives Inside The Net (Chat! Chat! Chat!)
Inside the Net, many people who are very interested in the identity of the Laughing Man, discuss the topic and many people seem to have lots of inferences. The host of the chat room is called “Omba” and the discussion is beginning to really heat up! Meanwhile, Major Kusanagi is one of the members in the chat room and she notices that there is someone who’s watching it all. She also feels something is wrong and with Omba’s voice she ends up somewhere mysterious, but is forced to return! Is she getting close to solving the case?
10. The Best Suitable Day For Dense Forest Cruise (Jungle Cruise)
A cruel serial murderer is on the loose and the style of the murders is not only inhuman, but similar to an operation that Batou recognizes from his past. In order to clear his mind for his own sake, Batou decides to get seriously involved and try to find the murderer. He begins to operate his own way, but could it be a set up by the CIA?
[ More synopses can be found on Production I.G’s website ]
Airing date: The 26-episode TV series originally aired in Japan twice a month, with an irregular schedule, on SkyPerfectTV’s PPV channel Animax from October 2002 to March 2003.
Staff: Director: Kamiyama Kenji (Mini-Pato); Original Story: Shirow Masamune; Script: Kenji Kamiyama, Dai Sato, Jun’ichi Fujisaku, Shōtarō Suga, Yoshiki Sakurai; Planning: Ishikawa Mitsuhasa, Watanabe Shigeru; Character Designer: Shimomura Kazu; Mecha Designers: Teraoka Kenji (Sol Bianca Legacy, Arc The Lad, Generator Gawl), Tsuneki Shinobu (Awol); Art Director: Takeda Shunsuke; Art Composition (Background): Katô Hiroshi (Evangelion, You’re Under Arrest); Special Effects: Murakami Masahiro; Color Composition: Katayama Yumiko; Editing: Uematsu Junichi; Photo Director: Tanaka Hiroshi; 3D Director: Endow Makoto; Sound Effects: Wakabayashi Kazuhiro; Music: Kanno Yoko (Macross Plus, Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop); Music Producer: Tada Toshiaki (Victor Entertainment); Music Director: Ishikawa Yoshimoto; Producers: Matsuka Yuichiro, Sukita Atsushi (Production I.G.).
Cast: Atsuko Tanaka / Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Major), Akio Ôtsuka / Richard Epcar (Batou), Osamu Saka / William Frederick Knight (Aramaki), Kôichi Yamadera / Crispin Freeman (Togusa), Yutaka Nakano / Michael McCarty (Ishikawa), Taro Yamaguchi / Tarô Yamaguchi (Borma), Toru Ohkawa / Dave Wittenberg (Saito), Takashi Onozuka / Bob Buchholz (Paz), Sakiko Tamagawa / Carrie Savage (Tachikoma).
DVD release: Bandai Entertainment (Anime Legends Coll.), #25268, Bilingual DVD (English and Japanese audio, with English subtitles), 650 min. (26 x 25 min., 7 discs), $49.98 US / $55.99 Can, 13+
Others: A second season aired from January 2004 to January 2005 (Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG). The franchise was complemented by three novels (available from Dark Horse), two OVA (The Laughing Man, Individual Eleven) and a movie (GITS: SAC – Solid State Society). A new ONA series titled Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 will air on Netflix on April 23, 2020 [ Arstechnica • Google • Netflix • Youtube Trailer 2 • Youtube Final Trailer ].
You can also check the trailer from Youtube:
For more information you can consult the following web sites:
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex © Shirow Masamune • Production I.G. / Kôdansha • Kokaku Kidotai Production Committee.
A slightly different version of this article was first published in PA #77: 25-28 (July-August 2003).
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