GITS SAC: Solid State Society

Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.—Solid State Society is the third movie since 1995’s Ghost in the Shell anime adaptation. This feature-length TV movie was broadcast on Skyperfect! in September 2006 and released on DVD by Bandai Visual in November of the same year. Fantasia 2007 treated the fans by screening this excellent cyberpunk anime on the big screen! Directed by Production I.G.’s Kenji Kamiyama, fans can enjoy yet another high-tech sci-fi story, which is set in 2034, Tokyo. The timeline is two years after the last TV series (2nd GIG), as Japan is still dealing with the Asian refugee problems. 

SolidStateSociety-image2Major Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9 — Japan’s elite anti-terrorist unit — and was missing for over two years. She left because she felt that by acting alone she could investigate more discreetly (using multiple cyber bodies), more freely (without the irritating political oversight) and therefore more efficiently. For Batou, the absence of Motoko leaves his work meaningless and he picks & chooses the case he’s working on, taking assignments only when he thinks it might bring him closer to her. With the Major’s departure and Batou refusing assignments, Togusa was forced to become the leader of the team as her successor. Togusa is, as usual, a man of justice. Married and having two children, he’s different from the other team members who are all single — including the aging Chief Aramaki who has been struggling to deal with the fact that Section 9 has to move on without the Major. Other members such as Saito and Ishikawa keep their positions as network expert or sniper. All Section 9’s characters are extremely honest and act with a sense of justice and responsibility. They’re all faithful to their convictions as they were in the TV series. 

SolidStateSociety-image1Section 9 hired 20 rookies, and their latest mission is to solve a case involving politically charged hostages. Somehow, one of the terrorist suspects committed suicide on the spot, leaving a strange message: “The Puppeteer is coming”. At the same time, many other mysterious cases keep taking place, including one where a huge amount of abused children seem to have been kidnapped by an organization of ultranationalist retirees. What links all those cases together? It seems to be the work of a super-intelligent hacker who has been manipulating all this, but to do what exactly, no one knows… 

SolidStateSociety-image4This movie is first class entertainment. Like the previous movies, it offers great music and superb animation. It has all the complex socio-political background of the previous TV series and maintains the series’ trademark cyberpunk feeling, but Director Kamiyama injected the storyline with so many themes — such as mass suicide, terrorism, biochemical weapons, kidnapping, old folks’ problems and child abuse — and subplots that the story gets confusing. It’s not easy to follow what’s happening in this extremely intricate movie. After the screening I was not quite sure of what I had just watched and who the Puppeteer really was! It’s one of those cases where you really need to purchase the DVD and watch the key scenes several time in order to be able to really enjoy the complexity of the movie. 

SolidStateSociety-image3In my humble opinion, I think that Director Kamiyama should have simplified and streamlined the storyline, maybe sticking with Togusa’s plot-line. I bet the viewers could have felt more empathy towards the movie if it was a little less complex. The animation itself has an overwhelming beauty, but, using all the great animation technology and talent of Production I.G., I think Director Kamiyama could have created a masterpiece, if he had just come up with a more coherent story. In the end, the true identity of the Puppeteer is still not very clear — but maybe Director Kamiyama kept it mysterious on purpose? 

—miyako

Kôkaku Kidôtai: Stand Alone Complex — Solid State Society. Japan, 2006, 109 min.; Dir.: Kenji Kamiyama; Scr.: Kenji Kamiyama, Shôtaro Suga, Yoshiki Sakurai; Phot.: Kôji Tanaka; Ed.: Junichi Uematsu; Art Dir.: Yusuke Takeda; Char. Des.: Hajime Shimomura, Takayuki Goto, Tetsuya Nishio; Mechan. Des.: Kenji Teraoka, Shinobu Tsuneki; Mus.: Yoko Kanno; Prod.: Production I.G.; Distr.: Bandai, Manga Entertainment; Cast: Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko Kusanagi), Akio Ohtsuka (Batou), Kouichi Yamadera (Togusa), Kazuya Tatekabe (Col. Tonoda), Masuo Amada (Col. Ka Gae-Ru), Osamu Saka (Daisuke Aramaki), Takashi Onozuka (Pazu), Tarô Yamaguchi (Boma), Toru Ohkawa (Saito), Yutaka Nakano (Ishikawa), Yuya Uchida (Takaaki Koshiki), Dai Sugiyama (Proto), Nana Yamauchi (Togusa’s daughter), Yoshiko Sakakibara (Prime Minister Kayabuki). Available on R2 Dvd in Japan (BCBA-2606, 109 min., ¥9800) and on R1 Dvd in North America (Bandai/Manga Entertainment, #25176, Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US [Limited edition: $39.98 US], rated 13+). stars-4-0

• • •

SolidStateSociety-covIn 2034, two years after the departure of Major Motoko Kusanagi (after the events of the TV series, Stand Alone Complex, which starts in 2030 and before the second movie, Innocence, set in 2032), Togusa is now in charge of Section 9, which has been expanded with the addition of several new recruits. Batou, frustrated to have been left behind by the Major, is still looking for her and therefore picks & chooses only the cases that seem related to his quest. A string of strange incidents — starting with a series of suicides, followed by the kidnapping of many children, and an economical conspiracy plotted by a group of old ultra-nationalists — seem to lead to a mysterious super-hacker nicknamed the “puppeteer.” The Major is carrying her own parallel investigation — which leads Batou to suspect her of being the puppeteer. In the end, the real identity of the perpetrator is the most surprising revelation of all. 

This movie is directed by Kenji Kamiyama, the same person who directed the Stand Alone Complex TV series. It is therefore not surprising to find here the same excellent quality of production, as much in the design as in the animation. However, if the director succeeded to masterfully tie up all the elements of the story in the TV series, he seems to have difficulty to do the same in a movie format. Solid State Society feels like a long TV episode where he tries to compress the storyline of an entire series. There are too many sub-plots and the different elements of the story are mixed together in such a complex way that it sometimes lacks coherence and the viewers get confused (it took me at least two viewings to understand the complexity of the plot and even then I am not sure I understood everything correctly). 

The timeline of the various series and movies seems confusing as well. The first movie is supposed to be set in 2029, while Solid State Society is set in 2034. It is not clear exactly when Major Kusanagi left Section 9. Also, they should have encountered the Puppet Master / Puppeteer before (in the first movie), but no mention is made of a prior encounter as if the first movie never happened. In fact, it feels like Solid State Society is a retelling of the encounter between the Major and the Puppeteer. 

Despite the complex socio-political themes and the beautiful animation, Solid State Society does not have the same depth than the previous movies (directed by Mamoru Oshii) and it certainly doesn’t have the same contemplative beauty. It is a very nice movie, but it is much more demanding to the viewers than the TV series and even the previous movies — which you all need to have seen to really appreciate and understand this movie — so I would recommend it mainly to the die-hard Ghost In The Shell fans. Nevertheless, Solid State Society (and GITS in general) is the epitome of intelligent SolidStateSociety-Dvd-ratingscyberpunk anime (a genre that, unfortunately, we don’t see often). Finally, I must add that the Limited Steelbook case edition (which contains three discs: one disc with the main feature, one disc full of extras, and the Solid State Society soundtrack CD) is totally awesome. 

—clodjee

Bandai / Manga Entertainment, #25176 (ISBN 978-1-59409-831-4), Bilingual Dvd, 109 min., $19.98 US (Limited Edition: $39.98 US), rated 13+ (Violence). See back cover.

You can also check the trailer from Youtube:

For more information you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonANNBiblio • GoogleIMDbProduction I.G.Wikipedia ]

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex—Solid State Society ©2006-2007 Shirow Masamune • Production I.G. / Kodansha. 

Those articles were first published respectively in PA #94: 76 (November-December 2007) and PA #93: 83 (September-October 2007).

Please also check the following Ghost in the shell articles:

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GITS: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG

Anime Story

2004 was a great year for theatrical anime releases in Japan. It brought us Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steamboy and, of course, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence. However, most of the Japanese anime industry’s production, and what really sustains it, remains the television series, like Gundam Seed, Fullmetal Alchemist, and yes, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. 

SAC-2gig-logoGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a big hit in 2003 and Japanese DVD sales did great, so the creative team at Production I.G. decided to bring out a second season (titled “2nd Gig”). Now fans can look forward to another 26 episodes of cyber-political intrigue and action. 

Sac-2gig-illo11I can easily imagine that director Kenji Kamiyama was under a great deal of stress, with his work being compared with Mamoru Oshii’s Innocence, and to meet the fans’ expectations after the first season! Despite the high stakes, the young director was up to the task and I think he did a marvellous job. The “2nd Gig” is even better and more intriguing than the first season. He succeeded totally in creating his own world, telling the story in his own personal style, and we don’t even feel the need to compare his series with Oshii’s movie. Each has its own merit. 

Kamiyama not only respected Masamune Shirow’s original manga, but he gave it life by detailing, even more so than Oshii’s movies did, its near-futuristic setting defined by the interaction of humanity and technology in a complex Asian geo-political environment. His strong, captivating storytelling is very well supported by the superb animation, the beautiful and elaborate artwork and an enchanting soundtrack. It is so great to see that there is such a great new talent in Japan, able to create a serious and intelligent story that can both entertain our senses and stimulate our mind. It is not surprising that both seasons of the TV series have received a great deal of acclaim, not only from anime fans, but also from those who seek serious science fiction shows. 

SAC16-illoASAs the “2nd Gig” starts, Section 9, which had been dissolved at the end of the 1st season, is resuming its job as an anti-cyberterrorist mobile unit. Although the team has returned, their work isn’t easy, and many difficulties lie ahead of them. The Japanese political landscape is changing and the government is keeping a close eye on their special police. The “Laughing Man” case might be solved, but it doesn’t take long for another terrorist organization, “The Individual Eleven,” to show up. Who are they? Are they the result of another “Stand Alone Complex”? They seem to be stirring up an uprising against the Asian immigrants and refugees. Could it be that simple? But some other politically-motivated forces seem to be at work. Can Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team unravel the complex overlapping political plots before they affect the nature of the government? 

Technology might be omnipresent in Stand Alone Complex, but it is not overwhelming. In the “2nd Gig,” Director Kamiyama and Production I.G. keep an even greater focus on the human side of the story by exploring the characters’ hearts and emotions — even in the case of some of the terrorists. Each key member of Section 9 has a dedicated episode where we learn more about their past and personality. It is not done simply to paint a richer background; every single bit of information has its meaning. They also give a more humane face to the government (more likeable than the usual fat, corrupt, old minister) with the new Japanese prime minister, a young, good-looking lady who embodies the beauties (and sometime ineptitudes) of democracy. In contrast, there is the ugly face of Gohda, a shady character who embodies the threat of militarism. Also, the intelligent Tachikoma robots (their name means “standing, spinning top”) are back with a new, expanded sidekick role (definitely inspired by Motoko’s cute “helper” programs in the Man-Machine Interface manga). With their cute voices and comical comments, they give a human feel to the technology. 

SAC14-illoASThe terrorism and the Asian refugees’ problems seem to be an allusion to the Palestinian question and to some conspiracy theories that surfaced after 9/11 in Europe and in Japan (such as, American right wing groups being behind 9/11 in order to justify military action abroad and domestically limit civil liberties). But it is only used to emphasize the fact that, even in the future, terrorism — the favorite style of warfare of the 21st Century — is still omnipresent and we still haven’t found a way to deal with it. Despite all the advanced technology, humanity is still facing tremendous problems (war, pollution, corruption, poverty, overpopulation, crime). Nothing changes, and even the future’s future is still uncertain. Is there a solution to the crisis? Is there a possibility for us humans to be saved? The answer in “2nd Gig” might be in the origami cranes that appear in some episodes and that symbolize the prayers for peace and salvation. All we can do is, like Section 9, act with courage and determination (even if it means going against the rules sometimes), pray and hope for the best! 

In conclusion, “2nd GIG” is even better than the first season. While still very political, dealing with terrorism and immigration problems, it also elaborates on more of the personal history of each of the main characters, including Major Kusanagi. The cyberpunk political intrigue is at moments a little complex, but it is the most intelligent anime series I have ever seen and it is superbly animated. It’s not all action, there’s also drama — and I did cry a few times. A real masterpiece! Of course, such an exceptionally excellent anime series cannot be seen only on TV. SAC-2gig-ratingsYou have to purchase the DVD to watch it over and over again, to enjoy all the minute details of this superb animation and share the experience with your friends! And if after that you want more, the series was followed by a movie: Solid State Society. 

> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

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Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex (anime)

Overview

GITS-SAC-logoWith 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. 

SAC-KusunagiCCThe 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. 

GHSill02RSo 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! 

SAC-illo02The 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). 

SAC01-03This 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). 

SAC08-02This 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 <<

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Ghost In The Shell (manga)

I’ll continue on the thematic of Ghost in the shell for a little while… I dug out those two reviews of the original GITS manga respectively published in PA #83: 20 (March-April 2005) and PA #84: 20 (June-July 2005) — however I have relativized the original rating. Note that I had already (briefly) reviewed those manga along with the live-action movie and that I have also reviewed The Ghost in the Shell Perfect Edition, tome 1.5 : [ Human Error Processer ] on this blog.

Ghost In The Shell

Ghost_in_the_shell-1-covA totally superb book! This second edition offers the original Japanese size (5.75” x 8.25” which is a smaller, more convenient size than the original English edition, but still easy to read contrary to the 4” x 6” of Lone Wolf & Cub) and some extra pages that were originally cut because they were too racy (hence the 18+ rating and the parental advisory for explicit content). It is a nice thick book, with glossy paper, that has a good feel when held. Shirow’s artwork might be of variable quality, varying from the beautiful colour illustrations to the sketchy SD characters, but his story is solid and profound (although a little too technical by moments). Most of this first volume offers the framework for the first movie (with some variations and more details), but you can also find a few ideas that were used for the Stand Alone Complex TV series, and the sixth chapter is the basis for the story of the second movie. A classic and a must. 

Ghost in the shell (攻殻機動隊 / Kōkaku Kidōtai / Mobile Armored Riot Police) by Masamune Shirow (translated by Frederik L Schodt and Toren Smith). Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Manga, October 2004. 368 pg. $24.95 US / $33.99 Can. ISBN 1-59307-228-7. For adult readership (18+). See the back cover. stars-3-5

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Capsules

Ghost In The Shell #2: Man-Machine Interface

Ghost_in_the_shell-2-covLike the first volume, this one is really a superb book. Even more than the first, since there is three time more colour pages, the designs are much nicer and the art is more detailed (particularly in the colour pages – however, a problem in the reproduction of the screen-tone sometimes creates an annoying shimmering effect in the B&W art). It is a more mature work. The story is more serious and complex, to the point that it becomes difficult to follow and understand. That’s the major drawback of the book. Motoko has merged with the Puppet Master and swims freely in the virtual sea of information. She has moved to the private sector and works as the head of security for Poseidon Industrial. Her new nature allows her to move from one artificial body to another, which is quite convenient in her line of work, but makes the story even more confusing. On top of that you have Shirow’s philosophical reflection on life, intelligence and existence. Besides the main character, the story of this book has not much to do with the first part. The art is sublime and the story challenging. A must. 

Ghost In The Shell #2: Man-Machine Interface, by Masamune Shirow (translated by Frederik L Schodt and Toren Smith). Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Manga, January 2005. 312 pages (mostly in colour, with 106 in B&W), flipped, $24.95 US / $32.00 Can, ISBN 978-1-59307-204-9. For adult readership (18+, Lots of nudity & Violence). See the back cover. stars-4-0

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Capsules

Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex (manga)

“Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex takes place in the year 2030, in the fictional Japanese city of New Port. The story follows the members of Public Security Section 9, a special-operations task-force made up of former military officers and police detectives. The manga presents individual cases that Section 9 investigates, along with an ongoing, more serious investigation into the serial killer and hacker known only as “The Laughing Man.””

GITS-SAC-1-covVolume 1: No mission too dangerous. No case too cold. When a high-ranking government official is kidnapped, the Prime Minister must call in his top crime fighting force known as Section 9. Led by the beautiful (and deadly) Major Kusanagi, the cybernetically enhanced squad must use all their skill to take down the kidnappers and rescue the hostages. But that’s only half of the mission; can Kusanagi and company find out who’s behind the kidnapping, and, more importantly, just what they’re after? Find out in this thrilling first volume of The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex!”

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Episode 1: Section 9, by Yu Kinutani. New York: Kodansha Comics, December 2016. 256 pages, 12.5 x 19 cm, $US 10.99 / $C 11.99, ISBN 978-1-935-42985-2, For teenagers (13+). See back cover. 

GITS-SAC-2-covVolume 2: The best offense is a strong defence? An advanced tech tank is on the loose and appears hell bent on heading into the city. To make matters worse, it has impenetrable defenses and all conventional efforts to stop its progress have failed. Now it’s up to Major Kusanagi and Section 9 to find a way to stop the tank’s inexorable march toward an unknown fate in the city!”

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Episode 2: Testation, by Yu Kinutani. New York: Kodansha Comics, December 2016. 288 pages, 12.5 x 19 cm, $US 10.99 / $C 11.99, ISBN 978-1-935-42986-9, For teenagers (13+). See back cover. 

GITS-SAC-3-cov“Volume 3: Identifying the enigmatic hero. Marcelo Jarti, the hero of a democratic revolution, and South American drug dealer, has been coming to Japan periodically and no one knows why. The Major and Section 9 track his movements after he makes his latest appearance in the country. They are determined to figure out the meaning of his visits, but following Jarti leads to more than they could have possibly expected …”

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Episode 3: Idolator, by Yu Kinutani. New York: Kodansha Comics, December 2016. 224 pages, 12.5 x 19 cm, $US 10.99 / $C 11.99, ISBN 978-1-612-62094-7, For teenagers (13+). See back cover. 

GITS-SAC-4-covVolume 4: The power of misdirection. Section 9 receives a tip that a criminal group from Henan is planning on attacking a financial institution. To prevent the attack, Section 9 infiltrates the secret base of the criminals. The mission goes well and the threat is neutralized … or is it? Something is amiss, and Major Kusanagi and Section 9 must act quickly in order to stop the criminals from achieving their true goal.”

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Episode 4: ¥€$, by Yu Kinutani. New York: Kodansha Comics, December 2016. 208 pages, 12.5 x 19 cm, $US 10.99 / $C 11.99, ISBN 978-1-61262-095-4, For teenagers (13+). See back cover. 

GITS-SAC-5-covVolume 5: Ageless new world. 16 years ago a terrorist group called the “New World Brigade” kidnapped a young girl named Eka Tokura. However, recent photos of Eka have surfaced and she appears to look exactly as she did 16 years ago. To investigate this mystery, the special unit of the Maritime Safety Agency was dispatched to a man-made island off the coast of Okinawa that has been seized by the Brigade. However, communication with the special unit has been lost, leaving this island and the Brigade in a shroud of secrets. Section 9 is tasked with the job of finding out what happened on this man-made island and discovering the truth behind Eka’s age-defying looks.”

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, Episode 5: Not Equal, by Yu Kinutani. New York: Kodansha Comics, December 2016. 288 pages, 12.5 x 19 cm, $US 10.99 / $C 11.99, ISBN 978-1-61262-556-0, For teenagers (13+). See back cover. 

[Texts from the publisher’s website]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

GITS-SAC-1-p040I have already introduced the Ghost in the shell story created by Masamune Shirow when I talked about the live-action adaptation and the book 1.5 of the manga. However, my favourite part of GITS franchise was the anime TV series Stand Alone Complex. It is a police story with lots of human drama set in a post-cyberpunk environment. The TV series format allowed to make a great deal of character development for all the protagonists, the members of Section 9 Public Security unit. Usually, an anime is based on a manga but exceptionally, in this case, it is the opposite: the anime TV series came first (in 2002-2005) and this manga is a VERY faithful adaptation of a selection of five episodes (out of the fifty-two episodes of the TV series).

The seinen manga of Ghost in the shell: Stand Alone Complex (攻殻機動隊 Stand Alone Complex / Koukaku Kidoutai S.A.C.) was first serialized in Weekly Young Magazine (December 2009 – March 2010) and then in Gekkan [monthly] Young Magazine (April 2010 – December 2012) before being compiled in five volumes by Kodansha. It was translated in English by Kodansha Comics (2011-14) and in French by Glénat (2013-14). The English version is also available in digital format at ComiXology.

I like Ghost in the shell in general because it is a great cyberpunk story: people can get cyber-enhancements, the internet (the “network”) is everything, everywhere and can be used in unimaginable ways. The story also has strong social and political aspects, as it give a glimpse of a fascinating techno-dystopian future (which seems popular in Japan). In this context the “ghost” refer to the aspect of the mind that makes it unique and self-aware (the soul) even when it is digitized and uploaded to a cyber-brain or to the net, the “shell” is the body (biological or cybernetic) and the “standalones” are those who “remain outside the system” (not cyber-enhanced? air-gapped?). 

GITS-SAC-3-p085

Vol. 3, p. 85

However, I prefer the Stand Alone Complex series (both anime and manga) because I feel it offers the best designs (mostly of the characters) and storytelling (its TV series format allows for more development of both the characters and storyline). The anime movie (directed by Mamoru Oshii) was awesome but really too philosophical. By side-stepping the “puppet master” story arc, SAC is able to tell more stories of the most interesting character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and to develop her background story in a very interesting way. Similarly, the orignal manga by Masamune Shirow is superb but the art is too detailed and the story too complex to be easily enjoyed. Shirow’s art also lacks consistency, looking sometimes very serious and sometimes (to be humorous) quite caricatural. With this new manga by Yu Kinutani the art is cleaner, more serious and steady while still being detailed enough. It is therefore much more enjoyable. The storytelling and layout follow closely the TV series (often even adding more scenes to make the action easier to follow in a static medium) so it almost feels like a storyboard.

Each volume of the manga series is adapting one episode of the TV anime. Volume one retell the story from episode 1 “Section 9”, vol. 2 covers the episode 2 “Testation”, vol. 3 recount the episode 7 “Idolater”, vol. 4 is about the episode 14 “¥€$” and vol. 5 give us its take on the episode 13 “Not Equal”. Volumes 1 and 4 also include three bonus short stories from the “Tachikoma Days” manga by Masayuki Yamamoto. Those are funny episodes involving the multi-legged artificial intelligence tanks (think tanks) called the Tachikoma — echoing the capsule video at the end of each episode of the TV series.

GITS-SAC-3-p205

Vol. 3, p. 205

One annoying thing from Ghost in the shell (mostly for feminists and people unfamiliar with the franchise) is the way the Major is dressing: in a very provocative and sexy way. This is part fan service, of course, but the character has also a reason to do so. A full-cyber body (even if it has a generous feminine shape) feels and looks a bit cold and asexual, therefore the Major wears very alluring clothing to claim and express her femininity.  I imagine she might think something like “with a body like this it’s better to show it” or maybe, feeling a little like a doll, she wants to dress like one. It also offers an element of surprise: nobody expects someone looking like her to be so strong and kick-ass!

Finally, my greatest disappointment about the GITS Stand Alone Complex manga series is that there are only five volumes. I guess it would have taken too much work and time to adapt all fifty-two episodes of the TV series. It is just too bad. However, if you want more, you still have the TV series — which was also complemented by three novels (available from Dark Horse), two OVA (The Laughing Man, Individual Eleven) and a movie (GITS: SAC – Solid State Society)…

I am already a big fan of GITS and of cyberpunk stories, but I particularly like this manga series because it offers strong designs and art, excellent storytelling and constitute an easy read. It is quite enjoyable if you like investigative stories with lots of action (sometime quite violent), rich socio-political themes and that are set in a cyberpunk future. I must admit that it has been a long time since I took so much pleasure in the reading a manga. I highly recommend it. stars-4-5

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© 2010-2013 Yu Kinutani • Shirow Masamune • Production I.G. / Kodansha. English translation © 2011-2014 Yu Kinutani • Shirow Masamune • Production I.G. / Kodansha. 

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Mortal Engines

Mortal-Engines-2018-movie-posterVisionary filmmaker Peter Jackson presents a startling new adventure unlike any you’ve seen before. Hundreds of years after our civilisation was destroyed, a new world has emerged. A mysterious young woman named Hester Shaw leads a band of outcasts in the fight to stop London — now a giant predator city on wheels — from devouring everything in its path.

[Promo text from the dvd sleeve]

>> Please, read the warning for possible spoilers <<

In an improbable but quite beautiful steampunk future, cities made themselves mobile in order to gather more ressources and survive the man-made apocalypse. Not much of the technology displayed seems realistic. I doubt that putting the city of London on wheels would be physically possible as the mechanical parts of the engine would crumble under its own weight… Despite the very simple and unoriginal story (young rebels, full of love and thirsty for vengeance, trying to defeat evil and power hungry madmen) the superb background settings and great special effects make this movie very entertaining. Unfortunately, it seems that it was not enough for the audience as it failed at the box office and received low ratings from the critics (6.1 on IMDb, 27% / 49% on Rotten Tomatoes). Interesting facts, the movie is directed by Christian Rivers but has the marks of Peter Jackson all over it (as one of the script writers and producers, sfx by Weta). It is also based on a series of YA novels written by Philip Reeve.

Some critic called it a “steampunk Star Wars”. I see it more as an allegory alluding to western societies which consume (in both meaning of eating and destroying) everything in their path, as opposed to more peaceful and nature-friendly eastern societies. Mortal engines is an intriguing movie that will feed your imagination and provide great entertainment. It’s certainly worth seeing. stars-3-5

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Revue de ‘zines [002.020.053]

Je continue de passer en revue pour vous quelques périodiques intéressants, cette fois-ci consacrés à la bande dessinée et aux littératures de l’imaginaire…

dBD #140 (Février 2020)

5e257a90-2f24-4934-8b5f-65e23624b36eÀ la une de ce numéro on retrouve une interview avec Blutch & Robber au sujet de leur album de Tif et Tondu Mais où est Kiki ainsi que le roman illustré L’Antiquaire sauvage (tous deux chez Dupuis). Cela se poursuit avec des interviews de Lewis Trondheim (sur son exposition au Musée de la cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l’image à Angoulême jusqu’au 10 mai), avec Homs sur le tome 4 de Shi (sur un scénario de Zidrou, chez Dargaud), avec Frank Le Gall sur l’album Mary Jane (co-réalisé avec Damien Cuvillier, chez Futuropolis), Théodore Poussin: Cahiers t.5, Art Satoe 1/3 (chez Dupuis) et La Cantina (aux Éditions Alma), avec Néjib sur Swan t.2: Le chanteur espagnol (chez Gallimard), avec Carlos Hernandez sur  Le rêve de Dali (chez 21g), avec Elsa Brants sur l’oeuvre de Rumiko Takahashi (qui présidera cette année le festival d’Angoulême) et avec Jean-David Morvan sur l’album jeunesse Irena t.5 (chez Glénat). On note également un article sur la fin de Walking Dead (T. 33, Épilogue, par Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard, chez Delcourt).

Dans le cahier critique je remarque le tout dernier Naoki Urasawa, Asadora ! t.1 chez Kana (Top! “Urasawa démontre une nouvelle fois toutes ses qualités d’écriture et de mise en scène dans un premier volume qui s’annonce très prometteur”) ainsi que les deux premiers tomes de Jujutsu Kaisen, par Gege Akutami chez Ki-oon (Super, un shonen supernaturel par “un jeune mangaka qui publie son premier récit en France (…) c’est bien écrit et dialogué, les personnages secondaires sont intéressants et la mise en scène nerveuse à souhait”).

Un numéro informatif mais qui n’offre rien de trop excitant… stars-3-0

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Solaris #213 (Hiver 2020 / v. 45, #3)

Solaris213_C1-253x400J’ai déjà introduit Solaris, un périodique québécois de science-fiction et de fantastique, alors que je commentais son numéro 198 et j’ai, plus récemment, fait une entrevue-capsule avec le coordonateur de la revue, Jonathan Reynolds. Je regrette toutefois de ne pas en avoir parlé plus souvent, car elle nous offre en deux volets une fenêtre privilégiée sur la SF&F francophone (dont la SFFQ). D’une part, grâce aux courtes nouvelles qui y sont publiées, nous pouvons nous tenir à jour sur ce qui s’écrit dans le genre des littératures de l’imaginaire et aussi découvrir de nouveaux auteurs. D’autre part, grâce à ses articles et commentaires de lectures, nous obtenons une assistance précieuse pour comprendre la mécanique des genres et choisir les titres les plus intéressants à lire. C’est un outil indispensable à tout amateur de SF et de fantastique, d’autant plus qui n’y a plus beaucoup de périodiques francophones sur ces sujets (au Québec: Brins d’éternité, en France: principalement Bifrost, Galaxies, ReS Futurae [Sources: Ent’revues, nooSFere, Skop]).

Dans le volet fiction, ce numéro nous offre d’abord six histoires courtes:

  • “Chasseuse de soleil”, par Chloé Jo Bertrand. Ce texte est le lauréat du Prix Joël-Champetier 2019, décerné à un auteur francophone non-canadien. Dans un futur affligé par un hiver nucléaire qui a recouvert la planète d’une couche nuageuse, une jeune femme parcours l’Europe à la recherche du soleil. C’est un super beau récit, bien écrit et captivant. stars-4-0
  • “Monstresse”, par Sylvain Lamur. Une femme enceinte à bord d’un vaisseau spatial fait des cauchemars… C’est bien écrit mais j’ai pas trop compris ce qui se passait… stars-2-0
  • “Parler aux murs”, par Geneviève Blouin. Dans la vague des télé-réalités de rénovation et du mouvement KonMari, on trouve ici un petit récit humoristique où une thérapeute immobilier “parle” aux habitations (et non à leurs occupants) pour améliorer leur bien-être. Amusant sujet et intéressante narration. stars-3-0
  • “Nouvelle Représentation”, par Frédéric Parrot. Les Baïlorms sont une forme d’amibe/céphalopode télépathe en mission de reconnaissance sur Terre. Comme couverture, ils dansent au théâtre  Ludoscole pour le plaisir des humains qui ne se doutent de rien. Mais la représentation tourne mal… Intéressante scènette mais la fin demeure un peu obscure. stars-2-5
  • “Une table vide…”, par Michèle Laframboise. Une petite bande dessinée de deux pages rendant hommage à Joël Champetier, un “auteur accueillant et sympa (…) avec toujours un bon mot pour nous redonner courage.” stars-3-0
  • “Une nouvelle fantastique”, par Hugues Morin. Un homme tente de ressusciter son meilleurs ami mort de la leucémie… Très beau texte en hommage à Joël Champetier (le titre de chaque chapitre fait référence à une oeuvre de Joël). L’écriture est une bonne façon d’affronter le deuil en exprimant nos souhaits et regrets… stars-3-5

Dans le volet documentaire, on retrouve les incontournables Carnets du Futurible (par Mario Tessier) qui abordent cette fois le sujet de “la transmission sans-fil ou la radio en science et en fiction“. En bon historien, le Futurible commence par nous parler de l’invention de la TSF ou de la radio, puis il développe en expliquant comment celle-ci a été anticipée, puis utilisée en fictions, et surtout quelle a été l’importance et les conséquences des développements subséquents: télévision, radar, télécommande, téléphonie cellulaire, bluetooth, wi-fi, RFID, CB, baladodiffusion, radiodrame, radioastronomie, etc. Et, en bon bibliothécaire, le tout est très bien documenté. Tout à fait fascinant ! stars-4-0

Le volet documentaire se poursuit avec les commentaires de lectures (critiques) qui se divisent en deux segments: l’un consacré aux ouvrages publiés au Québec (“Les Littéranautes”) et l’autre aux ouvrages publiés ailleurs (“Lectures”). Sur la trentaine ouvrages commentés (voir le sommaire en ligne pour la liste), je remarque surtout Oshima (Serge Lamothe, Alto), GEIST: Les héritiers de Nikola Tesla (Sébastien Chartrand, Alire), Pierre-de-vie (Jo Walton, Lunes d’encre), Trois Hourras pour Lady Evangéline (Jean-Claude Dunyach, L’Atalante), Or et Nuit (Mathieu Rivero, Les Moutons électriques), Le Temps de la haine (Rosa Montero, Métailié), et The Empire of Corpses (Project Ito & Toh Enjoe, Pika Roman, à ne pas confondre avec la version manga).

Comme je l’ai mentionné par le passé, je trouve dommage que les commentaires de lectures ne soient pas accompagnés d’un système de pointage (rating) numérique ou étoilé qui permettrait aux lecteurs d’avoir une idée immédiate et précise de ce que le critique pense de l’ouvrage qu’il commente. C’est une façon succincte pour le commentateur de résumer son évaluation comparative de l’intérêt (le sujet), de la qualité (technique d’écriture) et de la performance (divertissant ou non) du texte critiqué. C’est sans doute une politique éditorial raisonnée mais je suis en désaccord…

Solaris se présente dans un intéressant format de poche qui offre un contenu hybride entre une revue et une anthologie (Solaris se proclame d’ailleurs comme étant “l’anthologie permanente des littératures de l’imaginaire”). Personnellement, je n’aime pas trop lire des nouvelles (histoires courtes) car quand on viens à peine de se familiariser avec les personnages, le sujet et le monde où le récit se déroule, c’est déjà fini… Par contre, je comprend bien l’importance de ce format pour les auteurs (débutants ou pros) qui veulent fourbir leur talent ou expérimenter avec un genre ou des idées. Il faut bien que ces textes là soient publiés quelques parts et c’est pourquoi des revues comme Solaris sont essentielles à la bonne santé d’une littérature, quelle qu’elle soit. Toutefois, moi, je préfère lire Solaris pour ses articles et commentaires de lectures. En ce sens, la revue joue un rôle tout aussi essentiel d’aide au lecteur.

Comme toute revue, le contenu est plutôt inégal d’un numéro à l’autre. Dans ce cas-ci je suis un peu déçu car on ne retrouve que deux très bon ou excellent textes et un seul article (quoique le Futurible est toujours constant dans son excellence) — et rien sur le cinéma ou la BD. C’est la dure réalité économique des revues papiers qui sont limités par l’espace du contenu ou leur périodicité. Toutefois, ce numéro reste une très bonne lecture: divertissante, intéressante, enrichissante et qui offre quelques découvertes aux lecteurs avides de littératures de l’imaginaire… À lire absolument si vous en êtes.

Solaris #213, collectif édité par Jean Pettigrew et coordonné par Jonathan Reynolds. Lévis: Publications bénévoles des littératures de l’imaginaire du Québec, janvier 2020 (trimestriel: Hiver). 162 pages, $C 13.95, ISSN 0709-8863. Pour lectorat adolescent (14+). stars-3-5

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