Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Episodes 14 – 26 Review

GITS SAC P2

The first series of GITS: SAC (“Git’s sack”… unpleasant sounding!) comes to an end, in suitably talky way. Sure there is some action, including that old cliché of  “secret organisation has their secret base attacked and raided”, but it ends with a philosophical discussion, the kind that original Ghost in the Shell author Masamune Shirow would have loved (or did love, he’s not dead or anything…) Anyway, let’s have a closer look!

Synopsis:

The world in 2030 is a very different place, full of cyborg enhancements, robots and other futuristic technology. In order to deal with the increasingly odd and difficult cases that can crop up, Public Security Section 9 was established. Recently some new light has been shed on the laughing man case, threatening to bring down Section 9 with it…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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The Major looks a the one thing connecting her to her past… the bracelet, not her right thumb…

Major Makoto Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka / Mary McGlynn) – Often called only by her rank, The Major is a full cyborg who is respected for her ability in tactics and combat. Though her past in not known to even herself, she concentrates on the job at hand, rather than looking backwards, although sometimes long closed cases have a chance to come back…

Batou (Akio Otsuka / Richard Epcar) – A former army ranger and third in command behind the Major and Lt. Col. Aramaki. He has cybernetic eyes, arms and legs to better help him in combat situations, and also has a sense of humour about himself, despite appearances.

Togusa (Kouichi Yamadera / Chrispin Freeman) – A former police officer who is the only member of Section 9 to not have any cybernetic enhancements. He still carries his old six-chambered revolver with him, despite better technology being available. After his old partner died due to high-level corruption in the department, Togusa has been on a mission to find the culprit, and unmask the Laughing Man in the process…

Lt. Col. Daisuke Aramaki (Osamu Saka / William Knight) – Aramaki is in charge of Section 9 and although he’s all business and quite strict, he is also very protective of his team.

Ishikawa (Yutaka Nakano / Michael McCarty) – Ishikawa is the lead investigator and technology expert in Section 9. Although he is rarely on the field, his tactics and expert hacking skills are often vital for successful missions.

Saito (Toru Okawa / Dave Wittenburg) – Saito is the sniper of Section 9. His left arm and eye are the only parts of him that are cybernetic, allowing him to hold heavy sniper cannons and aim with incredible accuracy, respectively.

Borma (Taro Yamaguchi / Dean Wein) – Borma is an expert with explosives and bomb disposal, as well as technological viruses. He can also lend a hand on the field, using heavy weaponry if needed.

The Tachikoma (Sakiko Tamagawa / Melissa Fahn and others) – Spider-like robots that help Section 9 with their missions. Their generic A.I. has evolved, giving them individuality and a sense of purpose and self, much to the chagrin of some in Section 9…

The Laughing Man – An old case from a few years ago, where a man who only ever appeared with a logo hiding his face, stole countless amounts of money from big corporations before vanishing from the public eye… at least until now. Is this really just one man, or is there far more to this old case than first seemed?

Plus more!

The Good:

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One of the few benefits of missing your real left arm!

Episodes 20 – 26 finish off the Laughing Man case that was the lead arc of the series. It turns out that it all comes down to one activist trying to expose some unpleasant corporate types who turned down a successful method of treating “Cyberbrain Sclerosis”, a lethal medical condition effecting people who, well, cyberise their brain, in favour of one they can make money out of but that’s far less successful. The cover up and surrounding politics spread to several high-ups, which leads to a series of incidents involving the DEA and Narcotics Suppression Squad coming into contact with Section 9 and their investigation. Togusa especially comes into danger when his investigation leads him to a list of people who have received the actual working treatment on the side, and ends up wounded for it.

The rest of Section 9 revisits his memories of the events (which is an interesting scene where Batou becomes excessively angry because Togusa’s emotions from the event bleed into him temporarily) and form a plan of action, which includes some great moments like The Major and Batou taking on a Black Ops member in the large set of Power Armour and the Major later dealing with a would-be assassin who tries to kill her mid-transference to a new body. This is where she learns the truth about the Laughing Man being just an angsty teen at the time, and now he’s just a recluse, his slogan about “wanting to become one of those deaf mutes” relating to the fact he was fed up of trying to change the world by spreading gossip. The raiding and ransom of several business after the Laughing Man, and indeed the Laughing Man name itself, were all created by Secretary General Yakushima as part of the cover up. Section 9 exposes him when The Major dresses up as the Laughing Man, but they’re soon trapped themselves, eventually getting raided by a Black Ops team that leaves their base in cinders.

After a great fight between Batou, The Major and two of the remaining Tachikomas (more on them later!) facing off with more Power Armoured troopers we get the big ending, which like I said is more talk than action. Section 9 is split up, but come back together and reform, the so-called Laughing Man turns down an offer to join them after a long philosophical debate with The Major and Director Aramaki, and that’s that! It may not be the all-guns-blazing finale you may think, but it is the kind of thought provoking sci-fi stuff than was the basis of the original manga in the first place.

In terms of the Stand Alone episodes, there were some highlights. Episode 16 deals with Batou going undercover to investigate former Paralympic silver medalist boxer Pavlo Zaitsev, who happened to be a hero of his, and he’s later disgusted by how far he had fallen. It was nice to see a more human side to Batou again, especially how he treats Zaitsev’s wife before and after the case is over. Episode 18 has an assassination plot that ends up a father’s A.I. presence (or “Ghost”) ended up taking over his son’s body, and although he didn’t want his son to suffer, he ended up putting it all at risk for petty vengeance. Finally Episode 19 features a basic “daughter of foreign country representative is kidnapped” story, but it involves a female hitman called Cruzkowa Bosyeltnov and has some good action scenes in it.

The Bad:

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The Major gets a major headache! … Sorry.

The Tahcikomas thankfully vanish (apart from the aforementioned appearance in the closing episodes) due to their A.I. becoming too advanced, but their final episode, Episode 15, goes full-on with talking between the intelligent Tachikomas, and man it’s annoying after a while. It’s a shame, because A.I.s gaining individuality and sentience is a good story and obviously matches the mood of the series, it’s just ruined by too much squeaking.

The rest of the episodes that haven’t been mentioned weren’t awful, just dull. I did like Episode 17’s idea of vintage wines being stored in banks because its one of the few things still valuable due to age, but the episode itself was nothing special. You can’t win ‘em all, especially with a plot-of-the-week style show.

Overall Thoughts:

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Togusa waits patiently for the reviews of 2nd Gig to start…

Once again Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex shows its still very watchable now, despite the fact we’re only twelve years away from the futuristic year the show is set in. The themes of identity in the face of advancing technology is in fact more relevant today, as is the greed of major corporations and dystopian societies (Sadly…), so combine that with some good action scenes and animation, and this is an anime classic that still holds its ground.

4 Star Watch

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