Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Episodes 1 – 13 Review

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The second season of GITS SAC gets off to a strong start. 2nd Gig has a reputation of not being as good as the first season, but I think it comes down to this season being more simple with its antagonist as opposed to being more cerebral and thought-provoking, but there are still some really good episodes to be found here. Let’s take a closer look at the first half then!

Synopsis:

Public Security Section 9 was closed down, their agents hunted, until the truth came out. Even then it has taken two years for them to regain their ability to operate officially, and it seems to do so they may have to swallow their pride and become a group under the wing of top government officials…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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An intense rooftop meeting, or the only picture with more than one character in it I can find… You decide!

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, and moves forward regardless of the potential corruption at the top of her new chain of command…

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.

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, and is willing to work with questionable politicians if it means getting them back to work.

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 once helped Section 9, but were decommissioned due to gaining sentience. After two returned to help Batou and The Major during the previous crisis, their usefulness might have been reexamined…

Kazundo Goda (Ken Nishida / John Snyder) – The head of the Cabinet Intelligence Service, a man who once strived to make it to the top, only to not like the view…

Hideo Kuze (Rikiya Koyama / Kirk Thornton) One of the members of the mysterious group known as The Individual Eleven. The respective individuals all follow a radical coda laid out in an old essay with the same name…

Plus More!

The Good:

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This doesn’t look like it should be classed as good, but it is, trust me! (well, the episode it represents is…)

Episode 11, “Grass Labyrinth – AFFECTION”, is the standout episode for me. The Major has a sudden out-of-body cyber-experience where she finds herself in a shop full of bric-a-brac, and a kindly old lady ends up telling her a story about a boy and a girl who got severely injured in a plane crash, the boy only having the use of his left arm and the girl not even that. The boy saw the girl get taken away, and started making paper origami cranes with his one good hand in honour of the little girl, refusing a full body prosthetic. Even the arrival of a little girl in a full-body prosthetic couldn’t get him to accept one himself… of course, he realises that the little girl was the same girl he thought had died, but he never saw her again, even after going through the procedure, and equally of course, the little girl was The Major. It was a really sweet and touching mini-story that didn’t need to be told in terms of the greater narrative or even to add anything to the Major, but I’m glad it did!

Episode 7 is another strong effort, despite the overboard title of “The Rhapsodic Melody of a Bygone Nation – 239Pu”. It sees Section 9, along with shady government agent Kazundo Goda, transport uranium across abandoned, desolate streets filled with desperate refugees. There are some well written tense scenes when their convoy has to stop due to a truck that happened to have overturned rather suspiciously in the middle of their route. It ends in drama and death, and then the revelation that they were a decoy, and the actual nuclear material was safely transported by sea.

Episode 13 focuses on Paz, the member of Section 9 with the least amount of personality or screen time. Someone who looks identical to him starts killing people, and it turns out an old girlfriend he had once scorned had got her “braincase” put in a new body just like Paz so they could be together forever, and also as punishment for the real one… She’s kind of loopy. It ends with a fight between identical people (though one with a female voice, which was unsettling) and of course the real Paz wins, we assume! Dun-dun-dun! (though he has a male voice, so yeah, it was the real Paz.) Anyway, it was nice to see some focus on an otherwise background character.

The Individual Eleven story gets going here, and it’s quite the shift when you compare it to the Laughing Man arc from the previous season. There isn’t much of a mystery behind who done it or why by Episode 13, in fact we have a bald, scarred-headed government agent Goda get his ghost / data hacked into out and out saying his plan of using the IE to provoke war between Asian refugees and Japan and use the chaos to send Japan back to its golden period. We even know the top member, Hideo Kuze, and his white-haired stereotypical anime villain-ness. So not only are the “bad guys” more straight forward (and look more like villains) but most of the plan is just spoken to the audience. It’s still a fun watch, but does feel dumbed down… Let’s put this as straddling the Good and Bad sections…

I still think Kuze’s attack on the President in Episode 5 is a great action scene though. That needs to be separated from the greater arc. Other episodes either effectively carry on the story surrounding Goda and his agency, or the Individual Eleven story, but are good in their own way, like Episode 9, which features an always unpleasant suicide bombing storyline, or Episode 12 where the Eleven meet up and dramatically kill themselves for the world to see.

The Bad:

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A sword and grey / white hair… yeah, not surprised he was a bad guy..

This has popped up a few times on this blog, but man I hate Trial episodes. Episode 10 “One Angry Man – TRIAL”, sees Togusa shoot a man several times while unsuccessfully trying to save an innocent woman, and thanks to the politics and word-twisting of the culprit’s lawyer, Togusa is looking like the guilty one for shooting the murderer. I just find these courtroom dramas so dull, and sure enough, this wasn’t much different.

Episode 1 wasn’t up to much, but it was written to reintroduce the characters and setting, so I won’t be too harsh on it. It did reintroduce the squeaky-voiced Tachikomas though, which isn’t great… Thankfully there aren’t many scenes to them gossiping amongst themselves this time, so… Yeah. Could still do without them.

Overall Thoughts:

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Yes, this bunch of episodes had the “leaping off the skyscraper looking towards the camera” bit that’s all over the blu-ray packaging, which also means high quality picture! Hooray!

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’s “2nd Gig” gets off to a good start. It’s not so much cyberpunk mystery as much as just cyberpunk, but it’s still entertaining. It’s not all anime action either, with Episode 11 standing tall as one of the better episodes on the show in general. Once again, a strong showing that continues to be enjoyable and relevant over a decade after it was made.

4 Star Watch

(with a special 5 Star Watch for Episode 11!)

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