Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Season 1 Review

GITS SAC_2045

Now, as a rule I dislike CG animations. The only time I’ve “gotten used to it” and able to enjoy it is with the help of a franchise I’m really into (Star Wars, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy), so I of course gave the new Netflix Ghost in the Shell series a go, especially as it nostalgically reunited the original English dub cast (this being one of the series I watched dubbed on TV first, and they do a good enough job that I “stick to what I know”) but sadly unlike a lot of the series / films I mentioned above, this seemingly had very little money thrown at it, and it often comes across as cheap and bland. Does the story cover for this?! Well…

Synopsis:

In the year 2045, after an economic disaster known as the Simultaneous Global Default which destroyed the value of all forms of paper and electronic currency, the “Big 4” nations of the world are engaged in a state of never-ending “Sustainable War” to keep the economy going.

In this world, Motoko, Batou, and other members of Public Security Section 9 have sold themselves out as mercenaries under the group “GHOST,” using their cybernetic enhancements and battle experience to earn a living while defusing hot-spots across the globe. However, the emergence of “Post Humans” and a conspiracy uncovered by former Chief Aramaki force PSS9 to reunite.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

GITS SAC_2045 2

The gang is … sort of back together. Also: headless man.

Episodes 8 – 12 are when the series gets good. PSS9 have reassembled under Aramki, making things feel like actual GITS SAC, and the new case is interesting. So people have been suddenly struck by a massive fever and then waking up as “Post Humans”, people with superhuman reflexes and strength and all have some sort of agenda against the top brass. The Major, Batou, Togusa and co. are tasked with tackling three Post Humans that have almost certainly “awoken” in Japan, and while one was a one-episode story of an ex-boxer who can now literally punch people’s heads clean off, the last three episodes are interesting (not that the Boxer episode was bad or anything).

The next Post Human ends up being a school kid named Takashi, but before they even find him the team deals with a program where people vote on whether someone is guilty of a crime or not, and if the mob says guilty, the person in question is killed by faceless avatars only they can see. It’s freaky, and a good thinking point about literal mob justice. So, the person who’s doing this isn’t the Post Human, instead it’s just some random kid who found the code, the code itself was created by Takashi to get revenge on a teacher at his school who clearly abused and/or straight up killed a fellow child. It was a good, if not a little Persona-ry, episode.

We then get the finale, where Togusa plunges into the memories of Takashi and sees that he was friends with his cousin Yuzu when he was staying with her, and the two met an American army man who was living nearby. Takashi befriends the soldier (and dives deep into classic book 1984), but during a firefight between the army man and some local law enforcement being less than lawful, Yuzu is hit by a stray bullet and killed. Takashi has since become obsessed with the soldier and making things “right”, and at the end of the memory the memory-version of Takashi mysteriously offers Togusa a place with him, and Togusa seemingly accepts as he vanishes out of sight, or at least out of Batou’s sight. It was an interesting deep dive into the mind of this child, and I’m interested in where this is all going… which is lucky, really…

There was a Stand Alone (way-hey!) episode where Batou helped some old people who were scammed on their money rob a bank that was actually really fun. There was also an episode focusing on a Post Human in a US lockdown facility that nearly escaped via hacking the system and controlling all the guard robots. That was good as well…

The Bad:

GITS SAC_2045 3

I mean, he’s supposed to be boring and generic by design, but still… ugh.

The poor animation and looks doesn’t help, to start with. The models and backgrounds are undetailed, and movement is either perfectly fluid or eerily robotic, especially when characters are just sitting and listening, the animators clearly don’t know how to have some of expressionlessly listening without it looking… weird. In general it comes across like you’re watching a compilation of PS3 cutscenes rather than a made-for-TV production.

As I said, the first few episodes are far weaker. They see Major Kusanagi, Batou, Isikawa, Saito and three Tachikoma A.I. machines form a mercenary group, along with a new member called “Standard”, which is presumably on the nose reference to how bog-standard he is. He’s a comedy black guy who thinks he’s cool but actually pratfalls about the place, with literally no more depth than that description, so yes, very “Standard” (they actually call him by a nickname, in the English dub it’s the Japanese for “Clown”, but I can’t be bothered to look it up). After an Op. goes awry the team, known as “GHOST”, is captured by a US agent who looks identical to Agent Smith from the Matrix films called… John Smith. Wow. Okay. The English dub even tries to vocally match the film character, so subtly wasn’t on the menu here, nor was originality!

GITS SAC_2045 1

One Post Human, soon to be one Post Human in the nude…

They take on a Post Human towards the end and there are some good action scenes, with fun hand-to-hand dodging and a large mech-like thing, but it was also weird with naked backflipping and super squared robot guard dogs, plus unfunny “the new guy’s useless” comedy bits. Togusa during this time is just doing random police work (and is now divorced) and gets told to find the old members of PSS9 by Aramaki, and… does, eventually. Oh and Paz and Borma appear towards the end but don’t do anything, and maybe have three sentences between them…

They introduced a new girl hacking wizard / obsessive Batou fan called Purin Ezaki and man is she ever obnoxious. She’s supposed to be a classic over-reacting funny fangirl type, and while she is, it isn’t really endearing. I think it has to do with how unnatural her over-exaggerated poses and reactions look in CG.

Basically the series is slow to get going, that’s why this review is going up a month after it was uploaded, there were times where I was struggled between hating the looks and the not being invested in the story and the fact I do love the GITS world, especially that of the SAC sub-series.

Overall Thoughts:

GITS SAC_2045 4

Oooo! A new member of the team! ….. Oh. Ah well, she was better than “Standard” anyway…

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is not pretty to look at, and its starts off poorly, with some bad new characters and a general lack of feeling like the show it’s a sequel to, but then it manages to pick up in the last few episodes, just enough to raise this from a poor to average, and JUST enough to get me to watch Season 2 to see what happens next…

3 Star Watch

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