English: Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex
Synonyms: Ghost in the Shell SAC, Ghost in the Shell TV, Koukaku Kidoutai STAND ALONE COMPLEX
Japanese: 攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Oct 1, 2002 to Mar 25, 2003
25 min. per episode
R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
L represents licensing company
Score: 8.461 (scored by 45273 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
action cyberpunk mecha sci-fi
SynopsisIn the not so distant future, mankind has advanced to a state where complete body transplants from flesh to machine is possible. This allows for great increases in both physical and cybernetic prowess and blurring the lines between the two worlds. However, criminals can also make full use of such technology, leading to new and sometimes, very dangerous crimes. In response to such innovative new methods, the Japanese Government has established Section 9, an independently operating police unit which deals with such highly sensitive crimes.
Led by Daisuke Aramaki and Motoko Kusanagi, Section 9 deals with such crimes over the entire social spectrum, usually with success. However, when faced with a new A level hacker nicknamed “The Laughing Man”, the team is thrown into a dangerous cat and mouse game, following the hacker’s trail as it leaves its mark on Japan.
[Written by MAL Rewrite]
Related AnimeAdaptation: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Alternative setting: Ghost in the Shell
Sequel: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG
Spin-off: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Tachikoma na Hibi
Summary: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - The Laughing Man
Side story: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Tachikoma no Hibi Fan Disc
Characters & Voice Actors
To start with, GITS SAC is an almost non-controversial show: regardless of personal tastes, most viewers agree it has excellent production values and cool but not so deep protagonists. That means your attitude towards this anime will mostly depend on how much you like the the story and everything it has to offer.
Don't trust the tags - they lie: this anime is not cyberpunk. Though it does share the name, the general sci-fi concept and the main characters with its famous predecessor, the Ghost in the Shell movie, this show does not continue the movie's plot and has none of that cool & gloomy cyberpunk atmosphere since the creators decided to make the anime accessible to a general audience. Did they make it worse? I think, no. While the show indeed became a little more mainstream, it also gained a lot in the story department.
The story takes place in a society with amazing technologies, precisely:
- cyberbrains and prosthetic bodies, that allow to communicate at distance without using phones; to record information with eyes like on camera; to replace injured limbs & organs and increase body strength; but most importantly, to transfer one's mind from one body to another, which makes it very easy to conceal a person's identity;
- AI, that allows to have android helpers and army/police robots used for transportation, reconnaissance, combat and hacking;
- some other innovations like micromachines utilized to maintain connection between cyberbrain and computer networks; or thermo-optical camouflage used by special forces.
Unsurprisingly, not only those technologies change the everyday life as we know it, but they also alter people as such, blurring the line between man & machine, virtual & real worlds. Therefore, the story tackles quite a number of thought-provoking matters, from classic sci-fi themes (like the aforementioned artificial intelligence) to philosophic questions of memetics and hyperreality, explaining how information is transferred in modern society and how a symbol often means more than something it represents (sounds paradoxical at first but you'll get it in the course of the story). All those topics gain importance every day due to rapid technological growth, which makes this futuristic series very relevant to our present society. That's why I highly recommend to watch it attentively as it will sure give you enough food for thought.
However, even if you are not that much into philosophy or science, I believe you will still enjoy the show since it has absolutely kickass action and one of the most thrilling detective plots ever. Essentially, the series tells a story of Section 9, a police department which is more akin to FBI or CIA rather than simple police as its members are simultaneously proficient in the arts of combat, hacking and detective work. The main plotline revolves around their exciting chase after the Laughing Man - a highly-skilled hacker, accused of corporate terrorism and blackmailing. Eventually, the whole cat & mouse game turns out even more complex and interesting than it looks at first, but I won't elaborate on that to avoid spoiling: let's just say I'm not a tiny bit overrating the qualities of the story.
Like most, this story sure has its obvious drawbacks. I presume, there are three of them:
1) contradictory setting. The anime focuses too much on cybernetics, therefore you get the setting where people have androids and crazy technologies like the ability to transfer one's mind to another body... and yet they drive in 20th century cars and live in 20th century houses. It just doesn't work that way. However, the amaziness of plot twists and those questions & technologies almost negates the setting issue, and soon you simply stop paying attention to it;
2) while the anime is clever indeed, it may occasionally feel pretentious, prolix and difficult to grasp, as the characters happen to carry lengthy discussions overcomplicated with pathos and philosophy. Well, that's bearable considering all the things they say are very interesting and plot-related - it's just the complex presentation of ideas that needs some time to get used to. Not to mention the show isn't only about talking: it also has lots of very dynamic action and some nice comic relief like robotic tanks that read books(!);
3) half of the series are stand-alone episodes that break the integrity of perception and make the narrative look somewhat choppy. Yet they aren't your typical fillers because those little stories are very memorable and they allow to explore the world, flesh out the characters and tackle the main topics from different perspectives. You won't have much trouble with this aspect of the show (in fact, you may even like it) if you're generally ok with episodic format.
Overall, the aforementioned drawbacks are effectively compensated with the positives, and the story successfully blends intellectual matters and pure entertainment in a very original & enjoyable way.
Unlike some other great animes, GITS SAC does not present you any unique art style. What makes its animation outstanding nonetheless is the overall quality. You would never think this show was made in 2002: it still looks like a contemporary work and even better than many today's animes in terms of both drawing and cinematics. The latter becomes especially clear when the action kicks in: not only it has everything you could ask for (gunfights, car chases, hand-to-hand combat, mecha combat etc.) but the choreography is very impressive and pretty realistic at the same time. On another note, the animation employs quite a lot of CGI yet it doesn't spoil the picture at all - in fact, it gives everything a sort of robotic look that ideally fits the show. In general, I wouldn't go as far as calling the animation a masterpiece, yet the excellent rating seems more than appropriate here.
Well, soundtracks are probably the strongest part of the whole Ghost in the Shell franchise. However, while the music in the movie is truly amazing, there's not really much of it and all the tracks are of the same style. GITS SAC takes a different approach: the soundtrack by Yoko Kanno is very diverse, with songs in different moods, styles and languages, but of the same exceptional quality. So, besides it's beautiful and breathtaking, it also provides you a great opportunity to find a song that best suits your personal taste. Needless to say, it gets a 10/10 score.
At first glance the cast resembles a typical special squad... except their commander is a lady dressed (or should I say undressed?) in a very peculiar way, and they also have wacky AI tanks with high-pitched voices for fire support)) However, as the show goes on and the characters get some time to prove themselves you inevitably start to appreciate both their personalities and genuine coolness as special agents. Even Tachikomas (those AI tanks) have a number of funny, interesting and really great moments of their own.
The only remaining issue is that while the characters are certainly not cardboards, they still don't get much development. One reason is most of their development happens in the 2nd season (also known as 2nd GIG ); the other reason is the nature of the show as its main focus lies on story, philosophy & action. Yet that doesn't become a serious problem because the protagonists are already charismatic and memorable individuals, easy to sympathize with and generally fitting for this kind of show.
As for the Laughing Man, I won't go into detail for obvious reasons - let's just say you'll be very surprised when you learn his actual role in the story.
As you could already guess, GITS SAC is one of my most favourite series and I highly recommend you to watch it in case you haven't. However, in order to enjoy this anime you should bear in mind two crucial things:
1) GITS SAC is not cyberpunk (at least, not a classic representative of the genre);
2) the show demands your thinking and attention to follow the story and appreciate its ideas.
If you remember that while watching the series, you will certainly understand why this show belongs to the golden classics of anime and why it deserves the time I took to write this long review ;) read more
Many anime fans consider the 1995 movie "Ghost in the Shell" to be a classic of the first order so when the Stand Alone Complex series was released six years later, many were sceptical as to how good it would actually be (and I will admit to being one of those people). Production I.G. managed to put everyone's fears to rest though, just not in the way we all expected (I'll explain in a bit).
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a series that really doesn't need any introduction. The original movie proposed a disturbingly plausible future for mankind that is akin to the work of Philip K Dick and William Gibson. The series however, deviates from the movie's premise in a number of ways, some of which are not obvious at first, partly because of how the series is laid out.
SAC isn't a sequential series, and is actually made up of two completely different plot elements - Stand Alone and Complex. The Stand Alone episodes focus on the work of Section 9 as they investigate various cases, while the Complex episodes focus on the main plot - The Laughing Man. This has caused a certain amount of confusion for some people who were expecting a series that developed in the manner a "normal" anime would, especially as the Stand Alone and Complex episodes were interspersed with each other.
Where the series really shines though is in the complexity of it's story, characters and setting. The biggest change between SAC and either of the movies is that the focus is not on "individuality". Instead, SAC takes a far more societal perspective, and the Stand Alone episodes are actually essential in this respect. Without them, the viewer would remain unaware as to exactly how the members of Section 9 fit into the workins of society and government and, more importantly, how they fit with each other as a team. Each member of Section 9 is a survivor after all, and the Stand Alone episodes highlight this fact in a way that the movies never could.
The Complex episodes that form the "main" story arc can be watched as a separate entity, as is proven by the release of the compilation movie in 2005. The problem with this though, is that the viewer is far less familiar with the workings of Section 9 or the influence of it's chief, Aramaki Daisuke, within the political, police, military and business sectors of society.
With regards to the stories in both Stand Alone and Complex, they are very well scripted. The change of themes between SAC and the movies has been accomplished in a unique and inventive manner, with far more focus on poiltical machinations, schemes, plans, plots, second guesses, double jeopardies and outrirght confrontations. The series is extremely successful in it's depiction of a society that has begun to stagnate, partly because of the usage of cyber culture, with Cyber Brain Sclerosis being a metaphor for this deterioration. One of the truly great things about SAC is the debates that occur in most episodes, some of which are slightly surreal (in the middle of a gun battle for example), but all of which provide the viewer with a perspective on what is occuring that is sometimes surprising. Some may find this philosophication to be off putting, but SAC, indeed the entire Ghost in the Shell franchise, was never intended to be all glamour and no substance.
In terms of art and animation most viewers agree that SAC is a step up from the original movie, even though the series had a much lower budget per minute of animation than the either of the movies. One of the upshots of this is that, whilst the majority of the series is extremely well animated, especially in terms of blending CG and normal animation, there are occasions when the foreground action does not conform with the CG background. Even with that flaw though, the series remains extremely well animated and choregraphed for the most part, and aside from that issue I mentioned, most other problems are simply nit-picking.
I will mention one thing about the animation though. SAC is particularly noteworthy for it's fairly accurate portrayal of combat. Unlike most action anime, there are no glamourous finishing moves here, no power-ups, no fly-by-wire martial arts, etc, etc. Instead what we have is what one would expect in this sort of scenario, a group of tough soldier-like veterans who fight to win.
Sound is another area where the series excels and, in many respects, SAC is actually superior to the movie in terms of it's effects usage, voice acting and score. The dubs for both Japanese and English are extremely well done, with the English dub adopting a far more intuitive approach instead of an outright translation. The voice actors for both dubs are extremely well suited to their roles, with Tanaka Atsuko reprising her role as Kusanagi Motoko from the original movie along with Ohtsuka Akio and Yamadera Kouichi (Batou and Togusa). Mimi Woods, who played the major in the first movie, has been replaced in the English dub with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and I have to admit that I much prefer McGlynn's portrayal to Woods' as her voice has a cadence and that is far more suited to the role.
Given the length of time between the original movie and SAC, it's only natural that there would be some changes to the cast. On the whole, SAC is well served by it's voice actors, and the changes to the cast have actually improved the quality and delivery, making the characters that little bit more believable than they were before.
The music for SAC was composed by the great Kanno Yoko, who should need no introduction. The often inspired creations add a depth and tone to the series that goes beyond anything achieved in the original movie, however most people will simply focus on the OP and ED. "Inner Universe", the opening track to each episode, has become one of the most played anime songs in history, a remarkable feat given that the lyrics, written by Origa (Ol'ga Vital'evna Yakovleva), and Shanti Snyder, are almost completely in Russian. The track, sung by Origa and soprano Benedict Del Maestro, is striking in that it blends several different genres of music. The ED, an alternative rock track titled "Lithium Flower", is another rarity in anime as it is one of the few songs written and sung in English.
I could wax lyrical about the music in this series, especially as I'm a huge fan of Kanno's work, however I think you all get my point already.
One of the biggest differences between SAC and the original movie is the inclusion of the other members of Section 9. In the movie they were either bit parts or alluded to in conversation. Here, however, they are characers who not only have a role within the framework of the story, but individuals in their own right. The major characters like Kusanagi and Batou have also undergone a tranasformation, not in terms of looks but in terms of persona. Each of the main characters feels more "real" than they did in the movie and, while this may be due to the fact that the series can give more background, this is still a very noteworthy achievement as anime in general is notorious for offering poor characterizations.
Possibly the most fascinating and interesting addition to the series are the Tachikomas. These A.I. controlled "mini-tanks" sometimes act as comic relief, however their main pupose is to highlight how humans in the series are becoming more robotic, whilst beings like the Tachikoma are becoming more human. This is one of the reasons why the Tachikoma are presented with childlike voices and qualities, especially an insatiable curiosity.
SAC is one of the few anime that, in my opinion, can only be "enjoyed" in purely subjective terms. The complexity in both its story and characters, combined with its technologically plausible setting, ethical debates and philosophical arguments, means that whilst there is a lot of action, there is actually a point to it all instead of it being just mindless violence.
This is very much an intelligent series for intelligent people and, while there are some who won't enjoy it, I found the blend of action, mystery, philosophy and thriller to be truly excellent. read more
Both share a similar style where a greater storyline is carried on by seemingly unrelated episodes (or episode pairs in the case of Darker than Black).
Show is episodic in nature for the most part and is a crime/drama as well.
They have a very similar feel to them. The story in DtB is a little darker than GitS, and the worlds are very different, but the seriousness and overall feel to them is very similar. If you liked one, you should give the other a try.
They both have an episodic "crime of the week" format combined with a long-term story arc. There are sometimes similar plots, and both explore the idea of people who are somehow different from ordinary humans (cyborgs in GITS, people with superpowers in DTB). Both are intelligent (moreso GITS), dark (moreso DTB), and mature and have kickass soundtracks by Yoko Kanno.
Both, Darker than BLACK and GiTS: Stand Alone Complex have similar plot build ups. While each episode seems mostly independent of the other on a deeper almost all episodes are related in some way. Also both revolve around a team protagonists (although admittedly both teams has its own protagonist)
These two animes revolve a protagonist with a strong support team in a political and action thriller featuring unique powers (although that's a given in most animes).
While Ghost in the Shell series revolves more around a central political plot, Darker than BLACK asks similar metaphysical questions underlying Ghost in the Shell.
-Secret organisation employing talented individuals.
-Slow space at the beginning but later moves faster and becomes more intense.
-Realistic action and/or well animated action.
Note: Darker Than Black as special powers.
Both are set in a plausible futuristic setting focused on some police authority. Action scenes litter throughout both series, and when done, they're brilliantly choreographed. Like any two great sci-fi, both looks critically into the social implications of technology, the ethical considerations, and any significant impact of change in lifestyle. Easily two of the best sci-fi anime has to offer, utmost care was put into both in developing a world that feels real and the characters themselves behave accordingly to the circumstances given.
Both of these story lines fall deep into the future with technology that can better mankind but also still have the same amount of crime. Characters are a bit different than ghost in a shell however you will learn about the characters in this anime at different episodes just like ghost in a shell.
Both series shares similar themes involving dealing with criminals in a world with powerful technology. In fact, these traces of technology can be traced with cyperpunk themes. Thus, both series has a similar feeling.
Both series' characters works with a superior organization to deal with the criminals using their skills.
Production I.G. is also involved with both series hence similar animation artwork and visuals.
Both series has action, drama, police, and great dialogue usage in many scenes.
Both amines have a similar feel to their story telling as well as both being worlds in a not too distant future. Both can also be classified as science fiction and each follow a form of law enforcement.
Both animes feature an advanced technological society that despite the cutting edge technology suffers from both existential and criminal issues. Both animes feature cybercrime and a lot of action. Both animes focus on police and investigations.
Opening Theme#1: "Inner Universe" by Origa
#2: "GET9" by Jillmax (Japanese Terrestrial Broadcast)
Ending Theme#1: "Lithium Flower" by Scott Matthew
#2: "I Do" by Ilaria Graziano (Japanese Terrestrial Broadcast)
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