In a futuristic world where the internet and cybernetics has blurred the borders between societies, the members of Public Security Section 9 are reinstated to assist in solving numerous cases of cyber crime.
A spate of similar crimes committed by separate suicidal groups known as "The Individual Eleven" becomes the core focus for Section 9 as war approaches in the form of refugees flooding into the country.
"Life without truth is not possible. Truth is perhaps Life itself" - Franz Kafka
One of the keys to creating a successful story is innovation, in particular, creating something that is both interesting and relevant, but approached from a different perspective. Of all the genres of the storytelling medium, science fiction is the only one that holds up a mirror to a possible future be it good or bad. It's for this reason that the genre is often lauded and derided, sometimes by the same person, as science fiction is predictory by nature, in other words, it posits how humans would behave in certain circumstances.
During the last twenty years there have been numerous sci-fi tales in one form or another, many of which came about because of the end of the millenium. Some of them were simply terrible, whilst some were only average. Of the good ones, only a few had a lasting influence on the stories that came after. One of those is Ghost in the Shell.
Following the phenomenal success of the original movie and the TV series Stand Alone Complex, director and chief writer Kamiyama Kenji, together with the staff of Production I.G., formulated the direction in which the story would progress. What they needed, according to Kamiyama, was a completely different direction to the first series, with new goals, a new focus, and a chance to explore the world of GitS. After discussions with Oshii Mamoru it was decided that, in light of the events of 9/11, the issue of war could no longer be avoided.
This decision ultimately paved the way for a sequel that is not only superior to the original, but one that is also far more relevant to modern society.
Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig is set several months after the end of Stand Alone Complex. At this point in time Section 9 is training, however the changes to the Special Forces bill mean that they are still not a legal force, and their status is akin to that of a terrorist organistion. The chief, Aramaki Daisuke, is attempting to resolve this but, like any modern society, the paperwork needs to be in order (gotta love bureaucracy).
During this time, a new Prime Minister hascome to power, and she has promised to fix the problems caused by crippling taxes and the waves of Asian refugees who are coming to Japan because of the Fourth World War (or, the Second Vietnamese War).
One of the areas where 2nd Gig deviates from SAC is that the story is based far more on world events and history than before. SAC is essentially the platform from upon which this series stands, and it's advisable to watch that series first before watching this one as the viewer is then familiar with the characters and the work of Section 9. Unlike SAC, the focus in 2nd Gig isn't on the work of Section 9, but rather on the society itself. I mentioned in my review of the first series that the phenomenon of Cyber Brain Sclerosis was also a metaphor for the gradual deterioration of society, and while SAC alluded to this, here it is made all too clear.
2nd Gig is nothing if not brutal in a certain sense. The series has a more defined sense of plausibility than anything before, and also a sense of inevitability. The power plays, politics, machinations, plots and plans are as complex and devious as they were in SAC, however here they have more of an edge to them because of the parallels with real world events. There is a lot of action in 2nd Gig, however like SAC, the action is not the important part of the show. The focus is on political and social movement, so when the action happens it's usually the result of a series of circumstances or plans. Here, taking action is an effect for the most part, not a cause, and this is one of the key plot elements in the story as the "reactionary" mentality of society is tested by the Individual 11.
As with SAC, and any other GitS project for that matter, the pacing and flow of the story is excellent. Each aspect of the plot is very clearly covered, used and acted upon. Each element of the story is involved and well thought out, especially in relation to other elements. In this respect the series shares a few things with SAC's Laughing Man Arc, however this aspect is carried here for 26 episodes with almost no let up.
One interesting point to note is that the history given in 2nd Gig is the same as that given in the Appleseed Databook. This suggests that both stories take place at different times in Earth's history and, when one considers the technology used and applied in Appleseed, it gives the entire GitS story a slightly different perspective.
In terms of visuals, 2nd Gig is nothing short of excellent. The animation is ever so subtly better than SAC, especially the blending of 2d and 3d, with movements and actions flowing as freely as they did before, but without any of the clashes that occured from time to time. The colour scheme is extremely well suited, and reflects the grim reality of the story, while the level of detail in the back and foregounds pushes the bar even higher than it was before. The visual effects are also excellent, and way above those used in other sci-fi series.
In addition to this, the art direction is superb throughout the series, especially in the smaller moments before action is taken. In one episode the team from Section 9 is seen gearing up to respond to a hostage taking. The animation and detail in this one sequence in particular, highlights the level of detail and quality, as well as the sense of realism that Kamiyama was aiming for.
Sound is, once again, way above par. The effects are extremely well used and, whilst some people may be a little overwhelmed by some of the explosions, most will find them quite satisfying. One thing I do like about the effects in both series is that of the bullets fired from different guns, as they do sound different to the naked ear (because they are).
As I've already talked about the voice acting in my review of SAC, I'll skip that part as the acting in 2nd Gig is at least equal to the first series, and the main roles are essentially the same. I will, however, mention Koyama Rikiya (who plays Hideo Kuze), as he gives the character a kind of reserved charm that is very much in keeping with the story.
The music is, once again, composed by the one and only Kanno Yoko, and her style and flair is such that the series just wouldn't be the same without her compositions. The OP, "Rise" (sung by Origa once again), has actually split opinion as to which of the two is the better song - "Rise" or "Inner Universe" (personally I love them both). The ED, "Living Inside the Shell" (sung by Steve Conte), is also a great track, but I have to admit that I prefer "Lithium Flowers" from SAC.
One thing to note about the OP and ED for 2nd Gig is that it actually has three of each. The original broadcast featured the two tracks mentioned above, however the second, terrestrial, broadcast featured two different tracks. The second OP, "Christmas in the Silent Forest" (sung by Illiara Graziano), is a more haunting track than the martial "Rise", and has a very Bjork-esque quality about it. The ED, "Snyper" (sung by Iliara Graziano and Steve Conte), has much the same feel as the OP.
The third OP and ED, "Torukia" (sung by Gabriella Robin), and "I Do" (sung by Iliara Graziano), only appear in the final episode.
As far as the characters go (and it's pretty damn far to be honest), they are simply astonishing. Because of the groundwork laid by the movie and SAC, the each member of Section 9 is an almost complete persona from the start of the show. Now, hardcore fans of character development probably won't like what I'm about to say next, but the truth is the truth. Sometimes character development gets in the way of the story proper, something which we have all seen happen in other anime. The fact that almost every character is not only an adult, but also an almost fully realised characterisation, means that there is nothing to hold back the story. Granted there are times when the characters come into sharp focus, but the series deals with these times with aplomb, grace, and sometimes violence.
I have seen, on occasion, people remark that the episodes that focus on a particular character are often slow and boring. I disagree with this view as, in any story, there are occasions when a character becomes more "audience friendly" and accessible. These "slow" episodes also help modify the pace of the story as a whole, and invite new routes down which it could progress.
I will freely admit that I actually prefer 2nd Gig to SAC. This isn't because I found SAC inferior though, it's simply because I related more to the events, action, social and politcal movements and impact, and overall sense of realism in the second series. Where SAC focused on both society and individuality, this also did the same, but from a slightly different angle. One of the things that I have been impressed by in both series is how, in the main story arcs, the "bad guy" isn't quite as evil and bloodthisrty as we initially believe him to be, something which calls the definition of "evil" into question.
This is, like every other part of the GitS franchise, a superb anime. The blend of action, drama (both political and otherwise), intrigue and mystery is on a completely different level to most other anime.
As with SAC, 2nd Gig continues to be an intelligent series for intelligent people. In addition to that it is also a scathing criticism of how wealthy nations have coped with the global refugee crisis, as well as a visionof how bad things can get if society is not more aware of it's own failings.
A couple years back I reviewed Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, and it was fantastic with complex characters and compelling writing. It's one of the few things I've given a “10” rating. There's a sequel to the series, 2nd GIG, that came out not long after the first. So, will it be up to the same standard? Let's delve in and see.
We open with Section 9 on standby, waiting for the official order that will allow them to go back into action. A group calling themselves the Individual Eleven has stormed the Chinese embassy and taken hostages. Aramaki manages to get the Prime Minister's approval and the group moves in, cementing their resurrection. Shortly thereafter, the refugee issue begins becoming more and more of a problem and the Individual Eleven name seems to keep popping up in disparate incidents relating to the refugees in some way, along with a strange mark that only a select few know about. Section 9 sets out to discover the truth behind these incidents and try to assuage the tensions with the refugees, before they turn into a full scale war.
I have two issues with the narrative here. The first, and lesser of the two, is that its big climax retreads one of the big tragic moments from the first series. The execution is different and the moment is still good but it is a bit cheapened as a consequence of being a variation of something we saw in the last series. Then we have the implied history betwixt the Major and one of the major antagonists, Kuze. Narratively, there's not much reason for this to be there. It barely comes into play within the story. It feels like a thinly veiled excuse to have Motoko be distracted and even that is only important for one major scene. Overall, that element is just a bit sloppy and mostly pointless.
Aside from those aspects, the story in this is really strong. It emphasises a more cohesive narrative in contrast to the first series' more stand alone, largely episodic missions where the main plot came into play for some episodes and not for others. This does have the benefit of letting the situation develop and worsen a lot more noticeably while building on the pre-established tensions. It takes quite a few twists and turns that keep you really invested. The pacing is actually really good too. The series never feels like it's dragging or like it's overly hectic. It's also really compelling to see Section 9 struggle to try and gain the upper hand against our main antagonist.
The series retains a strong cast. The more minor characters from Section 9 get to develop a bit more. The major characters are still really compelling and well developed. The various minor characters that get added to the roster have verisimilitude. Honestly, the biggest problem is with the major antagonists. While they do feel like actual people, they're also a bit under-developed. Especially when you compare them to the Laughing Man from the first series. Which is odd since he got significantly less screen time.
The artwork and animation are amazing. The visual effects are stellar. The action sequences are intense and really radical. Even the hacking sequences are really visually intense. The various set pieces, futuristic tech and the like are all really well designed. The character designs are good and the Major's absurd one piece bathing suit/ leather jacket combination has been banished to the Gamindustri Graveyard, or wherever it is stupid outfits go when they stop getting used.
The actors do a fantastic job. Saka Osamu, Ootsuka Akio, Tanaka Atsuko, Yamadera Kouichi and the various other actors all give superb performances. The music is great, adding to the atmosphere for the series.
Motoko's girlfriend from the first series doesn't really show up in this. Nor do they give us any other type of ho-yay. So, we don't get any.
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig is not quite as good as the first series. It suffers from some relatively minor narrative problems and some slightly under-developed antagonists. That being said, it's still a fantastic series. My final rating is going to be a 9/10. Next week I'll continue looking at requests with One Punch Man.read more
NOTE: If you haven't seen 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' I recommend you watch that first. I have reviewed that as well.
Just when one thought that with 'Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence' and 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex', this franchise had reached its pinnacle, Studio I.G. came up with GiTS: SAC 2ng Gig.
It carries over the same qualities that made the first series such a brilliant watch - an excruciatingly complex plot with conspiracy, intrigue and plenty of action and smashing music. The reason why this tops the first season is the more personal feel. Character development, that was mostly sidelined in the first season, is present aplenty in the 2nd gig. You feel you're delving into the lives of the men and woman of Section 9. You get a glimpse of the pasts of the clandestine characters all while maintaining the cloak-and-dagger mystery.
The series also explores several political and moral issues of governance and right and wrong. It does not preach, there are no absolutes, and there is no such thing as a perfect political set up. The series maintains a hue of grey on all these matters, and tastefully so.
If you liked the first series, you absolutely must watch the 2ng series. If you haven't I recommend you watch the 1st gig before embarking on this one. The series ends in a perfect set-up for the new GiTS: SAC Solid State Society movie, which by the way, was quite disappointing, but nevertheless a great addition to the GiTS family. I'm not going to review SSS because if you're already hooked onto Stand Alone Complex, you won't be able to resist watching it.read more
One of the many reasons as to why the Ghost in the Shell franchise has achieved widespread popularity among sci-fi anime fans is due to its concept-driven structure and its ability to create questions without explicitly asking them. What is a soul? Are we truly human? Is the future ideology any different from today?
Its narrative style of "Show, don't tell" when it comes to these themes create an awfully deep and extraordinary voyage into the mind of humanity and our perception of the future. After Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell (1995), the hands of the franchise was placed into director Kenji Kamiyama's hands, who in turn created a successful reiteration of the franchise into a TV series. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd GIG, the anime that you're reading a review about right now. But enough background; let's look at the review.
Narrative Design (Characters, plot, and overall effectiveness of it)
Unlike the previous season, Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd GIG has less stand-alone episodes. You're going to find less character driven moments but more dedication to the overall plot. This is not particularly bad for those who aren't into episodic stories but it really kills what made the last season appealing to other viewers. Stand-alone episodes allowed the series to explore deeper concepts and essentially flesh out the cyberpunk world and how its conceptual workings played out. Although the overarching plot in this season offers just as much thought-provoking content; it is mainly stuck to several inter-related themes instead of a colorful variety of them.
The characters, specifically Section 9, still maintain their charm despite the heavy change that occurred in the later end of season one. Ishikawa is the same laid back technology specialist. Togusa is the same gentle detective. Aramaki is the same witty leader of Section 9. Batou is the same light-hearted and outgoing cyborg. And most importantly, Motoko Kusanagi is still the same strong-willed and highly intelligent squad leader of Section 9. The character dynamics throughout the season is consistently maintained despite the previous season's events and honestly, I couldn't wish for more.
However, there's something of a quirk I don't like about season two. I'll repeat it again, one of the greatest appeals of Ghost in the Shell is its ability to create a hypothetical cyber-punk world with plausible actions and thoughts. Every character, from hero to villain, was believable and sometimes even relatable because of how characters and events were constructed. Section 9 definitely kept themselves throughout the season; but everybody else? Nah. The show centers itself around two individuals (and their followers) so far apart in the ideological spectrum that it's hard for the viewer to immerse. While the writers tried to capture a hero of the ages, they merely constructed a Gary Stu. The villain wasn't fairly reasonable as well with his radical "I want to rule the government!" intent. Although it's never bad for fiction to have characters that are "too real" or "larger than life"; Ghost in the Shell's style of subtlety does not suit it.
Artistic Design (Art, animation, sound, and overall effectiveness of it)
The art and animation is even better than its previous season. However, you will still spot several inconsistent farts in certain scenes if you pay attention. The CGI use is a bit iffy in some aspects but not bad enough to make an eyebrow-raising thought. The choreography is still wonderful and Motoko's gracefulness in her action scenes still have a remarkable beauty to them. The background art is never compromised and does its job in establishing the context of a cyberpunk society. All in all, the art and animation holds well despite being made like ten years ago.
Voice acting was done wonderfully and I don't think I need to elaborate too far into this. Iconic voices, talented voice actors, and matching tones. It fits the bill and it does so well.
If I were to point out one of the greatest aspects of the show's artistic design though, it would be its sound. "Rise", sung by the same person who did season one's "Inner Universe" (RIP Origa, you died tragically young), establishes the atmosphere with her angelic vocals and lyrics of English + German. It does not disappoint compared to the first season opening. The OST also does a wonderful job of integrating itself into the series with its varying tracks and digital sounds. The composer of the series, Yoko Kanno, outdoes herself in almost every aspect of the term in regards to her other musical compositions. Out of all the tracks that I particularly praise though, would be "I do" for establishing an almost perfect emotional atmosphere in one of its episodes. Just beautiful, simply beautiful.
I honestly feel like "War" was too broad of a topic for Ghost in the Shell to handle. Unlike what Hollywood and the "romance" of ancient history makes it out to be, War is a series of ongoing complications that eventually escalates to full scale brutality and 26 episodes is not enough to cover that. Ghost in the Shell did have the latter, but the events that transpired were too rough for my skeptical ass to believe. If Ghost in the Shell had more episodes to work with, I'm sure the plot would have been hell of a lot better, but there have been too many blots that I really can't ignore. Overall, it's a very good anime but to say it captivated me like the first season? Nay.
8/10. read more
Ghost in the Shell may not have the biggest following, but it's still been popular enough to warrant six movies and three series. That's quite a bit of material. And quite a few different opening animation and themes.
Ghost in the Shell has influenced many Hollywood filmmakers, from the Wachowskis, to James Cameron, to Steven Spielberg. Now, DreamWorks wants to make a live-action adaptation of the original manga by Masamune Shirow. Let's see what the studio is planning.