A.D. 2034. It has been two years since Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9. Togusa is now the new leader of the team, that has considerably increased its appointed personnel. The expanded new Section 9 confronts a rash of complicated incidents, and investigations reveal that an ultra-wizard hacker named the Puppeteer is behind the entire series of events.
In the midst of all, Batou, who was stalking the case on a separate track, encounters Motoko. She goes away after saying, "Stay away from the Solid State Society." Batou is left with a doubt in his mind. Could Motoko be the Puppeteer?
The series of intriguing incidents that Section 9 faces gradually link together almost artistically. Who is the Puppeteer? What will happen to Batou's relationship with Motoko? What is the full truth behind this carefully planned perfect crime? And what will the outcome be? Mysteries surround the Solid State Society...
The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV anime series is one of, if not the best in the history of TV anime in my opinion. There hasn't ever been such a topical and relevant anime to Japan. The fact that it's written intelligently demanding the viewer pay attention, and is filled with all the hallmarks of a compelling moving picture makes it a classic for the ages. No hyperbole, I'm totally serious.
Solid State Society is a feature length anime that continues the character arcs left dangling from the second season's conclusion. Motoko has left Section 9, Togusa has taken
her place as captain and Batou is all moody because Motoko's not around.
Not only is it an original thriller but its also another great homage, not only to Masamune Shirow's original Ghost in the Shell manga, but to Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell feature length anime film. Uber fans will notice all the respectful nods to original source material immediately.
The story broaches issues like Japan's high percentage of elderly due to low birth rates, the abuse of children, and contemporary issues of race and nationality; all prevalent issues in Japan's society today that you will barely see examined in mainstream feature films, let alone anime, which makes this all the more astonishing.
The music by Yoko Kanno is excellent as always, the voice acting perfect, the animation top notch. Production I.G continues to push anime forward.
With any entry into the solid franchise that is “Ghost in the Shell” each new product is compared to all of those that have come before it. Thus, with Solid State Society, this movie has to be compared not only to the shows that came before it, but the two movies as well. Every entry into this franchise has to continue to try and meet the bar set by those earlier entries, and I think that in this case, Solid State Society just falls a bit short of that bar.
Story – 7/10: The story for Solid State Society starts off some two
years after the end of 2nd GIG, with the Major having taken her leave of Section 9, thus the movie leans heavily on Togusa in the beginning. As with the second Ghost in the Shell movie Innocence, we learned that both Togusa and Batou can carry a movie. The problem here is that the Major has really become the soul of the Stand Alone Complex universe, and without her, you always feel that something is missing. Beyond that, the story for Solid State Society is all around pretty decent, but it feels like this should have been the third season, and not a movie. Everything feels rather rushed, and while the story isn’t bad, you can’t help but wonder how much better this could have been if it had been stretched out over a 26 episode season. This movie is better off than the compilation “Laughing Man” and “Individual Eleven” movies, but it just doesn’t live up to the shows, and as a standalone movie, it’s not even in the same ball park as the original movies. It does tie into 2nd GIG and if you felt that the end of that season left you with some questions or wanting more, then SSS is likely to work well for you.
Characters – 9/10: If there’s anything that this movie really has going for it, that would be the way we get to see some of the characters a bit farther down the road. Of the most important is the change to Togusa, who’s stepped up to be the leader of Section 9 now that the Major is gone. It’s good to see him undergo the changes to become a stronger person, as he was always a likable character. On the other side, the Major and Batou generally ponder the meaning of life, having a soul and what their purpose is, much as they always do while being overly badass as they do in generally all Ghost in the Shell products. Much of the side cast is relegated to minor duties again, although there is an awesome scene with Saito. As this is just a movie, you don’t get a lot of character growth in the relatively short span of the film, but there is some and that’s refreshing. These are ultimately characters that are well established though, after two full seasons of SAC, you either love or hate the characters of Section 9 by now. The only real disappointment here is that they didn’t utilize the Prime Minister character as much as one might have hoped. She proved to be a strong character in the second season, and while you see her, she’s pretty much just a cameo. It feels like a slightly missed opportunity, but again that all goes back to the idea that they can’t do as much in a movie as they can in a full blown season.
Presentation – 8/10: There’s certainly nothing wrong with the way SSS is presented, and in many cases, it really shows a lot of visual and audio prowess. The animation is sharp and crisp, and it has all the things going for it that the show had. The downside here is that this is a movie, and you’d expect that the visual production level would be higher. But in the end, it again seems to simply be a long episode. The bar for the animation levels in this franchise were set impossibly high by the simply stunning beauty of Innocence, and SSS doesn’t come close as a movie to reaching that. While its visuals match the show, but don’t surpass it, I actually felt the music took a slight step back. I love pretty much all work by Yoko Kanno, and while I felt that 2nd GIG was among her better sound tracks, I thought that SSS was somewhat lacking. There are a few really enjoyable songs, but they don’t seem to stick in your head as much as some of her previous works. And there are even a few pieces that I simply felt were out of place or jarring. The music isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but once again, it simply fails to live up to what has come before.
Overall Enjoyment – 7/10: Solid State Society is good for giving you some continuation after the events of 2nd GIG ended, and it’s always fun to come back to the enjoyable members of Section 9. But this outing just seemed a bit lackadaisical in comparison to everything before it. Solid State really feels like more of an extended episode than a movie, and with a couple of exceptions, it seemed like it failed to draw me in as much as I’d hoped. I’d say that part of the problem is the lack of a solid antagonist. With the previous two seasons, this team has been tested against fantastic enemies who were brilliant. In this movie, you just never get the sense that the enemy is as strong, and thus it seems to lack overall for that. In the end, it’s enjoyable as a standalone episode, but only if you’re already a fan of the show.
I did enjoy Solid State Society, but that’s likely due to the fact that I’m a fan of the Stand Alone Complex series. As a standalone movie, I don’t know that I’d suggest it to people, as it’s not as strong. It certainly seems to fall well short of the other movies in this franchise, but at the same time, it adds more to those that are fans of the shows. Ultimately, that’s who this is aimed at, so if you enjoyed the GITS:SAC shows, then you should definitely check out this movie. If you’ve never watched the shows, this movie probably isn’t for you.
Ghost in the Shell is now an immense franchise, spanning three TV series, eight movies, and several specials- all inspired by the manga of Shirow Masamune, but brought to life by Kenji Kamiyama in the director and writer's chair. If you're not in the know about this fantastic franchise, this is not the place to start- that would be the 1995 eponymous movie. For those who are- welcome back.
Ghost in the Shell Solid State Society (SSS) is something of a Stand Alone Complex within the established universe of Ghost. The show takes a lot of previously in-universe established ideas, various new political ideals, philosophical
musings, and modern day culturally relevant and poignant issues and brings them to the forefront of a sociopolitically shaped point of the sharp visual and auditory spear that makes up the series. Yoko Kanno returns in the composer's seat, and did a fantastic job as always, with some returning tunes from the earlier series, and a plethora of new ones.
SSS feels like more of a focused, extended episode of the SAC series. Where in SAC 1st, it was the Laughing Man, and in SAC 2nd, the Individual Eleven, Solid State Society also has a nebulously altruistic, yet menacing omnipresent villain in the "Puppet Master". If one were to take the Stand Alone (the side investigation episodes in SAC 1st/2nd) episodes out, distill the Complex (main investigation) episodes down into a simultaneously fast moving, dialogue AND action driven story that could be told in 2 hours, you'd have SSS. The characters have been well established in over 50 episodes of TV series and several movies at this point, so while there's not any mind altering development taking place- there are a few standout moments for some of the supporting characters like Saito and Togusa to shine.
This movie takes all the best parts of the previous TV series and compresses them into a dense, directed story without the sometimes meandering dialogue and heavy handed by comparison action episodes that the SAC series had. On a technical level, SSS is on par with SAC 2nd, and Production IG do a fine job with animating it, though the 3D CGI they're known for sticking in there might scald your eyes a bit.
Despite this being a movie with a sizable budget, it's not as visually striking as the 1995 movie, or Innocence. I think this plays into its favor though, as it works best as an extended epilogue to SAC 2nd, and thus retains the feel. 2 years after Motoko Kusanagi leaves Section 9, a new cyberterrorist threat has appeared- one called the Puppet Master, and the investigation into it leads to the discovery of the kidnapping of thousands of children, political corruption and a potentially more heinous threat- all standard fare for the Ghost in the Shell series.
Beyond the almost mundane introspection on life and what it means to be an individual, a human, and other philosophical musings the show is known for, SSS focuses on some relevant issues in Japan today: the aging population and declining birthrate, agency of parents and caregivers, and the role of government in providing healthcare form the spine of the plot. Many nods are given to the viewers in some direct references and allusion to the SAC series- a pair with serious implications in this story. I have to say though, that where SAC 1st strayed from the point a lot in having some filler, and SAC 2nd felt preachy and racist at times, SSS stayed very true to the core of Ghost in the Shell in wrapping up a lot of complex topics and themes into a single cohesive narrative without being heavy handed. It also takes a somewhat different direction of the previous series in that by the end, not everything is cut and dried so nicely- it's partially up to the viewer to decide, and that made it all the better.
In short, if you like Ghost in the Shell, this is more of what you want to see. If you found yourself not being a big fan of SAC 1st and 2nd for the pacing or some other small issues, this may be just the thing you were looking for- an interesting and engaging story that doesn't overstep its bounds, but still has the power to surprise.
Imagine the first Ghost in the Shell movie, except they completely flop on everything they did right in that movie. Have you ever wondered, "what would Ghost in the Shell have been if it was bad?" Well, wonder no longer.
Solid State Society is an action movie, with not much action. A philosophical movie, with no philosophy. And a Ghost in the Shell movie, without any Ghost in the Shell spirit. Having said that, as a standalone film, it's not that bad. The problem lies in how much it attempts to capitalize on the original 1995 film, and the Stand Alone Complex series. There's so
many references and tons of imagery that it's borderline ridiculous how much this movie is trying to be the original. Even the villain and plot premise are similar. I'm not saying that the movie does any of these things badly, however, I am saying that it lacks in substance significantly compared to the original; thus, a lot of these allusions end up appearing as baseless.
That rant aside, in all fairness it's a good movie. I liked it more than the second season of Stand Alone Complex. It does a lot of things really well. The action sequences are well choreographed and directed. The music and graphical design and integrity are impeccable. The story is good enough for an action movie. It has a little bit of mystery, but it's not handled whatsoever like the first season of Stand Alone Complex. It's handled more... generically. It's less satisfying, is what I'm trying to say. I'm not gonna talk about the ending because I think it's stupid. The characters are whatever. For a sequel, they are what they need to be.
With such a mixed review, you're probably wondering if I recommend this or not. I'm forced to give a complicated answer. The TL;DR answer is "I gave it an 6, it must be 'fair.'" For a more honest recommendation, you need to know how I feel about the series as a whole, and as this will be my last review for the series, I guess I'll talk about it here. I'll just make a note first that I wrote reviews for everything that came before this movie already, so feel free to read those for context.
The Ghost in the Shell 1995 Movie is amazing. The first season of Stand Alone Complex I hold in similar regard. Both of those have my highest recommendation. Everyone and their mom should watch them. Below that, I have this movie. I did not enjoy the second season of Stand Alone Complex as much, but I would say: still watch it if you need more Ghost in the Shell. Don't expect anything like the first season or the movie, but it's still okay. Lastly, Innocence. Don't watch that. If you liked the second season, watch this movie. If you didn't like the second season, don't watch this movie as it will be just as disappointing. That's the long answer. Enjoy!
Ghost in the Shell is an interesting look into a future when humanity has learned to seamlessly merge itself with technology. New advancements come with a whole list of new benefits and dangers. When those dangers appear, there's one agency that can take them down.