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.
The relationship between man and machine is one often fantasized by artistes in diverse mediums. It’s a subject matter that fully intrigues and it's not hard to deduce why: it parallels heavily with our own society. The unwavering quench to advance collective technologies and the relative dependency on machines has drastically grown with the ages. Authors, artists, social critics, and scholars from all walks of life have adopted this framework and produced some of the most imaginative works that not only entertain, but step beyond the fictional realm to perhaps foreshadow a similar tomorrow not too far away…
One such examination is the Ghost in the
Shell: Stand Alone Complex (GitS) series. Revitalizing the cyberpunk genre and honing in on various veins of society, GitS is a series that revamps the boundaries of typical sci-fi/cyberpunk story-telling.
Set in the future, the first installment of the Stand Alone series trails the respective missions and cases dealt with by an independent, elite unit established by the government titled Section 9. The manner in which the story is structured is peculiarly fascinating: the show is divided up by stand-alone episodes and "dividual"/complex or simply the pivotal episodes that deal with the central case of the laughing man. Therefore, GitS can be considered largely episodic. That by no means indicates a lapse in quality as those stand-alone episodes fulfill many functions; one being, to present an encompassing view of the society depicted and the individuals that compose it, especially the leading cast. It is especially effective because a large part in appreciating this narrative is understanding the intricacies of the world it offers. To put it simply: nothing is done in vain.
With that being said, this is a tale that unfolds slowly. Although, it is a crime-centric series which would imply a certain degree of action, it is smartly and properly utilized. This is a multi-layered show and each layer is carefully peeled and explored. Composed of exceptional writing, intuitive expositions, and an extensive setting, GitS manages to create a consistent flow without relying on an array of shock values or incessant action fillers . Furthermore, the action isn't used superficially or gratuitously, but as an auxiliary measure to provide a worthwhile experience. This isn't the series to go to for fast-paced and continual action; it has long tenures of recurring dialogue and expositions, which can be detractingly slow for some. Regardless, the pacing is well-seasoned; allowing for a more effective and comprehensive outlook of its society.
The GitS society is composed of cyborgs, humans, A.I, and other mechanically-altered beings/machines. Consequently, one can imagine that certain inquiries are bound to rise up. From ontological speculation to political turmoil ; from corporate debauchery to ethical breaches; the series inherently sets up a plethora of topics for the audience to ruminate upon. The core of GitS is embedded in its concepts of “ghost” and “shell” which are extrapolated further to craft the philosophy of the series. Created truly in an ineffable manner, it borrows from a handful of philosophical narratives and works of literature to construct a hyper-“cyberized” realm which draws upon the aforesaid concepts and generates the Stand Alone Complex; yet it is also able to simultaneously maintain an air of authenticity.
Even though the dominant focus is on macro/social-constructs, there are some other very interesting nuances. For example, the disillusionment that accompanies “upgrading” one’s body is subtly depicted by various events such as cyborgs not being able to indulge in their favorite foods because their new bodies have no need for savory sustenance. The perpetual paradox of clinging to one’s humanity by physically losing it is wonderfully crafted. One can't help but ponder upon where the attributes of "human-ness" start and end. Additionally, that paradox is juxtaposed quite ingeniously by the addition of the innocently intuitive Tachikomas (A.I -robots), who throughout the show, question concepts such as individuality, free will, fate, freedom, life, and death which are essentially synonymous with the history of human thought. Where there is humanity lost, elsewhere it is “found”. GitS shows us that it’s precisely where we least expect it, by “our own” design, can it resurface.
What GitS must be endlessly praised for is its uncanny ability to combine various disciplines such as: literature, ethics, philosophy (to name a few), and incorporate them in a relevant and meaningful way. There is both insight and context to almost every concept, reference, and quote that was used in the show. All of this is swiftly integrated and explicitly reflected through the laughing man case. Furthermore, literary devices such as motifs, allusions, and references are implemented elegantly within the narrative, rather than as a detached component. A recurring flaw that occurs in similar works is the constant abuse of irrelevant references, quote dropping, and other superfluous insertions that serve no purpose whatsoever other than to give the false impression of depth or intelligence. This series manages to avoid that and instead, provide perceptive commentary without breaking immersion, while also resonating deeply with the viewer as it frequently serves as a reflecting mirror of the reality in more than one way(s).
In a society where machines are questioning their existence, humans are questioning their humanity, and amidst it all, the marriage between man and machine is eternalized; GitS takes a very neutral stance and just reports, rather than preach. This is a notable technique because it abandons the didactic tone and allows room for personal introspection/interpretation, rather than force-feeding a subscribed ideology. Embracing its thematic heart, GitS offers a level of unmatched profundity.
The characters of GitS are equally fascinating-- not as glamorized mouth-pieces-- but as integral entities that provided a kaleidoscopic view; one seeped in many colors. “One-woman army” Major Motoko Kusanagi is undoubtedly the driving force of the series. Her attributes aren’t necessarily unique, but convincing given her role. She serves as a concrete pillar for her team and as an intriguing lead for the series. The rest of the characters are also well-maintained and created with care and purpose.
A point of true admiration is how the show expands on the collective struggle of the team in accordance with the prevalent themes and ideological undercurrents. Furthermore, the dynamics between the characters are assiduously constructed and are focal to the characterization aspect of the show. There is a surprising amount of depth in the dialogues between the members of Section 9 and those they pursue, which often times is the only portal into understanding the respective character’s persona. Though the characters remain somewhat innately enigmatic, they serve a pivotal role in providing different views on other characters and the world that they occupy.
One caveat that lightly burdens the series is the lack of [balanced] development of the characters on an individual level. There were some members that were rarely elaborated upon even though they were essential to the team. Some characters changed while many remained the same—which isn’t necessarily a fault--but the series could have taken it step further to add a deeper element of empathy. Sporadic and detailed snapshots were provided for certain characters which were a delight, but tantalizing nonetheless, for they often incited the urge to want more. The characters were generally solid, but alas, there was a lingering emptiness—a feeling of something “lacking”.
The connection that is often forged between the audience and the characters they watch or read is important but due to the “dehumanized” nature of the series, GitS was underwhelming in that aspect. Although, it can be easily argued that it remained true to its ambitions and what it was trying to achieve, the overall experience could have slightly improved if individual characterization was given more weight. Despite that, the characters were all interesting and maintained the allure of the GitS world with grace.
Aesthetically, the series does not disappoint. GitS has this precocious ability to show and tell, which allows it to manifest into an unforgettable audio-visual-sensory experience. The art and animation are commendable not just because of fluidity and style but because of well it intertwined with overall atmosphere. The visuals and sound work hand-in-hand to provide a front-and-center view for the audience, thus producing a remarkable atmosphere. For example, the urban metropolis, sprawling with celestial skyscrapers and engulfed in a sea of endless lights-- is often infused with a continual dark and destitute tone-- that is partly depicted by off-setting the vibrancy with shifts in darker colors and shades. One can feel the alienation dripping off the atmosphere and embrace it as if it were their own. Truly, the animation and art style provides a very visceral experience.
Further complementing the atmosphere is the sublime soundtrack of GitS. This doesn't come as a surprise to many considering Yoko Kanno is the woman behind it all. From the OP to the overall background music, GitS provides a euphonious journey for one’s ears. The meshing of various dialects and fusing distinct styles-- such as jazz, classical, and electronica-rock-- all are combined to assemble one of the most spectacular soundtracks that will surely find a place on one’s playlist.
In essence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is truly a gem that paints a very interesting picture of not just a potential future, but also of one that parallels the present. As humanity continues to leap towards a rapidly changing future and form a holy liaison with its pursuit of technological advancement, many of us can’t help but ponder upon where all these efforts will take us, and more importantly, whether they will be worth it. Until then, astute creators and artists will continue to prophesize and fulfill their roles as latent harbingers. To exploit that imagination and satisfy one’s curiosity comes the GitS: SAC narrative that should be experienced by all those who are interested in such a reverie. Graced with the wisdom of a sage and the creative curiosity of youth, Stand Alone Complex is a tale that can be thoroughly relished on various planes of cognition and enjoyment.
Science Fiction has come a long way from stories involving the unknown reaches of space by the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to stories that draw social implications of our society from famed authors George Orwell and Phillip K. Dick. There is little doubt that anime productions have tackled a lot beneath the limits of the genre ranging from Space Opera to Cyberpunk. One series that is often considered one of the most popular in the anime Sci-fi genre is Ghost in the Shell. After the success of the movie, directed by celebrated director Mamoru Oshii, we now have Ghost in the Shell:
Stand Alone Complex but this time without Mamoru Oshii involved with the production. Considering how well Oshii directed Ghost in the Shell, people were skeptical on whether Stand Alone Complex could get the best out of the movie in terms of quality storytelling and animation. Long story short, it did on almost every aspect correctly.
The way the story sets up isn't just following one main story, which is the Laughing Man plot arc. Instead, it follows a formulaic style that makes us support the Section 9 team going after various cases around the world. An argument against the show's credit that the Stand Alone episodes deviate the main focus of the Complex episodes that chronicle the Laughing Man plot arc, but I would argue that the Stand Alone episodes are essential to deal with a considerable amount of character development for our main characters. Some of the episodes offer memorable story arcs that aren't important to the overall narrative, but they continuously show how immensely well crafted the writing is in not only the dialogue but of how well put together the world is in the show. What's so great about the world of Stand Alone Complex is the subtle details the writers put into the account, such as the political and social plateau of how the world works that truly make it a living breathing world and not a superficial one.
As with character development goes, Stand Alone Complex stands out in how it gives a lot of time to put forth plenty of depth with each on-screen character. This doesn't just apply with the main characters, many of the side characters in each episode that we come across have a deep level of characterization to where they aren't just these one-sided antagonists who do evil, they're just ordinary people who are in this situation because of the society they're living in. About each specific main character, they all have their own uniquely written personalities that show off their presence in the show. Handled with great care and precision, they all play out so well with each other that make you care so much for their struggles and relationships as coworkers trying to handle any given situation they meet. Chemistry is the crucial part in tying together a well-rounded cast of characters and Stand Alone Complex hits the nail on that part exquisitely. Batou and Kusanagi are especially two of the best characters, only by how well the chemistry is between the two from their interactions and personalities.
What many consider the most poignant in the Ghost in the Shell saga is its music. Out comes famed composer Yoko Kanno producing all the music in Stand Alone Complex and provides a profoundly layered texture into the overall atmosphere in the show. Shows typically set in a futuristic setting relies heavily on electronic sounding orchestration mixed in to feel more natural within the landscape of the environment. While there are indeed a lot of that to experience through the ears, Yoko's brilliant blend of Jazz, Electronica, and Classical musicianship that combine each other amazingly well to give the soundtrack it's own unique style that she is widely known for. Although I find Kenji Kawai's score in the Ghost in the Shell movie left more of a profound impact on me in how it incorporates a lot of dark ambiance to the atmosphere, there is no denying the creativity that Yoko put into the score and ignoring it completely would be insane when discussing the show.
Usually anime movies have the upper hand as having stellar animation and art while TV anime have a limited capacity in the level of budget that film studios have. There are, of course, exceptions to this and Stand Alone Complex is one of them. Sure the animation isn't as fluid as the movie, but how the art's quality perfectly compliments the ascetic vision that the artists were going for, it's a real accomplishment to experience. How the city looked, the characters all having their distinct look that makes them recognizable the moment we see them, and how the 3D models of the machines flow with the 2D animation of the characters work each other sublimely.
It is haphazard to call Ghost in the Shell an action show since it relies heavily on Noir aspects of tone and pacing, unlike in your typical action show where the pacing is more fast-paced in that respect. However, once it does delve into action territory, that is where the animation and sound take it to the next level of technical genius. The fluid motions involving characters fighting each other still hold up to this day than many other action anime out there in terms of animated fighting sequences and gunfights. Sound effects of machines and gunfire feel very authentic and real that puts you on the edge of your seat as you're transported into the scene. So yeah like I said, the show on the technical level is surprisingly still amazing to look at as it once was ten years ago.
One other aspect of Ghost in the Shell that is often noted when discussing the series is its profound philosophical themes. In the movie, it delved into the ideas of consciousness and ethics of A.I., while Stand Alone Complex is mostly centered on political corruption and conspiracy theories that involve the book "The Catcher in the Rye." The one part where it does delve deeper into is when we follow the Tachikomas and how they describe the "Ghost" in each machine through their A.I. Oddly enough, it works even though these childlike voiced machines seem as though they were there for comic relief. With regards to the political themes thrown into the plot, it doesn't have nearly as much impact as the writers thought it would have considering how it's told through a conventional style of storytelling and not try to seem as though they wanted to make a big political statement out of it. That's not the same as saying that it's a significant knock on the show, but it's something that I felt would've been much stronger.
Whatever the case, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex will surely leave a strong impression on people on what makes a story stand-out as one of the most well-crafted entries in writing great characters and a large detailed world. It is by no means a show that you can like for the action or the great animation because that is only one-third of what makes Stand Alone Complex so deep in its overall philosophy and story. Well written character progression, great world-building, and fantastic animation all combined into one glorious experience that will inspire anyone who wants to get into writing stories for years to come.
The 'Ghost in the Shell' movie was already a ground-breaking anime, inspiring such works as 'The Matrix' and 'Animatrix'; the TV series just takes it one step further.
Unlike the movie, the TV series focuses on Section 9 and their exploits rather than the deep philosophical quandaries presented in the movie. The over-arching storyline of "The Laughing Man" leaves you flabbergasted as it unfolds like a cherry blossom. Conspiracy and intrigue are the main strengths of the story where nothing is quite as it seems. Perhaps the only flaw are some of the convoluted dialogue that might put off someone who's
looking for a typical no questions asked, "wham bam, thank you ma'am" kind of action anime. GiTS will make you think and recollect the minutest of details. The anime demands your full concentration and attention and makes you appreciate the complexity of the plot. Coupled with some superb action sequences with synchronous heart thumping music by Yoko Kanno, GiTS delivers a great experience.
The animation is as good as it gets, nothing less is expected from Studio I.G. It's a great improvement from the movie (then again the movie was made in 1995, almost 6 years before the TV series).
The first series neglects to really look at any of the characters in depth, except for "The Major" - the deus ex machina of the series. They remedy this in the second season (see my review for GiTS: SAC 2nd Gig). Unlike the Major in the movie or manga, this Major suffers neither from constant self doubt nor erratic behaviour. However, a little more character development for the other players would have been nice.
Don't put off this series because you didn't like the movie, this is a whole new ball game, as the cliche goes. Then again some of the more hardcore fans of the first movie believe that the TV series diluted the core philosophical issues and rather gunned for a audio-visual spectacle. There's nothing wrong with that I say, this is still one of the most captivating anime series I've seen. Highly recommended.
I haven't written any reviews for any anime so this may be a bit rocky. -.-
Stand Alone Complex is definetly not your normal anime. Just the name should give away the fact that this is a different kind of anime. What i have to say about the story of Ghost in the Shell is that it is really confusing. If you are looking for an anime that you can sleep through then keep looking because even if you are able to read the subs (i like to watch only subbed anime =) then there is still a high possibility that you won't get what's going
on. The reason I didn't give GITS a high score in the story category was mainly because the plot wasn't steady as it should have been. I actually didn't even know what the plot was until the very end of the show. Instead what i got was a bunch of random episodes that mostly didn't correspond with each other. Its just not that enjoyable...
Hmm...what do I say about art? Art these days usually doesn't have the major mistakes it used to back in the old days. I gave art a 7 because although it didn't have anything wrong with it, I still didn't like it. The art in this show is more realistic than that of others (as in if you see an old guy you also see every wrinkle on that old guy...). The thing is I just couldn't fully accept the style of this anime's animation.
If by sound does that mean sound effects, voices, or music? In any case I would still give it a 8. I didn't notice much in sound effects besides what would sound normal in reality (guns, footsteps, ect). As for voices for the characters, I thought all suited the characters exceptionally well. The main reason I gave this category a 8 was because of the music and background music. The main theme song turned out to be one of the best anime songs I have heard. It also really set the mood for what this show was trying to be.
The characters in this show did not do much of a job in any development. Mostly they were just there and none of them had much of a story. What I look for in a character is a sense of attachment which is exactly what i didn't get in GITS. Instead I felt like I didn't care what happened to any of them and actually felt like the show would be better without some. One character I did like was Tachikoma, but that was only because it was a giant fighting robot with machine guns and rocket launchers that had the personality of a child (who doesn't find that funny?)
Well this series did have its ups and downs (mostly downs) and i ended up feeling like it would have been better if i didn't waste my time. The fact is I couldn't get into this show because there was no character development, little plot, and it made cyborgs sound boring and useless. If your looking for a show where you can't wait for the next episode to begin then i suggest that you don't watch this show...
My view of anime, broadly speaking, might be called hopeless. I don't expect great things from the medium, and I am rarely given any reason to. Despite the insistence of the Anime News Network types, I don't think anime is particularly exceptional in the scope of its content, thematically or otherwise, and so the notion that these abstract forces ("moe," "loli," "otaku pandering," etc.) could ruin the entire medium borders on the absurd. Much of anime is very much genre fiction, and replacing one set of generic conventions and tropes with another is progress, if anything. With that said, I have no problem with good
genre shows, and I personally prefer the so-called moe genre to mecha and action—it is what got me into anime in the first place, after all. There are occasions, though, when the ANN types, perhaps through sheer tenacity, pick up on something like Ghost in the Shell, and when they say, "Look how deep and insightful my cartoon is!" I can't help but agree.
GitS: SAC is among the few anime series whose thematic depth is matched by its deftness in weaving said themes into a coherent narrative. To use a familiar example as a point of comparison, Neon Genesis Evangelion sells itself short whenever it meanders into psychoanalytical babbling because that's the moment it stops telling a story. At best, it's telling me about a character. When Motoko and the Laughing Man start quoting writers and intellectuals at each other in the last episode of Stand Alone Complex, you feel as though the show has earned the right to start giving you a philosophy lesson. It doesn't just apply to the characters and their psychologies, as is the case with Eva; it applies more broadly to the plot and all its little intricacies. The idea of simulation (in the Baudrillardian sense), and its relevance to a society even more dependent on the internet than ours, pervades SAC—for instance, the numerous ironies of the Laughing Man logo. The symbol was created by a dissident who aimed to expose cronyism and corporate corruption in the medical establishment, but he impulsively copied it from a corporate coffee chain's logo and combined it with an incomplete Salinger quotation. It was then appropriated and disseminated among the populace by the mass media, and became redefined and reused by political radicals, not to mention by the establishment itself, until the Laughing Man sign was nothing more than a meaningless image producing and reproducing the illusion of coherence endlessly in the limitless virtual space of modern society—a college student's Che Guevara shirt. This is only one example of how thoughtfully themes are treated in SAC, and it's sad that so many supposedly deep anime fail in this regard when you compare them to this.
The directorial style is clinical and impersonal; this is appropriate for the show, and does not impede the excellent characterization, particularly of Motoko, Batou, and Togusa. The Tachikoma tanks provide both comic relief as well as thoughtful dialogue of the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep what-does-it-mean-to-be-self-aware variety, delivered in the cutest way that a heavily armored tank can manage. The show is largely episodic, with arc episodes creeping in more and more as the season progresses, and the theme of each episode is generally unique, though this has limitations—quite a few episodes focus on the aforementioned idea of a border between a self-aware human "ghost" and a robot A.I. The treatment of this theme may nonetheless differ: compare an early episode where a man transfers his ghost into a tank, another where a Tachikoma accompanies a young girl looking for her dog, and yet another where a man tries to get all existing versions of a particular line of sex robots destroyed, so that his is the only "real" one. All three episodes concern the nature of A.I. and its capacity for thought and feeling, but in very different ways.
Taking all things into account, there are few anime with the ambition of Ghost in the Shell, and even fewer that deliver so completely on that ambition. It's a truly inimitable show, and by virtue of that, necessary. You'd be hard-pressed to find a work as carefully coherent as this in any medium.
Previous to watching this, I had seen the famous Ghost in the Shell film from the 90s, as well as its sequel, several times. Not because I liked them though. Rather, due to my lack of willingness to accept that I truly did not like a lauded combination of philosophy, anime and cyberpunk; three things which I'm very fond of. It didn't make any sense. Despite some interesting, and obviously influential visuals, as well as some nice actions scenes, it seemed to me too much like the worst of European art films. It was unnecessarily slowly paced, and constantly making meaningless references to literature and
philosophy which it went nowhere with. Stand-Alone Complex has been criticized for not being as deep as the movies. I would argue the opposite. It's not as shallow.
For the most part, what makes the show work is the same which made the films appealing: Stylish action, subtle world-building, as well as a melancholic, mysterious atmosphere. With the pace higher and the name-dropping gone, the only 20 minute episodes make these elements come across even sharper. The action is more evenly spread out. And with so little time to spare to get through all the twists and turns of each story, the explanation of all the strange technology gets even more brief, treating you almost as if you were a contemporary of the characters, somehow making it all feel so much more real. Finally, with nearly one tragedy of the near future per episode, the melancholic mystery seems to become so much stronger: Part awe over how far we've come, and part sadness over how fruitless it all seems, the universe of Ghost in the Shell becomes strangely poetic, well-helped by Yoko Kanno's legendary soundtrack.
Even the distanced, cold main characters come to show their worth by the end of the show, where the last few episodes, ending the plot surrounding the main antagonist The Laughing Man, serve to make you feel just how much you've grown to care about them. The aforementioned antagonist actually managed to partly predict the now famous "Anonymous" Internet phenomenon, if not inspire it. Apparently The Laughing Man's logo has been used by people acting together under the name of "Anonymous". To make a reference more in the spirit of the movies, the sociologist Anthony Giddens wrote that what makes social science different from natural sciences is that its field of study is changed by its discoveries. Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex is not a work of social science though. On the other hand, it's undoubtedly smart, quality anime which dares to be difficult, but never is obnoxious.
The first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is absolutely brilliant. For those who are not familiar with this series, it's a spinoff of the 1995 movie Ghost in the Shell, which has influenced many directors, not least of which are the Wachowski brothers who later created The Matrix.
Cyberpunk anime is relatively rare, and in this chest of obscure goods, Stand Alone Complex arguably shines the brightest.
The main storyline, which follows The Laughing Man incident (per the Review Guidelines, I'm not going to elaborate on the plot details, if you really want them, see Wikipedia), is a gripping thrill
ride through the dark underbelly of a fully cyberized society. The series explores a host of typical cyberpunk scenarios, ranging from sensory perception espionage to corporate terrorism to cybernetic body swapping and much more. Philosophical issues typical in cyberpunk media are incorporated relatively seamlessly into the series, such as the identity problem and emergent behavior.
Carefully considered references to relevant Western literature (particularly Catcher in the Rye and The Laughing Man by JD Salinger) appear in the anime often, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that, unlike in most other anime, they actually tied into the plot quite well and in many cases foreshadowed the future in unpredictable fashion.
The series is action-packed but tasteful in its portrayal of violence. People die in various ways, and just enough blood and gore is shown to keep the experience visceral, but not to the point of offending anyone. I liked the honest representation of warfare (a lot of other anime will just have the protagonists "knock out" enemy combatants; this series doesn't hold back in this regard, people who are shot can and often do die-- something I appreciate as it maintains tension well.)
I don't usually describe a series in this way, but SAC is just, simply, "cool." The Section 9 team uses a variety of equipment, ranging from thermo-optical camouflage (essentially invisibility) to high powered sniper rifles. The way the team (an elite group of special ops veterans) plans and executes their missions is very professional and the directors paid careful attention to tactical details normally ignored in other anime.
The art in this series, btw, is spectacular. The team in charge very clearly made good use of computers, particularly when they did their cartoon shading for the Tachikomas. The result is a clean, very detailed and yet natural style.
The series does have its weaknesses of course. The stand alone episodes (those unrelated to the main storyline) vary greatly in their quality. Some episodes are too predictable, such as Episode 3 in which (surprise) an AI doesn't behave as it should and Togusa wonders whether it gained a "ghost" (a term in the series that's semantically similar to "soul"). Why is it that practically every plot-relevant AI encountered acts like it has gained a ghost?
Character development was not very even in this anime. Batou, Togusa, the Major, and Aramaki are the only characters with significant character development. Saito and the rest remain enigmatic and don't have any backstory until the 2nd season. Even the talking, thinking tanks (Tachikomas) are more central to the plot than the rest of the Section 9 team. At least they get a couple episodes mostly to themselves.
Some people who are paying close attention will also notice some annoying misconceptions, eg "offensive" firewalls being the most annoying and conspicuous.
But all in all, it was a great season. It's too bad the 2nd one is so disappointing in contrast.
I've talked about Ghost in the Shell before. Both the first and second films. Now, it's time to look at the television installments, or at least one of them. Stand Alone Complex ran for a full year, from October 2002 to October 2003. So, it was released after the first film but before the second. Like the films, it was handled by Production I.G. It was written and directed by Kamiyama Kenji, who was not involved with either the first film or Innocence. What's his take on the material? Let's take a look and find out.
Our tale opens with a hostage situation in an android
geisha house. The Japanese foreign minister is among the hostages, because of course that's the most likely place to find a politician. That isn't even me being facetious. Show me a high class sex work establishment and you can bet that it has several politicians among its clientele. Since the foreign minister is in danger, a covert anti-crime unit made up of cyborgs, Public Security Section 9, is called in to handle the situation. These will be our heroes of the series. Section 9 carries out a smooth operation but they notice something strange when going over the footage, testimonies and other evidence. To make matters worse, there's something odd about the foreign minister. Now, that is just a basic summary of the first episode. There is an underlying story within the series about a genius hacker called the “laughing man” but most episodes have their own stand alone cases that may or may not be related to the laughing man case.
I really only have one issue with the story. It has events that are set too soon. I've talked about this in my review of Blue Gender and on some other occasions but let's go into it a bit. The problem with setting sci-fi films, TV shows and so on in a future for the real world and giving that future a specific date that isn't far off, is that it quickly dates that piece of media and jolts the audience out of the story for a moment. According to Stand Alone Complex, 2019 will be the time when cyberbrain implantation becomes common and then there will be a great and deadly disease that affects the cyberbrain. That's all of five years away and we barely have functional cybernetic limbs and even those are in the very early stages. Sure, it was a bit farther away when the series started airing in 2002, but it still makes no sense to set a major event for your super advanced future in less than two decades from the time it's written. It would be a lot better to set it at some undetermined future date. Still, it is a pretty minor problem even if it is a head scratching one.
As to the positives, there are a lot of them. The scenarios they bring up for the individual episodes are very compelling. They take real world types of crimes, usually violent but occasionally not, and examine what they would look like in their futuristic setting. Tying into that, the world building is excellent. The society itself is really well thought out with a great attention to detail. The laughing man story line is brilliantly handled, being introduced early and with consistent hints and allusions throughout the series to keep you interested. The series also has some great emotional moments. Some heart-warming, some triumphant, some depressing and some tragic. In the last couple episodes they will make you cry over the fate of AI. Everyone who's seen the series knows which scene I'm talking about too. The tension is superb and the pacing is flawless. It has a lot of really well done action scenes, but it also has a lot of really good quiet moments, character moments, and investigative scenes. It takes a very nuanced approach.
Stand Alone Complex has quite a few characters. There are the eight major members of Section 9, plus the laughing man and various side characters who mostly only show up in one episode. So, that's a weakness, right? With that many characters there's no way they can handle all of them really well, right?
Actually, they do. There are certainly characters who get more focus and development, but every single character in this is complex and comes across as an actual person. There's not a single character you ever encounter who strikes you as unrealistic, one-dimensional or exaggerated. Not even the people who show up for all of five minutes. The antagonists for various cases all have verisimilitude in their methods and motivations. I also appreciate that the conflicts are between competent parties and no one ever has to do something unbelievably stupid for a plot point. It makes the conflicts a lot more interesting. About the worst you can say about any character in the series is that they're less well developed than other characters and that's not a fault. It's a natural consequence of having an ensemble cast where some characters play a more prominent role than others.
The visuals in this are about what you'd expect based on the film. They're fantastic. The character designs are varied and interesting. The backgrounds are really well detailed. The futuristic technology is really interesting and looks great. The action sequences are engaging and intense with effects that are used perfectly. The one complaint I have about the art is that Motoko spends a good portion of the series in a ridiculous outfit, a one piece swimsuit with a belt, because you need one of those when you don't wear pants, high boots and jacket, because as the main female character she has to wear something that shows cleavage and her bum otherwise the horny straight guys might have to resort to browsing the Internet for porn and we all know that the Internet is strictly for educational purposes and reading the anime related rants of a bald Deutsch guy. In all fairness, Stand Alone Complex is better about keeping the fan-service to a minimum than the film since she doesn't strip to use the optical camouflage. The camera angles also don't deliberately focus on her T&A, instead being content with the silly outfit, but that could be less about keeping things classy and more about broadcasting standards.
The cast is largely reprising their roles from the film. We've still got Tanaka Atsuko, Yamadera Kouichi, Otsuka Akio and Nakano Yutaka as Motoko, Togusa, Batou and Ishikawa and they all continue to do excellently in those roles. Yamadera even plays another important character and makes them both sound distinctive. Really, the entire cast is phenomenal. The music is great, being utilised to enhance the atmosphere and it's just really well composed. Kanno Yoko, the same composer behind the music of Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain and Escaflowne, deserves a lot of praise for her work on this.
There is a little les-yay in this series. Motoko has a girlfriend, or possibly a friend with benefits it's never made entirely clear, who appears in three episodes and is pretty definitively shown to be a sexual partner of hers. She doesn't play a huge role, but at the same time it's sometimes nice to have a gay relationship in the background. So, the series is going to get a ho-yay factor of a 3/10 for those few scenes.
Stand Alone Complex is a brilliant anime. Virtually everything about it is done so well that it's close to perfect. The story is compelling. The characters are really well developed. The art and acting are both fantastic. The few issues with it are very minuscule when compared to everything that it does right. All in all, it is easily among the best in terms of cyberpunk stories. My final rating for it is going to be a 10/10. Next week, something not as good. Did you know that there's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles OVA?
There are several things I don't appreciate in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
Spoilers included by necessity:
I found it really disappointig that the final solutions to the main mysteries didn't actually have anything to do with the technology of GITS's world like would have expected. Why not explore the chance that, for example, the EXACT replicability of things electronic input/output to brain allows could result in different minds processing the raw thoughts to a same conclusion as the results of human minds being at some level identical? Instead the "copies without original" were explained through memetics, despite the fact that the concept of memes
doesn't have much to do with random people deciding to do the same thing randomly after witnessing some event.
This reminds me much about the reasons why I don't like Paranoia Agent - making a work that involves psychological and sociological dynamics, but then exaggerating the phenomenon to totally unplausible levels causes it to not deliver any real message, or illustrate the workings of these theories in educational sense. Some may find it brilliancy, but I find it as a lacking sense of reality and/or poor grasp of the concepts it is all about. It's even more frustrating when it's offered as a solution to a mystery the whole series is based upon.
Also, what's up with the Major's outfit? Nobody wears clothes like that, that's pure fanservice. It's up to you to decide whether or not this cheapens the work (GITS is not a character-driven show to begin with after all), as long as you aren't a hypocrite and think that in the case of Code Geass it does but in the case of Ghost in the Shell doesn't.
Some praise the difficulty of the plot to follow, such as mentioning a important, relating case in one episode in the beginning when one has not a clue of the whole picture of what the series is about, and then casually referring to it later on. I can't see how this is a positive thing and somehow adding 'depth' into it and not different from just bad storytelling.
My strong opinion is, mindfuck for the sake of it is never good, it should be used only as a tool to serve a purpose, to deliver the message of the work if it cannot be effectively delivered any other way (such as in Paprika, in which it is fun to guess whether what's happening is a dream or real event, or to a lesser extent in Serial Experiments Lain, which uses uncertainty and inconsistency as a metaphor for the layman's defective understanding of the nature of modern technology and detachedness from the world's clockwork functions).
Overall, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex is pretty average and unrealistic cyberpunk that has nothing that is actually worth a honest thought of 'what if this happened in reality' and you haven't seen somewhere else already. And by this I mean most of the Stand Alone episodes are based onto recycled cyberpunk ideas.
There is an abundance of American procedural cop shows nowadays in which most basically develop, or proceed, in the same manner with no real change either structural-wise or its characters, which may leave some viewers with no real impact. Then there is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which manages to create a much more intriguing story by having its setting in a cyberpunk future where complete mechanization of the human body has become a reality, and associated with it, crimes. Furthermore, world building is done magnificently through the numerous stand alone episodes. However, as I am no fan of this type of show,
there were some issues at a personal level, which I will try to depict in this review.
The story of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, or GitS in short from now on, is focused on Section 9, an independent police unit in charge of dealing with highly sensitive crimes. This especially apparent when the anime is depicted in a futuristic setting where complete mechanization is commonplace which allows for a greater expansion in both the physical and cybernetic world. Naturally, crimes involved with it are more lethal than ever, and it is thus up the task of Daisuke Aramaki and Makoto Kusanagi to prevent these. What stands out in this anime is world building: it is subtly done throughout the series through both the stand alone and complex episodes. I might want to add that the series is heavy on dialogue, yet are well executed and meaningful.
What however stands out in Ghost in the Shell are the variety of themes presented, the most predominant one being the meaning of being human; such advancements in technology made humanity able to live one without the need of any biological part, not even brains. The fact that there is a highly advanced AI only further enhances the experience - these often are very human, and difficult to distinguish from "real" people. Other aspect worth mentioning are the different cases, or crimes, to audiences: these portray the hardships of people trying to cope with the technology, problems associated with it, as well as the workings of current society. Politics are a highlight of these series as well, showcasing the corrupt system, in addition to the numerous issues associated with it. Cases such as people who absolutely neglect or embrace the technology, people who'd rather misuse it, you name it.
There are some issues I would like to point though: even when the series follows a main story, the Laughing Man case, the continuity regarding this is too far apart. The case is introduced in the earlier episodes, and although in some occasional episodes in the intermission is alluded to, it doesn't take off until the last batch of episodes. This is not a problem on its own, yet viewers who aren't particularly interested in these type of shows might feel ultimately uninterested by the time the main story kicks off, as the main case, or "complex", is something arguably much more interesting. Other issue regarding the "stand alone" episodes is that these often proceed in the very same manner, returning everything to the status quo; however, it is the nature of the show, so this was to be expected.
The cast of characters in GitS is not overly large, yet sufficient to portray the doings of Section 9 and society itself. What comes as a surprise is that the characters feel for the most part very human, yet hardly develop throughout the series. This is not an issue on its own, yet the main problem lies in the fact that most characters follow the same routine when it comes to examining a case, thus feeling alienated - interactions follow the very same procedure as well when it comes to this. This is not bad, it actually adds to the realistic feeling the show is trying to portray. Nevertheless, audiences are shown the individual thoughts and motives of the characters throughout the series, albeit in small quantities.
There is Makoto Kusanagi, the main protagonist of the series, a fully cybernetic woman, and very capable at that - she could be described as the "badass" archetype of some shows. There is little to no background story provided to her, nor to her actual motives and workings as to why she is Section 9, and thus ultimately feeling very distant. The same could be said about the director Aramaki Daisuke, an intelligent and calm person, yet is also not expanded on, beside of giving some insight in his character, albeit scarce. Both just ultimately feel almost like robots. Then there is Batou, who is in turn more interesting as a character, a he clearly displays emotions regarding the different cases, besides that insight is given into his past as well as his motives. However, the most intriguing character by far is Togusa, the most human and relatable of all, being characterized by his lack of mechanization as well as his anachronistic demeanor. He is also the one character that develops in the show, enhacing and reinforcing the variety of themes presented in the series.
Concerning the supporting cast, these were overall well done, with convincing "villains", be it criminals that either work for personal gain or to change the ideals of society. It must be noted that in some cases these were not expanded on sufficiently, yet for the main case it was satisfying. This applies to the politicians as well, these felt well executed and realistic, representing the corrupt system, as well as it flaws. The interactions between these and the main characters were well performed as well, representing the hardships of the supporting cast. One thing of interest are the Tachikoma's, robots who represent the curious nature of mankind - this is quite apparent as the series progressed.
~Animation and sound~
The animation of Ghost in the Shell was well executed, with fluid and consistent motions of both characters and surroundings. Other thing worth mentioning are the combat scenes, which are realistically performed; however, it must be noted that the anime makes use of CG, while it is far from being perfect, it is much better executed than in other anime. As for the art style, this was varied and befitting of the show, for both backgrounds and character designs: these were realistic, represented very accurately, be it for example the wrinkles or imperfections.
Concerning the soundtrack used, it didn't really stand out at a personal level, yet surely was befitting of the atmosphere it was trying to portray, including both opening and endings which includes artists such as Yoko Kanno herself. The voice actors performed their role well approaching the different character's personalities well: this applies to both the japanese and english version.
Despite all the positive things I mentioned in the review, I hardly enjoyed this series, as I really became to dislike the American thriller crime shows from earlier. The fact that most of the characters were uninteresting at a personal level, in addition to the Laughing Man case of the story being treated to far apart from the other episodes just ultimately left me indifferent to the show in general. In addition, the conclusion of the series felt rather badly executed, as it returned everything to the status quo. Surely enough. it presents an interesting variety of themes as well as an intriguing setting: after all, this may be a reality sooner or later. I can easily understand why people really like this show, but for those who don't enjoy this type of anime it can be a trudge to go through. So do I recommend this anime? That is really up to you, if you dislike the genre, than maybe better not to; however, if you do not mind, or like these type of shows, than I certainly do recommend it.
Everyone has their choice which are to be respected but to critique or review means to consider from an unbiased and logical point of view. Thus, due to my affiliation with the original movies and the characters, I would give it a 10 but if considered technically, there are things to be mentioned. Slight as they are, they will be mentioned. This review contains some spoilers.
GiTS is a combination of a major plot complimented by what seem like sub plots but they combine - not all of them - to produce a grand finale. This is an interesting but risky approach - fillers appearing
every second episode can easily affect the pace of the viewer and annoy him. That is gladly not the case with GiTS - its fillers are not exceedingly boring.
The story is about a Super A-Class Hacker that surpasses the skill of Kusunagi Motoko who created an air of unrest six years before the present setting. Picking up pieces from where they left, small clues and hints bring the team in a series of trial that brings them closer to the case itself - not the culprit. The story then ends with an astoundingly interesting sequence of tense and exalting events but ends with a rather sober and calm note.
The story is cut off from the original two movies created by Masamune Shiro and thus does not contain the extreme monotonous and rather unnerving feel of the movies in which cyborgs seem the representation of emotionless beings that follow orders - such is the feel of almost every other person in Section 9 with rare occasions when the Major would actually smile. GiTS: SAC is on the other hand a lot light in terms of content; it has its moment of sarcasm and humor yet it seems awkward only in the beginning episodes. Later on it feels more natural and meaningful for an organization like Section 9 enjoying themselves. The Tachikoma's (talking AI tanks) however did seem like a set back for me but (spoiler) their removal in between the anime and come back near the end did them justice. So, while not as philosophical and psychologically unnerving as the original movies, the season did have the air of professionalism and maturity that the movies had.
One point I would add: the fillers at places were theme based. Starting with Batou's "My battle was already over" and friendship based as was the case when the son of Chief Aramaki's friend goes berserk, which give them a... well non GiTS and more typical anime feel yet it wasn't imposing enough to get me annoyed.
If someone would compare the animation in the original movies with that of the anime, they would be slightly disappointed with details lacking at places especially with Aramaki's hair and Motoko's expressions (whom they tried making 'attractive' with more shapely lips and face) and at times when showing people interaction from a distance (faces would literally disappear at times). YET, the animation is good.
The character proportions are mostly accurate and believable, the physics that follow their bodies are well handled and the motions are fluid - an example being Batou's warm up against the Silver Medalist. Backgrounds and robotic motion is very fluid and the fight scenes are also beautifully handled with shooting and battered cyborgs and mangled bodies as can be seen when the Tachikoma's save Batou.
Although not part of the series directly but the opening in the first half of the anime had some impressive scenes and while Motoko looked a bit expressionless, coupled with the OST and animation it was a wonderful opening and the opening track was fit for GiTS.
Moving from the rather amazing OST that has been developed for GiTS, the music and sound has variety and more well defined composition that makes the viewer enjoy the anime along with the mood and expressions and emotions that the creators wanted to integrate with the scenes. Places where one can expect a little humor are complimented likewise, scenes with tension or suspense are equally complimented.
Some moments like the scene between Batou and Motoko when they are the only 'unarrested' members of Section 9, feel a lot different than they would have seemed without the sound sequence that followed.
When talking about realism, the sound scenes regarding shooting, helicopters, cars and even simple sprints were realistic - they could be heard to some pretty detailed portions.
The character development in GiTS: SAC makes one respect and admire the relationship between the major members in the movies even though the two don't have a producer/story relationship. Now I will go into a one by one summary Character analysis of section 9, just to emphasize them being not so typical (not all).
Authority has been defined and not only on the basis of rank but skill and personality. Chief Aramaki as the head of Section is responsible, considerate, calm and specializes in decision making. Yes, he does have an emotional center but he keeps it well under control (I would have been disappointed had he given into emotional stress).
Mokoto, the second in command is able to tackle operations well with and without detailed mission proceedings. She takes care of the team but when it comes to work she can be excessively stern. An impressive hacker, she uses her abilities as often as she can. Motoko always chooses a female body for herself despite its lack of strength and stresses more on mental capability. Despite that, she does have exceptional fighting skills.
Batou, a member that is considered a rough man for the job since he is too easy going and resorts to violence easily. That aside, he is one of the few that are compatible with the major (something better highlighted in GiTS: Innocence) and is a skilled fighter. His skills are complimented with his cyborg body giving him precision and brute strength. While on the outside a carefree person Batou is extremely sensitive regarding his own team and does not take harm to them easily.
Ishikawa is the technical giant among the group who is best seen hacking into data bases and cracking barriers. He is also respected in the group and well relied on. he is also shown intuitive sense when coming to tacky situations. One of the most emotionally stable characters along with the Major and Chief.
Togusa is another important character that imposes his presence through immaturity and lack of excessive skills. he is easily swayed emotionally and at times takes too long in understanding situations that others grasp easily. That aside, he is one of the major characters and plays an important role in finding the laughing man or at least identifying the case. Togusa is completely organic unlike the rest of his team.
Paz/Borma/Saito can be considered as professionals in the team that are all cyborgs and are usually playing generic roles in operations with Saito standing out with his skillful snipping skills. All three haven't been dedicated much time to develop personalities or past.
Summing up the lengthy character to character details of Section 9 (sorry for that, I didn't know ho to generalize them in my style. I won't mention other side char's), the character setting is pretty good and believable.
The enjoyment that one gains from GiTS: SAC is in the atmosphere they create that is unique to them - a professional atmosphere in which a team is handling a case that is not so out of the world that whole Mankind depends on it but neither so meager that it can be waved aside. Tackling missions, developing relationships and establishing roles, while all the while approaching an unsolved mystery.
The use of hacking, intelligence, AI and weaponry makes this an ideal combination. Anyone with even a gist of computers and AI will probably love this anime and with the action and storyline integrated, it actually appeals to a large population.
There is yet, one aspect of the series that did give me a bad nudge. When we had the two movies, we had two endings. Giving them a non-concluding ending (as is in the first movie) is fine, but when such endings are given in various episodes in the movie, it seems awkward at times. Yes, make us think but not in a way that it makes a pattern.
Again, I have highlighted an otherwise hidden issue I felt so it is actually not that bothering.
Over all a great anime with a huge variety integrated in it. Anyone who is into cyber, cyborg, Hacking AI and mature animes should watch this definitely.
So... where did the cyberpunk go? All the yummy mood and atmosphere that the GitS movie brought is gone and replaced by a bright, clean and shiny world where it never rains. I get that a TV series rarely can stand up to a movie in terms of graphics, but the difference here is not technical, it's a design choice. This combined with the extremely episodic "mission of the week" format makes you think you're actually watching sci-fi CSI.
The main overarching plot is great, but it's spread out too thin in a tedious mess of one-shot episodes that
has nothing to do with the big picture. I didn't quite pay attention, but I'd say that if you skipped all the "Stand alone" episodes and just watched the "Complex" ones, you wouldn't have missed anything important. Sadly, these Complex episodes are way too few both for keeping the viewer interested, and for telling the story in a satisfying way. 26 episodes is a lot, but still the main plot feels rushed. I like slow paced shows, but SaC is slow where it doesn't matter and too fast where it does.
The animation is a fair bit above average for a TV anime, and offers some cool action scenes but there is way to much dialogue. Sure, it is a complicated story with politics, corruption and a whole scifi world to explain, but all the talking gets a bit tiresome in the long run.
As for the characters, they are all cool, if not very deep. If the creators had spent more effort on character development and less on complicated but pointless mysteries for those characters to solve, this could have been a very different experience.
Being myself a fan of this masterpiece made by Shirow Masamune, I can't find the words to tell you how much I enjoyed watching this wonderful series.
The story revolve primarily on the human obsession with technology and the changes he has made to be able to fight against diseases and how this resolution made him a slave of the technology itself.
The art design is extremely well done, and the mecha design is beyond excellent.
What was a surprise for me, was the characters, I don't know how, but the mangaka gave them a strange a strong personality especially the major Motoko Kusanagi ... it's like they
are real people who exist.
I'd never get enough from watching this serie over and over again, the 1st gig was a huge hit in the world of animation and it showed how the human can be very dangerous.
I once read that war is supposedly the most efficient way of pushing technology on a higher level. This doesn't seem to be too untrue in the universe of Ghost in the Shell since it already has four world wars in total behind itself - one being a nuclear one; hence the technology within itself has sky-rocketed to incredible dimensions.
The line between man and machine gets blurrier with each day and if Ghost in the Shell is popular for something that is not being a stellar piece of cyber-punk it is for the question what even makes us human. Broken body-parts can be just
replaced by nano-technology, whole minds can be stored on external devices called "cyber-brains" basically replacing a "broken" and error prone human brain, whole bodies can be switched in literally almost an instant. But this technology does not come without the inevitable disadvantages because something without disadvantages is perfect and perfection does not exist.
With Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex the popular franchise got its big debut on television back in the day after the movie adaptions from Masamune Shirow's manga series happened in 1995 and 2004 which both turned out to be amazing movies as well. In some parts though I have to disagree with all the nostalgia-tainted people and have to say that Stand Alone Complex excels in almost every possible way over the movies - something some fans cannot seem to accept from my experience within the fan base. Of course there are no 100% objective reviews and I won't try into convincing you that this is one or anything like that. If you are one of those people who never gave Stand Alone Complex a try because of it "being not based on the manga" or "just being a cash-grab", maybe I could indeed convince you into giving one of the greatest shows I have seen a try.
The story of Stand Alone Complex centers around the secret anti-terror organization called "Section 9" under the command of Daisuke Aramaki and its members doing their best to protect the world from everything evil... and laughing.
The stories are divided into two kinds of episodes. One being "stand alone episodes" and the others being "complex episodes". The former are basically not related to the main plot whatsoever except leaving one or two minor trails to it some character might recall in the latter. "Complex episodes" mainly treat the so called "Laughing Man" case. "But aren't the "stand alone episodes" nothing but pure filler then?", some of you might be wondering now.
I have to disagree that they are pure filler. The cast of Stand Alone Complex is rather large. It is a welcoming change of pace to see more time being spend on character development without going overboard as usual anime does with things like beach episodes or something silly like that. You get to know the characters fairly well finding yourself caring about them and understanding them and their actions during several arcs, each of them having their own little stories putting different characters in charge to handle the cases around the world. It's one of those times I approve of filler since it not only gets me more of things but also focuses on exploring of what we know of the world of Ghost in the Shell.
The world building in Stand Alone Complex is just amazing to make it short. Barely ever before did a world feel this alive to me.
Without giving you away too much, Stand Alone Complex features a world rich on interesting information and a construct which seems believable and thought through.
Animation wise Stand Alone Complex is also one of the better looking anime I got to watch this far. It may be just my personal opinion but Production I.G.s classical more realistic ways to do the faces of the characters is very appealing to me. Besides the facial animations the characters are designed uniquely as well giving everyone their own basic features which is not a common thing in modern anime where for example every female character looks exactly the same just with different hairstyle and color.
The use of CGI is one of the things I dreaded most before going into the show. Innocence was almost 60% CGI so I expected it to be getting worse when seeing the opening for the first time. It didn’t turn out to live up to my expectations in this case, which is a good thing. For the biggest part the CGI was used on machine models such as the Tachikomas and rarely on anything else.
Where Stand Alone Complex shines though are the animations during faster paced moments like action and combat scenes where at some moments the 3D and 2D animations flow and work together sublimely making them just gorgeous to look at.
In terms of musical accompaniment Stand Alone Complex provides an equally flawless but less recognizable experience which only stands out during certain heavy-impact scenes and during the absolutely beautiful opening song performance “Inner Universe” by Origa. That opening really grew on me and is now one of my favorite openings of all time.
Regarding the voice acting the actors did a phenomenal job in both the Japanese and the English dub. I ended up watching the first half of the show with the Japanese dub but then switched because it was way more convenient to follow the plot and because I remembered some of the voice actors from the Stand Alone Complex PlayStation 2 game and this had waken some nostalgia.
The characters range from your typical strong guy, Batou, who prefers actions over words but has a nice and soft core, to the loving family man, Togusa, and the kick-ass female lead, Motoko Kusanagi, most of the time addressed as Major. It may not be the most innovative cast there has ever been but the writers did a great job in making them chime together with the setting they are thrown into as well as the “stand alone episodes”. Each one of the main cast is incredibly developed with the time they are working together and the viewer getting to see each side of the coin of everyone.
One of the most standing out examples is the Tachikomas. Basically spider-like robots used for battle and espionage operations with an own artificial intelligence. Getting to see them developing an own personality over the time and even starting to become individuals questioning the meaning of life and death was an interesting experience because one could assume they are mere comical relief-subjects due to their high-pitched voices and attachment to certain characters.
While I can not say I enjoyed Stand Alone Complex on the same level as I would enjoy a Slice of Life comedy I can say that I would have never thought to get this thrilled by the end of the show. Be warned that this is not a high-octane action and over-the-top show with explosions and shootings every second. Most of the time it is slower paced, giving a cold feeling and time to get immersed into the setting.
In conclusion Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is an anime you should not miss out on. If you are looking for a show with more behind its already gorgeous facade, something for the brain, an intriguing and intelligent thriller Stand Alone Complex is definetely something for you. It excels in every way possible over the predecessors and is a mostly a thrilling ride the whole thing through. The action will have you hooked, the animation as well as the brilliant and almost breathing world, the lively cast of characters and the well thought through storyline.
I can't say it often enough. Stand Alone Complex is one of the best shows I have ever seen and is worth your time over the course of 26 episodes for sure!
Considered one of the must see works of Anime, Ghost in the Shell is a pretty successful series, i mean how can millions of drooling Otaku be wrong? And they arnt wrong either, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex captivated me, from the first episode to the last.
Visually GiTS:SAC is nothing short of stunning for a televisied series, from the computer generated introduction down to the stills. Characters emote well enough and whatever may be happening at the background during the show isnt forgotten either. Musically GiTS:SAC is beautiful, scored by none other than Yoko Kanno, (Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, RahXephon) the introduction
song "Inner Universe" is superb, composed perfectly to the GiTS:SAC atmosphere. The song "Lithium Flower" (a reference to the major i assume, fitting name :P) is the ending theme and again fits with the GiTS:SAC atmosphere. I liked some of the tracks so much during the show that i've bought the OST, its true Yoko Kanno can do no wrong.
Character wise, i cant flaw the show. Although the character development for Ishikawa, Saito, Pazu and Borma is non exsistant they arnt forgotten during the series and are consistantly put to logical use which is good to see considering supportings characters are often known to dissapear or make random cameo's. Batou and Togusa really shine in GiTS:SAC, unlike the Major who comes off a little robotic Batou and Togusa have moments in the series where they get caught up in there cases and these emotional outbursts or frustrations really serve to get into the characters heads and understand them.
One thing that surprised me is the character development for the Tachikoma's (spider like robot's section 9 use, also called "Think Tanks"), an entire episode during mid season is dedicated to a single Tachikoma, the Tachikoma's are an important plot device in GiTS:SAC and i was pleased to see they werent forgotten at the end of the series either, i was initially skeptical about them but they do grow on you through there child like curiosity and logic.
The GiTS:SAC story is a little confusing for a first timer, i myself am still unsure about the entirety of it all but thats only the mark of a great anime. I understand the basic idea's in the main storyline but i will go back and rewatch it to get all the little nuisances i may have missed because GiTS:SAC is full of them. A series that makes me want to come back and learn more about it deserves the score i'm giving it.
There isnt much else i can say without delving into the storyline or giving something away and that is something i definately do not want to do because to get the most out of GiTS:SAC you must watch it and piece it together for yourself, half the fun is working out the mysteries alongside the members of Section 9 as they solve the crimes.
What are you waiting for? Get out and experience GiTS:SAC for yourself and see if it lives up to your expectations, i know i've been converted to a loyal fan. Now, time to buy the second season :D
(This is a spoiler-free review adapted for this site)
[Synopsis]: In the year 2030 cyborgs as well as the use of prosthetic bodies are common and humanity has become integrated in ways it has never been before. In this technological world, Section 9, a secretive special-ops force, works to solve various crimes. Headed by Chief Aramaki Daisuke (Saka, Osamu) and Major Kusanagi Motoko (Tanaka, Atsuko) the team investigates a variety of cases as well as the mysterious Laughing Man incident involving a renowned hacker of formidable skill and possible government corruption. The show invests itself in a myriad of different cases throughout and divides the episodes
that focus on the Laughing Man incident (Complex) and those that focus on more self-contained stories (Stand Alone).
I think there are two important elements of the character cast of Ghost in the Shell that deserve to be talked about here. Firstly, that they all have quite good chemistry with one another and that their relationships and exchanges are some of the most believable interactions I’ve seen. Simultaneously, the show is fairly shallow when it comes to character development. This is not an intrinsically bad thing however the way in which the team plays off of each other is static and it can lead to some wanted insight and development that just doesn’t take place in this season of the show. That being said, the cast is still appealing and I found the dialogue of the show to be highly immersive in respects to the setting.
The show has a pretty large cast of characters and even Section 9 itself has more than a handful of recurring members however there are a few that stick out that are worth discussing, the first of which being Kusanagi, Motoko. She falls most comfortably into the archetype of ‘badass’ and of all of the characters in the show probably has the most hinted about her past as well as her personality while staying fairly distant. I felt that this surface-level insight into the character was somewhat marring however Mokoto herself was compelling enough of a character that this didn’t detract entirely and the show works just fine without investing its time into the backstories or natures of it’s characters. While I enjoy her as a character she also came off as a little too flawless for my tastes and so I felt her lack of faults at face-value, in the same way that the show failed to investigate or develop her, was somewhat of a drawback.
Batou, the second in command beneath Kusanagi, exhibits a tough persona however also possesses a levity that I found rare in the cast in both his dialogue with the team and his interactions with the Tachikoma. Relatively little insight is given into his character however I would say that he receives the most insight concerning his past as well as some development in the Stand Alone episodes.
Togusa is the most human and the most relatable out of the members of Section 9 in my opinion and this is characterized in his actions as well as his lack of prosthetics and anachronistic load-out. For the most part he serves as our leading investigator when concerning the Complex episodes and the Laughing Man case which I felt made the primary plot feel distinct within the universe and gave him a strong purpose within the cast. He also is one of the few recipients of something akin to character development within the show.
While the art and animation did not blow me away in any particular way I feel that they did triumph in a couple of notable ways. The setting of the show was expertly represented and conveyed and anyone familiar with Sci-Fi will feel right at home between the headquarters of Section 9 and the streets of Niihama. The character designs occasionally became pretty relaxed however never in any ways that detracted heavily from the scene nor at a time where it would matter however in terms of animation, the characters and fight choreography were quite pleasing and natural. I think the art and animation of Ghost in the Shell was for the most part another case of ‘they did what they needed to’ while avoiding to both overly impress or displease though I do think it was enjoyable for the reasons listed.
The first thing to address when concerning the story I think is the choice to divide up the episodes between those that focus on the primary plot and those that instead focus on mostly self-contained procedural stories. I didn’t mind the presence of the ‘non-plot’ episodes myself however I think it is important to note for prospective viewers that the show does not spend the entirety of it’s 26 episode run following the primary plot and instead opts to explore the world and the implications of the technology present within it.
My opinion of the Stand Alone episodes is that a good many of them were enjoyable and some did the job I thought they should do in that they gave us some level of character insight concerning the main cast however at the same time these insights were fairly shallow and non-consequential to the Complex episodes which seemed to happen independently of whatever transpired in the Stand Alone episodes. The show had a bit of a slow start in that it lead with a few of these episodes to set the tone however I think this was the right move and the plot showing up around episode 4 worked well enough for the pacing of the show.
In regards to the show’s overall pacing, I think the balance struck between Stand Alone episodes and Complex was acceptable but not outstanding – there is a long streak of Stand Alone episodes in the latter half of the show before it begins to focus solely on the Complex side of things and while this allows Ghost in the Shell to wrap up in the best way possible it also somewhat deprives the viewer of any plot for a fair amount of time. Lastly,almost every Stand Alone episode is interesting either by means of some philosophy expressed within it, it’s brief narrative, or it’s slight character exploration however the few that lack these things ended up feeling a tad more like filler within the scope of the whole show and I felt were responsible for slowing things down a bit between Complex episodes.
Fortunately the Stand Alone episodes never feel like they interrupt the Complex story-line as that portion of the show arrived at acceptable breakpoints for the story to focus elsewhere for a time without leaving the viewer gasping for more immediately. The Complex plot line was definitely the most interesting narrative aspect of the show in my opinion however, to say a few words about it’s ending, Ghost in the Shell seemed to steadily get more interesting as the show progressed and then resolved itself without ever quite feeling like an explosive climax of action however the end was pleasurable none the less. What I mean to get at is that instead of ramping in both action and pacing the show chooses to resolve itself rather than build into an epic finale which I feel is an important thing to note for those who live for those big moments at the end of the show (not that there aren’t some).
While I myself was not impressed with the soundtrack behind Ghost in the Shell I think it worked perfectly well for the show and my own disinterest in it is due to my own preferences as opposed to any fault of the music itself. One positive thing I can say is that the range and variety of music present in the show was quite impressive and gave the universe a unique feel in comparison to something with a more simplistic yet successful approach like Psycho-Pass or other similar Sci-Fi shows. I also have to give a quick nod of the head to the insert songs present in the soundtrack as I felt a few of them were highly enjoyable and added further diversity to the music of the show.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
This first season of Ghost in the Shell was fun in that it offered a good blend of action alongside the show’s mystery and philosophical endeavors which allowed it to appeal in a variety of ways especially to those who weren’t concerned with or didn’t understand some of the messages the show tried to express. I wish there was more characterization as the cast felt compelling enough that I wanted to know more about them, where they were coming from, and why they behaved the way they did however the show left me a bit high and dry in that regard.
I gave Ghost in the Shell a 7 because it provided interesting mysteries, a fantastic Sci-Fi setting and aesthetic, and a believable cast of characters with strong chemistry between one another. What held the show back from rising any higher was it’s lackluster concern for what I thought were great characters and its inability to blow me away in the art or music departments. I think the show is highly worth a watch and the second season will hopefully compensate for whatever the first found lacking.
I would recommend the show to any fans of Sci-Fi as Ghost in the Shell is an acknowledged staple within the genre and practically a must-watch when concerning homages and subsequent references after it’s creation. Outside of these more obvious reasons, the show sports pretty good action scenes with good choreography and so I can see picking it up for this reason. Lastly, any fans of procedural crime shows or mysteries would enjoy Ghost in the Shell as even the Stand Alone episodes usually operate on these ideas and they thematically makeup a good deal of the show’s tone and story.
What? Ghost in the Shell.... only 6 reviews? Indeed?
We're speaking of the anime of the most famous movie that was ever created since humanity.
First of all, the anime looks like a typical plot: The future with robots and technologie. It may be a mainstream story that was used in other anime. This time we're in Tokio. Thing's didn't change. There are just robots and people with cyberbrains. There are no galaxys with aliens etc.
As you can read, the story is about a group called 'Sction 9'. They do their job but later, they have to deal with a hacker. Not a normal hacker, a
pro. That's all you have to know since it's the mainstory. The story is divided in 'Stand Alone' episodes and 'Complex' episodes. The SAep's tell story's about the section 9, about the protagonists. The Cep's tell the mainstory. I think this is a really unique storytelling I've never seen in other anime. You can relax withe the SAep's and be thrilled with the Cep's.
I' very in love with the whole style. The character design fits the atmosphere and you know, GitS is know for detailed artwork. The bg's are pure sex.
Sound: It's a matter of taste but GitS SAC has probably the best opening for ever. When I hear it I indulge in reminiscences.
In SAep's you will learn why they joined the group. You won't find out much though. I just can say that 2nd GIG is more emotional; simply heartbreaking.
If you like cyperpunk or anime which handle in the near future, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a must seen. Everything fits the mod. The atmosphere is plain great. Nah, did I mention it has the best ANIMATION of all anime?
Watching this for the very first time mere weeks away from 2019- well over a decade and a half removed from its original release- this anime had several things working against it in my mind before I even inserted the DVD. Dated (by today's standards) graphics, a viewer who has never cared for episodic anime and a story concept that was probably way more fresh/mind blowing/cool back in 2002 than it is now since we've seen a million movies and works of fiction about artificial intelligence, cyborgs, cyberpunk futures, etc between now and then. So, obviously, I was going to watch this anime and find
it overrated and move along, right? While I'm not prepared to give it a 10, as it does have some nitpicky flaws, this anime is simply very good. I don't see how any objective critic could end up with a score lower than an 8 as the quality here is very high.
The graphics are dated- which is inevitable when we're talking about an anime that is 15+ years old. That's like trying to compare PS2 graphics to that of a PS4. However, I'd say as a whole, graphically included, this anime has aged remarkably well. The graphics simply look "classic" if you will as opposed to ugly and the motion and fluidity of what is going on- in what is largely an uptempo and action packed anime- is incredibly smooth and crisp. There were a few particular special effects if you will that were done exceptionally well given the limits of the technology at the time. This is about as good looking a show as one could hope for coming from that era.
The soundtrack is superb and a true standout. The variety, quality and execution of this soundtrack is one of the very best I've ever heard in any anime and composer Yoko Kanno deserves the utmost praise for her work in this series. I would give the music the highest possible grade and would seriously tip my cap and take a bow for this woman. There are several tracks that stood out to me at the time they were implemented into the anime and likewise there are several tracks I've added to my playlist after the fact.
The voice acting in the dub, which is what I watched, is consistently very good, never poor but never quite amazing either. The leads all deliver solid performances. Sometimes certain very minor supporting characters have really cheesy or less than realistic voices, but all the important characters get the job done. No one ever made my ears bleed. Key lines were delivered in a believable way.
A key thing to understand about the structure of GitS:SAC is that the anime tells you very early on if the episode you're about to watch is considered a Stand Alone episode or a Complex episode, with the former being episodic/filler and the latter focusing on the bigger picture plot and building off of the previous Complex episodes. While cool and seemingly innovative on paper, I think praise for doing this is a bit overstated. An enormous number of anime have spurts of main story, then filler, then main story, then more filler, etc until you eventually reach the end. That's nothing new or special. The only thing GitS:SAC is doing differently is it's telling you in advance that you're about to watch filler as opposed to having you watch and find out for yourself. I wasn't offended by this in any way, but I don't view it as an incredible innovation the way some other reviewers seem to.
My feelings on the story as a whole are certainly more positive than negative, but I certainly have some qualms.
The positives include exceptionally good writing and world building, a complex and thought-out plot, a mystery established very early on that you'll care about and be intrigued by and characters other than just the main character actually mattering and getting screen time.
On the other hand, this anime has a few pacing issues, the most egregious being a stretch of five Stand Alone episodes in a row near the end of the anime that felt like a bit of a slog to get through when I was eager to get back to the main story, mediocre character development all across the board (the writer does an excellent job developing the world and the rules, but not so much the characters) and a few logic leaps and cliches near the end in an anime that otherwise is pretty good about establishing rules and then following them.
A nitpicky but fair example of something that annoyed me occurred in a relatively late episode when a Section 9 member raided a warehouse in search of young girls who had been mass abducted. He comes across a large truck that the girls are being held captive inside of and it's locked with one of those panels with numbers 0-9 and you have to enter the correct combination in sequence in order to unlock it. Without any explanation whatsoever the character simply knows the combination- bang, boom, done- and enters it correctly on the first try without breaking a sweat despite having never been in this location or seeing this vehicle before. Likewise, in a different episode a bad guy detonates a large explosion mere feet from where he himself and multiple Section 9 members are standing but don't worry, it's anime, so everybody is fine.
Also, while the buildup of The Laughing Man plot line, which is largely what the anime is built around, was genuinely intriguing and kept me wondering I was less than satisfied with the payoff. I found the resolution of that plot point pretty underwhelming and as a whole I thought the show's final episode had a lot of talking and was really lackluster.
By and large I enjoyed watching this anime. There were definitely some stretches that were very good and others stretches that were merely fine but nothing special, but at the end of the day it's a solid show. I wish there were fewer Stand Alone episodes. Most of them were quite well done too, but I felt there were simply too many of them and not enough focus on the main story. A 50/50 split between main story and unrelated episodic stuff felt like too much and I would have liked to have seen the ratio lean a little heavier toward focusing on the meat and potatoes. The ending was a let down, but not the point where it ruined an otherwise enjoyable ride.
In just about every way GitS:SAC was ahead of its time and it has aged very well. The overall quality of the show- its writing, its soundtrack, the concepts it explores, the execution, etc- is simply very high. Putting a few pacing issues and a few logic holes and conveniences aside, it's an overall very good product that deserves its place among the best Sci-Fi anime out there and it's a true classic of the medium. Definitely recommended to any Sci-Fi anime fan.
+Stellar soundtrack- truly one of the best ever
+Very strong world building
+Complex, thought-out plot
+Has aged remarkably well and still holds up today
-Uneven pacing with a few stretches not as good as the rest of the show
-Mediocre character development
-A couple logic holes/conveniences toward the end
-Lackluster final episode
OBJECTIVE RATING- Strong 8/Weak 9 (8.75 if MAL allowed me to give non whole numbers)
PERSONAL ENJOYMENT RATING- 8.5
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex had long been one of those anime I always heard about and knew about. It seems the reception is nothing but varying positives and even though it came out years ago, I never got around to it when I really should have. But now that the time finally came and went, I have to say, better late than never.
Stand Alone Complex, despite being nearly a decade old, still holds up as a fantastic anime today. It follows an episode structure that I find to be masterful when done correctly, which is involving a main plot combined with not
really filler, but not really character building stand alone episodes peppered into the series. The result is an extremely plot-driven anime, regardless of whether or not it's the main plot or a side one.
Story - 9/10
Between the sci-fi futuristic setting and mysteries surrounding crimes in this world, it's hard not to have your curiosity flowing during an episode. This is an anime with some of the most intelligent writing around, with plenty of interesting ideas presented, and characters rarely ever seem to sit around and talk too much which lets the action pick up at a great pace. It's also is a rare anime where there really isn't anything I consider to be real filler. The stand alone episodes hold up great just like the complex main plot episodes. There wasn't a single one out of all 26 eps that I didn't enjoy and the only one I even thought could have been better was the very last one. Not that it was a bad ending, but the resolution of the main plot seemed like it didn't have the total impact it should have.
Animation - 10/10
While there isn't anything overly artistic about the animation of SAC, I gave the animation a high score because of how well it holds up for being a ten year old anime. It looked stupiendous back when it came out, and it hasn't aged poorly in any form. It has sort of a timeless look where nobody is ever going to watch it and feel like it's out of date. Colors and cityscapes look beautiful and the world is rich with detail. Although it does have some questionable moments of CGI in episodes, most of the time it's quite beautiful, particularly on the Tachikoma robots, computer screen tech, and creating nice depth and lighting effects. The action and fast paced stuff is also animated with such top notch fundamentals and camera work. Seeing metal get shot up doesn't usually look this good.
Sound - 10/10
Yoko Kanno composes a triumphant opening and ending theme here, compounded with an exceptional and somewhat overlooked OST that fits the setting and tone to a tee. It's a creative blend of sounds ranging from rock to techno, but everything does it's job to suit the moment and futuristic world. Voices are all very well acted, and do a great job distinguishing the characters and all seem very fitting. The only thing that ever comes close to faltering in the sound department is the childlike voice of the Tachikoma, which I know some people flat out hate. It tested my patience on an infrequent occasion, but I came to love those high-pitched think-tanks.
Characters - 8/10
Stand Alone Complex is story-driven, and if one comes in expecting to get a whole lot of backstory and development on characters, they may be disappointed. The cast is all likable and cool, but the show pretty much trades it's character development time in to spend it's hours weaving the plot. Motoko is a favorite for obvious reasons, being a rare strong-willed and non-cliche woman who can get the job done. She never waivers, and she doesn't stay predictably hard during the course of the show either. Batou was probably my second favorite behind the Major, and he gets blessed being the focus of some great moments that show off his skills. Togusa was another character I found myself respecting the longer I watched. He's definitely the kind of guy that could have been written poorly and turned into a hated face of an anime. I also enjoyed the Tachikoma and they actually may be the ones who technically got the most development of the show, and I loved their last few appearances.
Overall - 9/10
With no strong flaws, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a very impressive anime that knows it's fundamentals and plays to the strengths it has. It's never trying to be something it's not or appeal to people who wouldn't be interested. This is a thinking viewer's anime with some great moments of action and a little bit of humor. I was hooked from the opening moments of the first episode and left wanting more by the time I saw the closing moments of the last. There's a high value for rewatching this series and I can finally understand the classic status that this superb anime is given by most.