Following the closure of the "Laughing Man" case, Section 9 is re-established by Japan's newly elected Prime Minister, Youko Kayabuki, to combat the persistent threat of cyber-terrorism.
A group calling themselves "The Individual Eleven" has begun committing acts of terror across Japan. While Motoko Kusanagi, Daisuke Aramaki, Batou, and the other members of Section 9 investigate this new menace, the Japanese government faces a separate crisis, as foreign refugees displaced by the Third World War seek asylum in Japan. But as the members of the special-ops team continually encounter Gouda Kazundo—a leading member of the Cabinet Intelligence Service—in their hunt, they begin to suspect that he may be involved, and that the events of the refugee crisis and The Individual Eleven may be more connected than they realize...
"Life without truth is not possible. Truth is perhaps Life itself" - Franz Kafka
One of the keys to creating a successful story is innovation, in particular, creating something that is both interesting and relevant, but approached from a different perspective. Of all the genres of the storytelling medium, science fiction is the only one that holds up a mirror to a possible future be it good or bad. It's for this reason that the genre is often lauded and derided, sometimes by the same person, as science fiction is predictory by nature, in other words, it posits how humans would behave in certain circumstances.
the last twenty years there have been numerous sci-fi tales in one form or another, many of which came about because of the end of the millenium. Some of them were simply terrible, whilst some were only average. Of the good ones, only a few had a lasting influence on the stories that came after. One of those is Ghost in the Shell.
Following the phenomenal success of the original movie and the TV series Stand Alone Complex, director and chief writer Kamiyama Kenji, together with the staff of Production I.G., formulated the direction in which the story would progress. What they needed, according to Kamiyama, was a completely different direction to the first series, with new goals, a new focus, and a chance to explore the world of GitS. After discussions with Oshii Mamoru it was decided that, in light of the events of 9/11, the issue of war could no longer be avoided.
This decision ultimately paved the way for a sequel that is not only superior to the original, but one that is also far more relevant to modern society.
Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig is set several months after the end of Stand Alone Complex. At this point in time Section 9 is training, however the changes to the Special Forces bill mean that they are still not a legal force, and their status is akin to that of a terrorist organistion. The chief, Aramaki Daisuke, is attempting to resolve this but, like any modern society, the paperwork needs to be in order (gotta love bureaucracy).
During this time, a new Prime Minister hascome to power, and she has promised to fix the problems caused by crippling taxes and the waves of Asian refugees who are coming to Japan because of the Fourth World War (or, the Second Vietnamese War).
One of the areas where 2nd Gig deviates from SAC is that the story is based far more on world events and history than before. SAC is essentially the platform from upon which this series stands, and it's advisable to watch that series first before watching this one as the viewer is then familiar with the characters and the work of Section 9. Unlike SAC, the focus in 2nd Gig isn't on the work of Section 9, but rather on the society itself. I mentioned in my review of the first series that the phenomenon of Cyber Brain Sclerosis was also a metaphor for the gradual deterioration of society, and while SAC alluded to this, here it is made all too clear.
2nd Gig is nothing if not brutal in a certain sense. The series has a more defined sense of plausibility than anything before, and also a sense of inevitability. The power plays, politics, machinations, plots and plans are as complex and devious as they were in SAC, however here they have more of an edge to them because of the parallels with real world events. There is a lot of action in 2nd Gig, however like SAC, the action is not the important part of the show. The focus is on political and social movement, so when the action happens it's usually the result of a series of circumstances or plans. Here, taking action is an effect for the most part, not a cause, and this is one of the key plot elements in the story as the "reactionary" mentality of society is tested by the Individual 11.
As with SAC, and any other GitS project for that matter, the pacing and flow of the story is excellent. Each aspect of the plot is very clearly covered, used and acted upon. Each element of the story is involved and well thought out, especially in relation to other elements. In this respect the series shares a few things with SAC's Laughing Man Arc, however this aspect is carried here for 26 episodes with almost no let up.
One interesting point to note is that the history given in 2nd Gig is the same as that given in the Appleseed Databook. This suggests that both stories take place at different times in Earth's history and, when one considers the technology used and applied in Appleseed, it gives the entire GitS story a slightly different perspective.
In terms of visuals, 2nd Gig is nothing short of excellent. The animation is ever so subtly better than SAC, especially the blending of 2d and 3d, with movements and actions flowing as freely as they did before, but without any of the clashes that occured from time to time. The colour scheme is extremely well suited, and reflects the grim reality of the story, while the level of detail in the back and foregounds pushes the bar even higher than it was before. The visual effects are also excellent, and way above those used in other sci-fi series.
In addition to this, the art direction is superb throughout the series, especially in the smaller moments before action is taken. In one episode the team from Section 9 is seen gearing up to respond to a hostage taking. The animation and detail in this one sequence in particular, highlights the level of detail and quality, as well as the sense of realism that Kamiyama was aiming for.
Sound is, once again, way above par. The effects are extremely well used and, whilst some people may be a little overwhelmed by some of the explosions, most will find them quite satisfying. One thing I do like about the effects in both series is that of the bullets fired from different guns, as they do sound different to the naked ear (because they are).
As I've already talked about the voice acting in my review of SAC, I'll skip that part as the acting in 2nd Gig is at least equal to the first series, and the main roles are essentially the same. I will, however, mention Koyama Rikiya (who plays Hideo Kuze), as he gives the character a kind of reserved charm that is very much in keeping with the story.
The music is, once again, composed by the one and only Kanno Yoko, and her style and flair is such that the series just wouldn't be the same without her compositions. The OP, "Rise" (sung by Origa once again), has actually split opinion as to which of the two is the better song - "Rise" or "Inner Universe" (personally I love them both). The ED, "Living Inside the Shell" (sung by Steve Conte), is also a great track, but I have to admit that I prefer "Lithium Flowers" from SAC.
One thing to note about the OP and ED for 2nd Gig is that it actually has three of each. The original broadcast featured the two tracks mentioned above, however the second, terrestrial, broadcast featured two different tracks. The second OP, "Christmas in the Silent Forest" (sung by Illiara Graziano), is a more haunting track than the martial "Rise", and has a very Bjork-esque quality about it. The ED, "Snyper" (sung by Iliara Graziano and Steve Conte), has much the same feel as the OP.
The third OP and ED, "Torukia" (sung by Gabriella Robin), and "I Do" (sung by Iliara Graziano), only appear in the final episode.
As far as the characters go (and it's pretty damn far to be honest), they are simply astonishing. Because of the groundwork laid by the movie and SAC, the each member of Section 9 is an almost complete persona from the start of the show. Now, hardcore fans of character development probably won't like what I'm about to say next, but the truth is the truth. Sometimes character development gets in the way of the story proper, something which we have all seen happen in other anime. The fact that almost every character is not only an adult, but also an almost fully realised characterisation, means that there is nothing to hold back the story. Granted there are times when the characters come into sharp focus, but the series deals with these times with aplomb, grace, and sometimes violence.
I have seen, on occasion, people remark that the episodes that focus on a particular character are often slow and boring. I disagree with this view as, in any story, there are occasions when a character becomes more "audience friendly" and accessible. These "slow" episodes also help modify the pace of the story as a whole, and invite new routes down which it could progress.
I will freely admit that I actually prefer 2nd Gig to SAC. This isn't because I found SAC inferior though, it's simply because I related more to the events, action, social and politcal movements and impact, and overall sense of realism in the second series. Where SAC focused on both society and individuality, this also did the same, but from a slightly different angle. One of the things that I have been impressed by in both series is how, in the main story arcs, the "bad guy" isn't quite as evil and bloodthisrty as we initially believe him to be, something which calls the definition of "evil" into question.
This is, like every other part of the GitS franchise, a superb anime. The blend of action, drama (both political and otherwise), intrigue and mystery is on a completely different level to most other anime.
As with SAC, 2nd Gig continues to be an intelligent series for intelligent people. In addition to that it is also a scathing criticism of how wealthy nations have coped with the global refugee crisis, as well as a visionof how bad things can get if society is not more aware of it's own failings.
A couple years back I reviewed Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex, and it was fantastic with complex characters and compelling writing. It's one of the few things I've given a “10” rating. There's a sequel to the series, 2nd GIG, that came out not long after the first. So, will it be up to the same standard? Let's delve in and see.
We open with Section 9 on standby, waiting for the official order that will allow them to go back into action. A group calling themselves the Individual Eleven has stormed the Chinese embassy and taken hostages. Aramaki manages to get the Prime
Minister's approval and the group moves in, cementing their resurrection. Shortly thereafter, the refugee issue begins becoming more and more of a problem and the Individual Eleven name seems to keep popping up in disparate incidents relating to the refugees in some way, along with a strange mark that only a select few know about. Section 9 sets out to discover the truth behind these incidents and try to assuage the tensions with the refugees, before they turn into a full scale war.
I have two issues with the narrative here. The first, and lesser of the two, is that its big climax retreads one of the big tragic moments from the first series. The execution is different and the moment is still good but it is a bit cheapened as a consequence of being a variation of something we saw in the last series. Then we have the implied history betwixt the Major and one of the major antagonists, Kuze. Narratively, there's not much reason for this to be there. It barely comes into play within the story. It feels like a thinly veiled excuse to have Motoko be distracted and even that is only important for one major scene. Overall, that element is just a bit sloppy and mostly pointless.
Aside from those aspects, the story in this is really strong. It emphasises a more cohesive narrative in contrast to the first series' more stand alone, largely episodic missions where the main plot came into play for some episodes and not for others. This does have the benefit of letting the situation develop and worsen a lot more noticeably while building on the pre-established tensions. It takes quite a few twists and turns that keep you really invested. The pacing is actually really good too. The series never feels like it's dragging or like it's overly hectic. It's also really compelling to see Section 9 struggle to try and gain the upper hand against our main antagonist.
The series retains a strong cast. The more minor characters from Section 9 get to develop a bit more. The major characters are still really compelling and well developed. The various minor characters that get added to the roster have verisimilitude. Honestly, the biggest problem is with the major antagonists. While they do feel like actual people, they're also a bit under-developed. Especially when you compare them to the Laughing Man from the first series. Which is odd since he got significantly less screen time.
The artwork and animation are amazing. The visual effects are stellar. The action sequences are intense and really radical. Even the hacking sequences are really visually intense. The various set pieces, futuristic tech and the like are all really well designed. The character designs are good and the Major's absurd one piece bathing suit/ leather jacket combination has been banished to the Gamindustri Graveyard, or wherever it is stupid outfits go when they stop getting used.
The actors do a fantastic job. Saka Osamu, Ootsuka Akio, Tanaka Atsuko, Yamadera Kouichi and the various other actors all give superb performances. The music is great, adding to the atmosphere for the series.
Motoko's girlfriend from the first series doesn't really show up in this. Nor do they give us any other type of ho-yay. So, we don't get any.
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig is not quite as good as the first series. It suffers from some relatively minor narrative problems and some slightly under-developed antagonists. That being said, it's still a fantastic series. My final rating is going to be a 9/10. Next week I'll continue looking at requests with One Punch Man.
NOTE: If you haven't seen 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' I recommend you watch that first. I have reviewed that as well.
Just when one thought that with 'Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence' and 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex', this franchise had reached its pinnacle, Studio I.G. came up with GiTS: SAC 2ng Gig.
It carries over the same qualities that made the first series such a brilliant watch - an excruciatingly complex plot with conspiracy, intrigue and plenty of action and smashing music. The reason why this tops the first season is the more personal feel. Character development,
that was mostly sidelined in the first season, is present aplenty in the 2nd gig. You feel you're delving into the lives of the men and woman of Section 9. You get a glimpse of the pasts of the clandestine characters all while maintaining the cloak-and-dagger mystery.
The series also explores several political and moral issues of governance and right and wrong. It does not preach, there are no absolutes, and there is no such thing as a perfect political set up. The series maintains a hue of grey on all these matters, and tastefully so.
If you liked the first series, you absolutely must watch the 2ng series. If you haven't I recommend you watch the 1st gig before embarking on this one. The series ends in a perfect set-up for the new GiTS: SAC Solid State Society movie, which by the way, was quite disappointing, but nevertheless a great addition to the GiTS family. I'm not going to review SSS because if you're already hooked onto Stand Alone Complex, you won't be able to resist watching it.
It’s hard for me not to lavish praise upon the altar that is Ghost in the Shell, as I’ve always found the entire franchise to be among the pillars of great anime science fiction. Each movie and show has delved deep into psychology, spirituality and even to some degree religion. The question is how would Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG stand up to the incredible first season and movies. The answer is: it continued to raise that bar of excellence in this franchise.
Story: I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story of 2nd
GIG, since it’s a key factor in why this is such a great show. The basic premise is the same as the first season really. The key group of Public Security Section 9 is re-established after the events of the first season and is immediately thrown into a new series of crimes dubbed the “Individual Eleven.” The story for this season includes a lot of politics and shady organizations. You also get a greater idea of the state of world affairs in this Ghost in the Shell universe, and I think the show is better off for it. This is a mature, tense and entertaining story from beginning to end, and I found myself enjoying this season more than the first. There are only a few real stand-alone episodes throughout the series, and even those while somewhat divergent from the main plot, often reveal a bit of background on our favorite group of anti-terrorists. There is one rather mediocre romantic type sub-plot that I won’t go into great detail about, but I had a hard time buying into it with great enthusiasm. I think it added to the character, but it felt contrived, and seemed somewhat out of place. Not enough for me to hate it though, just to think it was somewhat awkward. Other than that, the rest of the story is simply superb.
Characters: Going into any Ghost in the Shell, you always assume that for the most part, the characters are established and you’re not going to get the kind of character development that you might in other shows, and this is true for 2nd GIG. These people are already bad ass, they’re incredibly good at what they do from the start, so you don’t get that progression that you might in other series where the characters start weaker and then progress to become stronger. Here, they start and finish strong. There’s development, and that’s a welcome change, but on a whole, Section 9 isn’t going to be radically different at the end of the show than it is at the beginning. That’s not a bad thing, because I’ve always felt that the main character, Motoko, is easily one of the strongest female leads in all of anime. She’s incredibly sexy, but beyond that, she’ brilliant and strong. It’s interesting to watch a character that’s as blatantly sexualized as the Major use that to her advantage when she has to. In the end, she’s easily one of the smartest and strongest heroines around, and you have to respect her for that. Her immediate cast is also very likable. Batou is a strong enough character that he could likely carry a show on his own, as was seen in the second Ghost in the Shell movie. Togusa, being the only real human character in Section 9 continues to give the viewers that gateway into the lives of this cyborg team, allowing us to step into his shoes. The rest of Section 9, while relatively minor characters, continue to add a lot to the show, even as side characters they’re each strong in their own regards, and a few get their own episodes to flush them out more, particularly Saito and Paz. Even new characters add a great deal to the show, with the new Prime Minister being a great addition to the cast for this season. I don’t think she had to be a particularly strong character, but the decision to make her one was well done and it added a lot to the show. Overall, the characters in this show are truly top notch, and they move the already great plot along even better. Plus, there may not be a group of more likable characters in all of anime than the Tachikoma’s, you simply have to love them.
Animation: It’s hard not to rave about the quality of the animation for any of the Ghost in the Shell, and 2nd GIG is no different. Clean and crisp character animation is quality throughout the show. There are the occasional times that the quality takes a slight dip, but given the level that it’s at most of the time, the budget had to be incredible and thus the occasional dip is to be expected. Inside of cyber space is incredibly imaginative and colorful, which brings a lot of vivid color to what is otherwise a very dreary palette. If there’s a complaint to be had about the art style, it’s the strange outfits that Motoko sometimes wears. She has this strange bodysuit/shoulder shirt/really low-cut jeans outfit that just comes across as a blatant excuse to try and dress her even sexier than usual, and borders on blatant fan-service. I’m not overly against fan-service, but it just seems out of place for her. But that’s a personal gripe, and not a major one. I’m sure there are arguments for why she’d wear such clothing, so I don’t hold it against the show. In the end, I think everything visually about the show is really top notch, even if occasionally it tends to border on the very dreary, that’s simply the vision of this future.
Music: Once again, I feel that Yoko Kanno really steps up and provides a score that helps accentuate what is already a fantastic show. The opening song “Rise,” makes the intro one of my favorites in a very, very long time. It’s not often that I’ll watch the intro to a show more than once or twice during a season, but I almost never skipped the intro to this season because I just enjoyed it that much. Other wonderful songs include the return of Monochrome from the first one, plus Cyberbird and Torukia. This is a score that’s beautiful in every aspect, but there’s already been heaps of praise given to Kanno-san for her work on Ghost in the Shell, so all I can say is that it lives up to the hype.
Overall: This has probably been the best show I’ve watched in the past 6 months at least. It’s mature and deep, between the political plots and the introspection on the meaning of individuality and once again reflecting on the meaning of having a soul. At the same time, it’s also very exciting, with a number of great action sequences that really keep the tension high. From beginning to end, there isn’t much about Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG that I didn’t love, and I easily give it a 10 and recommend it to anyone who likes sci-fi, cyber punk or anime in general.
Ghost in the Shell may not have the biggest following, but it's still been popular enough to warrant six movies and three series. That's quite a bit of material. And quite a few different opening animation and themes.
Ghost in the Shell has influenced many Hollywood filmmakers, from the Wachowskis, to James Cameron, to Steven Spielberg. Now, DreamWorks wants to make a live-action adaptation of the original manga by Masamune Shirow. Let's see what the studio is planning.