Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor presents the "lost" Ghost in the Shell stories, created by Shirow Masamune after completing work on the original Ghost in the Shell manga and prior to his tour-de-force, Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface, but never collected until now. Focusing on Section 9 agents in their daily battle against technocrime, Human-Error Processor has all the mind-twisting cybermadness you've come to expect from Ghost in the Shell but set in a more police-procedural context with action and suspense galore.
Koukaku Kidoutai 1.5: Human-Error Processer contains four chapters previously released, but not published in tankoubon format. The original edition, in July 23, 2003, contained a booklet and a CD-ROM featuring the full stories and adding music to the manga scenes, as well as a screensaver.
The series was published in English as The Ghost in the Shell 1.5 by Dark Horse, initially as eight individual comic issues from November 1, 2006 to June 6, 2007 and later into a single volume on October 10, 2007. Kodansha Comics USA picked up the license and republished it on September 25, 2012.
Sometimes more of the same is exactly what you want and the best you can hope for. Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor proves that that is sometimes good, sometimes bad.
Things have settled down in Section 9 since the Puppeteer case ended. Major Motoko Kusanagi has disappeared. Batou has stepped up to fill her role as assault leader. Togusa is now partnered with the sharp-nosed Azuma, their newest recruit. The rest of Section 9’s crack team remains as quick-witted and kick-ass as ever.
We open the story in the middle of a new case involving a cyber-criminal disturbingly similar to the Puppeteer. Someone has hijacked
the dead body of a prominent businessman and is remote controlling him to appear alive. Now that the Major has merged with the Puppeteer, the unspoken question is whether or not she might be the perpetrator.
Human-Error Processor presents four so-called ‘lost stories’ in the series -- which is really just a fancier way of saying they took over a decade to be translated into English. Whereas the original manga and Man-Machine Interface bookend this work with their own full arcs, GITS 1.5 is more modest in scope. Each story is basically stand-alone, culminating only in its own climax without the broader narrative scope seen in the other two.
The one thematic motif running through the whole is that of self-sustained systems that survive beyond an individual’s death. How does the next generation survive as the previous generation ends? Can one’s lifetime achievements continue to replicate themselves? When does the cycle of the “sins of the father” finally cease? Towards the very end, Chief Aramaki and Batou confront this problem in a brief but striking exchange.
This is perhaps the perfect focus given Motoko’s departure. She was the best they had, so how do they survive without her? Immediately the answer is seen in Section 9’s composition itself: exceptional parts creating an exceptional unit. However, that fact seems too easily arrived at. Motoko was a superlative, integral part of that unit. Why does the fact that she is gone not bother anyone? It certainly bothers me. She was our protagonist for the entirety of the first manga and yet no one comments on the hole she left behind. In fact, it appears she left none at all. Everyone carries on with hardly a word.
I don’t mind that Motoko herself is almost entirely absent. The mind-bending sequel is dedicated to what she’s been up to post-Puppeteer-merge after all. It just feels like Shirow missed out on some amazing dramatic tension by paving over what ripples her absence would have created if, indeed, she was so important a person. So while all the gun-toting, cyber-hacking action is beautiful and engaging, it all lacks emotional resonance. Yes, it’s cool, but so what?
Azuma himself is symbolic of this problem. Rather than adding anything significant to the story or cast of characters, he’s relegated to the role of comic relief, Togusa’s foil, or someone who will provide some exposition. It works in terms of pacing, but is incredibly lacking in effect. We’re told his specialty is a keener sense of smell than a trained drug-hunting dog, yet he doesn’t seem to use this ability more than once. In fact, more often he complains that he’s reluctant to use it around foul odors. Really? You’re employed as Public Security and yet you won’t add your unique perspective to help with a case because you might smell, what, some stale urine or a moldy bento?
I honestly have no idea why he exists. If Section 9 is an elite force composed of personally selected individuals, it really begs the question if Azuma is really the best out there. A crazed fuchikoma with a buggier-than-hell AI would be more entertaining than a guy who is useless at best and unsavory at worst.
Speaking of the little devils, they are all but non-existent aside. We learn that they are having technical issues with their AI units, but beyond that nothing more. As the primary source of hilarity previously, their cameo roles make Azuma’s near ubiquity all the more depressing.
Admittedly, those points only hold the manga back from the greatness its prequel and sequel achieve, rather than detracting away from the story’s enjoyment. Seeing our favorite characters back in action and solving grisly crimes is what this is all about. Both Batou and Togusa do a great job filling the ‘Motoko-void’ and are immediately suitable protagonists. The dialogue is engaging, the fighting fierce, the mysteries intriguing. Those who have seen Solid State Society will be very interested to see how the source material was adapted. Perhaps this is a brief ride on lightning, but it’s a ride nonetheless.
Shirow’s artwork has the same incredible attention to detail as with the original. The characters are completely submerged in their busy metropolis and it’s easy to get lost within a single panel absorbing everything. There is painstaking effort behind presenting Ghost in the Shell’s setting: from building architecture to semi-futuristic vehicles, high-tech hospital interiors to centimeter-scale insect robots. Action is frenetic, bloody, and choreographed in style. What few pages are fully colored are gorgeous to behold and grab your attention at the outset.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Shirow creates a world.
Ultimately, it feels almost unfair to level certain criticisms at this work. It is definitely incomplete. At the same time, it was only ever supposed to be extra material. A dessert to the main course of Ghost in the Shell. In some understated ways, it is actually a subtle preface to the sequel, Man-Machine Interface. So, having accomplished a view into further Section 9 assignments (albeit in bite-sized form), is it enough? Maybe. So many fascinating ideas are brought forth… only to fizzle out before much can be made of them. This is a manga desperately crying out for a centralized narrative to tie it all together. While not every part of the original manga was Puppeteer-centric, there was still a sense that one thing led to another, and that the conclusion was in some ways inevitable given Motoko’s curiosity, concerns, and general bad-assed nature.
More of the same and fun for fans, certainly, but everyone else should be warned lightning hasn’t struck twice here. If it did, it did in the sequel. Here there is only some residual sparking.
And that’s only enough to power a single fuchikoma’s smart-alack wisecracks.
I'll be concise here.
The original Ghost in the Shell manga is a true gem in the world of manga, philosophy and cyberpunk.
1.5 is a set of stories that didn't make it to either the original or 2, and were released after 2.
This one doesn't have the same amount of speculative content as the original, and its short, independent cases are less memorable.
The charismatic Major is almost entirely absent. Togusa, Batou and Aramaki get the spotlight.
The absence of an overarching plotline is one of the biggest weaknesses here. Further, there is only one major philosophical theory that Masamune appears to be presenting throughout the
I also take issue with the art. It is definitely sub-par. Rougher and more sketchy than the original manga, proportions and angles are often laughably odd.
All in all, this manga is rather unremarkable, neither good nor bad. If you're going to read GitS 2, you should read this. It would be wiser to just stop after reading the original.