Jan 24, 2016
lawlmartz (All reviews)
Ghost in the Shell is now an immense franchise, spanning three TV series, eight movies, and several specials- all inspired by the manga of Shirow Masamune, but brought to life by Kenji Kamiyama in the director and writer's chair. If you're not in the know about this fantastic franchise, this is not the place to start- that would be the 1995 eponymous movie. For those who are- welcome back.

Ghost in the Shell Solid State Society (SSS) is something of a Stand Alone Complex within the established universe of Ghost. The show takes a lot of previously in-universe established ideas, various new political ideals, philosophical musings, and modern day culturally relevant and poignant issues and brings them to the forefront of a sociopolitically shaped point of the sharp visual and auditory spear that makes up the series. Yoko Kanno returns in the composer's seat, and did a fantastic job as always, with some returning tunes from the earlier series, and a plethora of new ones.

SSS feels like more of a focused, extended episode of the SAC series. Where in SAC 1st, it was the Laughing Man, and in SAC 2nd, the Individual Eleven, Solid State Society also has a nebulously altruistic, yet menacing omnipresent villain in the "Puppet Master". If one were to take the Stand Alone (the side investigation episodes in SAC 1st/2nd) episodes out, distill the Complex (main investigation) episodes down into a simultaneously fast moving, dialogue AND action driven story that could be told in 2 hours, you'd have SSS. The characters have been well established in over 50 episodes of TV series and several movies at this point, so while there's not any mind altering development taking place- there are a few standout moments for some of the supporting characters like Saito and Togusa to shine.

This movie takes all the best parts of the previous TV series and compresses them into a dense, directed story without the sometimes meandering dialogue and heavy handed by comparison action episodes that the SAC series had. On a technical level, SSS is on par with SAC 2nd, and Production IG do a fine job with animating it, though the 3D CGI they're known for sticking in there might scald your eyes a bit.

Despite this being a movie with a sizable budget, it's not as visually striking as the 1995 movie, or Innocence. I think this plays into its favor though, as it works best as an extended epilogue to SAC 2nd, and thus retains the feel. 2 years after Motoko Kusanagi leaves Section 9, a new cyberterrorist threat has appeared- one called the Puppet Master, and the investigation into it leads to the discovery of the kidnapping of thousands of children, political corruption and a potentially more heinous threat- all standard fare for the Ghost in the Shell series.

Beyond the almost mundane introspection on life and what it means to be an individual, a human, and other philosophical musings the show is known for, SSS focuses on some relevant issues in Japan today: the aging population and declining birthrate, agency of parents and caregivers, and the role of government in providing healthcare form the spine of the plot. Many nods are given to the viewers in some direct references and allusion to the SAC series- a pair with serious implications in this story. I have to say though, that where SAC 1st strayed from the point a lot in having some filler, and SAC 2nd felt preachy and racist at times, SSS stayed very true to the core of Ghost in the Shell in wrapping up a lot of complex topics and themes into a single cohesive narrative without being heavy handed. It also takes a somewhat different direction of the previous series in that by the end, not everything is cut and dried so nicely- it's partially up to the viewer to decide, and that made it all the better.

In short, if you like Ghost in the Shell, this is more of what you want to see. If you found yourself not being a big fan of SAC 1st and 2nd for the pacing or some other small issues, this may be just the thing you were looking for- an interesting and engaging story that doesn't overstep its bounds, but still has the power to surprise.