May 10, 2017
This was probably the best Arise episode so far. It's also the one with the least amount of action. And the lowest rating on MyAnimeList. I'll use that to support my observation. But still that advantage is so slight that I'm not even sure if it was better than the first episode. My main reasoning for this is that it turns the focus away from being a detective thriller back towards world building and character development. This means Arise is getting closer to that chemistry that made Stand Alone Complex such a winner. This comes at a somewhat unnecessary cost, however, when the actual action-centric climax of the movie is significantly limper than the previous two. Though at that point it seems like they were limited by the expected running time. I continue to like teen Makoto less and less, but at the same time she becomes a more fleshed out character. She's still off-putting in her childish arrogance which clashes heavily with her professionalism and alleged experience and intelligence.

In this episode most of her transgressions revolve around her attachment to her latest boyfriend, a guy that immediately gives off mad serial killer vibes and everyone instantly realizes he's obviously suspicious but Makoto irrationally defends him and breaks protocol multiple times for her own self-satisfaction regarding the case. On the other hand, some of Makoto's background and way of thinking is actually touched upon here. She's often used as a borderline "anonymous" character, so these moments are rare. She talks about how she feels swapping bodies and trying to hold on to the sensation of being a human after becoming a cyborg as a child. It's insightful to her character but also the setting, as we see more personal ways people cope with the changing world - one of the things nearly lost in Arise that makes it less engaging than previous installments. That's where it gets ironic and shallow, when a concept about retaining individuality as the world moves closer to a singularity is reworked into a story that's so concerned with being stylish entertainment that it forgets to look at the individual. Even still, these moments feel all too brief and familiar for Ghost in the Shell, so they aren't touching the franchise's previous levels of insight.

These personal scenes are overshadowed by the same investigational action thriller style of the previous episodes. On that front, Ghost Tears's plot seems more obtuse and aggravating to follow. There are so many factions referenced in this conspiracy that have no inherently logical, direct link to each other that keeping the arbitrary relations straight is more work than usual. Water plants, prosthetic developers, a previously unmentioned separatist war - goddamn, chill out. Togusa becomes more involved in this episode, not so much as he deserves - again, he adds that personal touch to the cast as the most "normal" member. But, Arise shows it's able to do a much better job at utilizing the entirety of the standard Section 9 members than previous entries. There's still an obvious hierarchy of importance among them, but giving them more lines and involvement in the investigation still goes along way to making them feel like actual team members rather than sidekicks. Ghost Whispers predictably continues in the same direction as the rest of Arise, but the added touch of drama shows that the creators still have it in them to make something true to Ghost in the Shell's pedigree - they just haven't actually realized it yet.