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Episode XV: ‘Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Written by: Sean Wall

*Ghost in the ShellGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex will be referred to as GITS:SAC*

Synopsis: In the near future, the margin between the cybernetic and physical world is made obscure as technology has been implemented into the human world far beyond anyone’s expectations. As technology and humanity progress, the number of cyber-crimes has risen immensely. With this, the Section 9 is formed to tackle various missions ranging from cyber-terrorism to cyberbrain-hacking.

Following a long hiatus since the 1995 groundbreaking movie Ghost in the Shell(1,2), came Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Kamiyama Kenji took a risk by transforming the overall image of the smash hit and it paid off in spades as this remains as one of the most popular cyberpunk anime in modern times.

To start off, this is a series where aesthetics are done with style and grace. The animation is simply awesome and it improves gradually after every episode. What’s more, the blending of CGI and animation is visually smooth and each character is drawn with delicate consistency. I can dare say that the visual presentation here is among the best of its time.

The character designs here are a bit different than those of the film version. Apparently this is because the designs of SAC more closely resemble the designs of the GITS manga, by Shirow Masamune, than do the movie of the same name. The net effect is almost indiscernible with the exception of Major Kusanagi whom, with fresh purple hair and darker yet warmer eyes, is now much easier to get attached to. Additionally, because of the less imposing time constraints of a TV series, the cast of GITS: SAC is more fully fleshed out. Here Kusanagi no longer feels so cold and mechanical. The viewer is also treated to a more in-depth view of some of the side characters such as Batou, Togusa, and Section 9 head Aramaki Daisuke. Overall the characterization in SAC is considerably improved over the GITS film.

Despite great strides of growth in character development, the animation of GITS: SAC is fairly easily surpassed by its cinema antecedent. But it is my supposition that as much should be expected. In many ways the GITS film upped the ante for eye-candy to astonishing levels. That said, the animation of SAC is meritorious, even if it doesn’t quite scale the bar set before it. In fact, it contains some of the least artificial looking CGI work (as opposed to cell-based animation) that I have seen since CGI became the norm in the anime industry. Equally impressive are the renderings of a future super-endowed with technology. The set pieces are all quite believably futuristic. In terms of animation quality, this title does admirably.

As far as the musical backdrop goes for SAC goes I have just two words: Yoko Kanno. Essentially the music is very sweet and always fitting. To find failing in the soundscape of this title is to find dysfunction in your ability to hear altogether. Her illustrious work in GITS:SAC shows why she is considered one of the most prolific composers in the anime industry after introducing hits such as the unforgettable “Inner Universe”, brilliantly sung by Origa.

The cast is both good and bad at the same time. Each member has their own set of attributes, which helps in diversifying the section, but what made them that way was not explored. What is left is a group of elite anti-terrorists with mysterious backgrounds, apart from Kusanagi Motoko herself.

GITS:SAC will eventually force you to imagine what the future will generally be like when technology is pushed beyond limitations. Brimming with adrenaline-pumping action and intelligent criminal minds, this series is something worthy of at least a try. Though not groundbreaking, GITS: SAC is unusually intelligent and challenging, a treat for an adroit audience.

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