Preface: This is a review of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG. This is not of the same continuity as the original manga series by Masamune Shirow, the movie series by Mamoru Oshii, the Arise canon, the 1997 PlayStation One video game (that I still haven’t finished), or the 2017 American live action movie.
The characters in Stand Alone Complex are, in my opinion, the best iteration of the metaseries. Using Major Kusanagi as the prime example, she is the perfect mix of her childish and mischievous manga counterpart and the stoic and cold Oshii version. The characters act like you would expect them to, given their backgrounds. It is unfortunate that some characters aren’t given much background until 2nd GIG, namely Saito and Pazu, but you really get to know the characters as the series progresses. Even the Tachikomas develop distinct personalities (which is a plot point), that you can follow through the series. As far as character focus goes, the series still centers on Major Kusanagi following the antagonist, with secondary jumps to Togusa, with the occasional episode or two dedicated to one of the other members of Section 9.
The first season’s overarching focus is The Laughing Man case, which ultimately ends in the titular Stand Alone Complex. 2nd GIG centers on the Individual Eleven case. Throughout the series, Section 9 is forced to deal with the unfortunate day-to-day immorality of politics which eventually leads them to begin questioning their own reasons for joining Section 9. As with previous Ghost in the Shell works, the series is permeated by themes of existentialism, humanity, self-worth, and morality. Episodically, the series follows the day-to-day operations of the main team at Section 9. Some episodes are stand-alone (no pun intended), while others are part of the links feeding directly in to the main plot.
From about 9 minutes into the last episode to the half-way commercial break, I cried the first time I saw it. Not from sadness or grief, but from feeling characters love each other. Characters that I had never thought that would be important to me, brought forth tears.
The music is, as to be expected from something with Yoko Kanno attached to it, immaculate. It all fits. Every track fits and melds with the vibes from the show.
The animation quality was variable. Some of it was movie quality animation that I whole-heartily believe that the series deserves, and then there are scenes where faces are nothing more than a couple of dots on a skin-colored circle. I understand that it is a television series, but it would have been nice to see those scenes fixed on the home video release. It does not really detract from the series, but it is noticeable. Astonishingly, the series’ use of CGI, mainly for the Tachikomas, looks good. There are episodes, especially in 2nd GIG, that have weather effects (mainly snow) that did not look as good as I had hoped when the series was re-released on bluray, but a little blur never hurt anyone.
It is truly an anime classic. Almost nothing would please me more than for Kamiyama’s constant teasing to finally result in a 3rd GIG. If Shirow’s Appleseed ever got half of the love that was put into Stand Alone Complex for Ghost in the Shell, I would never ask for anything ever again . . . maybe for Ishikawa to become my very own live-in grandpa, but that’s clearly impossible.
- Plot: 10/10
- Animation: 8/10
- Japanese Voice Acting: 10/10
- English Voice Acting: 10/10
- Overall: 9.5/10
Released: October 2002 – January 2005 – 52 Episodes – TV series
Director: Kenji Kamiyama
Original Story: Masamune Shirow
Music: Yoko Kanno
Studio: Production I.G.
Licensed by: Bandai Entertainment, Manga Entertainment
Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment