Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
(voices - English version)
Anime cyber punk
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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig (2006)
28th Jun 07
Section 9 tackle more cyber-crimes in a near future Tokyo.
It's hard to believe that Ghost in the Shell, the original groud breaking cyber punk anime, is nearly a dozen years old. What's more surprising is that two movies and two full length TV seasons later we're still here hooked, still celebrating the adventures of the Major, Batou, Togusa and company, and that the cutting edge story lines and plot devices are still as relevant today - perhaps even more so - than they were when the original film appeared.
Let's recap on the background to Ghost in the Shell. The series and both the films follow the exploits of Section 9, an elite anti cyber terrorist special branch type of thing in a near future Tokyo, formed to combat the emerging and rather frightening crimes that the rapidly evolving technologies of the 21st Century allow. The title - Ghost in the Shell - refers to one's digital soul, which by this time in history is apparently not such an unbelievable concept. Full prostethic artificial bodies, including fully mechanical cyber brains, are steadily becoming common place, and transfering one's ghost from its inferior biological body into a complete cyborg replacement is now completely acceptable, no matter how fantastic that sounds. But introducing full-on wifi cyber brains brings with it all the perils that we today do understand - viruses, bugs, etc - and have to deal with on PCs everyday. But what if the virus was in your cyber brain? What if the hacker had damaged your memories to make you believe you'd done something you hadn't or, even worse, made you believe you were someone else entirely? These ideas lie at the heart of what Ghost in the Shell is all about, and as you can guess the possibilities are endless.
While we're here, let's briefly run over the differences between the movies and the TV series. In the original Ghost in the Shell movie the Major was introduced, one of the most iconic heroines in manga history, only to have her shuffle off her simple mortal existence at the end of the film to become one with that movies perpetrator, the Puppetmaster, and start a new life as a single online entity. And despite its undeniable beauty the second movie suffers terribly from her absence, which is why it came as a great relief when the first Stand Alone Complex series decided to start from scratch, reinstating the Major and pretty much retelling the story all over again but this time replacing the villian with a new equally foreboding figure known as the Laughing Man. Needless to say the first series was nothing less than a triumph, forgoing the overly artistic nature of the movies and turning the franchise instead into a snappier, if still very philosophical, action-oriented cyber-cop show. It used half the episodes of the 26 season run to tell topical one-off stories and the rest to concentrate on their attempts to catch the Laughing Man, and those of you that have seen it will probably have had a few late nights - like me - watching those last few episodes in quick succesion as the series builds to that really very exciting finale.
Well, the good news is that 2nd Gig is more of the same. More action, more drama and more thoroughly mind bending plot lines that will have you on the edge of your seat even though it is pretty confusing stuff most of the time so you really have to pay attention just to keep up. The plot follows on exactly where the first series left off. The government is in crisis under threat from a cyber-criminal that they don't really understand so once again they call on the as yet still officially dispanded Section 9 to deal with it. But this time around it's a bit more complicated, if that's possible. The central storyline initially centres around a political movement called the Individual Eleven, who take their doctrine from a set of rare papers published by a late 20th Century scholar. The race against time to prevent them commiting acts of terrorism - cyber or otherwise - keeps Section 9 busy for the first few episodes, until the plot shifts when one of their members - ironically the 12th - begins to question the true nature of their protest. Meanwhile, off the coast of Tokyo a refugee camp the size of a large city surprises the Japanese Government by declaring itself an independent state, with all the political fallout you can imagine that generates. At the same time however on the home front Section 9, not entirely trusted by parliament for the autonomous style in which they operate, find themselves under the jurisdiction of the shadowy agent Gohda, who he himself has quite a few skeletons in his closet.
So how are all these events connected? What secrets does Gohda have? What is the link between that 12th Individual Eleven member and the refugee city? And, more disturbingly, is there a link between and other characters closer to home? Well, all will be revealed in another thoroughly recommendable addition to the Ghost in the Shell universe. Well, as revealed as anything ever is in Ghost in the Shell.
Despite wicked animation, a cool soundtrack, and some very eyebrow raising single episodes stories (the rogue helicopter with the dead pilot nearly starting its own revolution is a stand out) the central Individual Eleven plot - while captivating - is a little bit confusing if you like watching your animes late at night. And I don't presume to be a clever person - actually I'm more like some kind of big drunk idiot - but I've watched two series of this now and I still don't really understand what a stand alone complex actually is anyway. Still, I think that's part the Ghost in the Shell charm and 40 quid for the 26 episode box set, brand new, who cares?
Versions Available of Region 1 and 2 box set. The region 1 set is a complete set of the 2 series and you can get it online for around £25, which is stupidly cheap.