+ Intelligent and thoughtful series about the effects of technology
+ Musical score makes use many styles including pop and jazz
+ Familiar characters are further developed
+ Unlike the movies, the series has Shirow's sense of humor
The Tachikomas are cool but their voices are annoying
Fans of the Ghost in the Shell manga series may find the Stand Alone Complex TV series a more faithful adaptation of Shirow's work. It contains more themes and ideas found in the comics and has Shirow's sense of humor. Fans of thoughtful science fiction that explore the different ways technology affects society and individuals should give the series a chance. It is animated but it is more intelligent than 90 percent of the science fiction being produced by American production companies.
4 out of 5 · Highly Recommended
Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG Review
Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 10/30/2007
Among manga creators known in the western world, Masamune Shirow is arguably one of the most popular.
Shirow is known for his densely plotted, well researched futuristic science fiction dramas that often feature strong female protagonists. Among Shirow's most popular female protagonists is Major Motoko Kusanagi of the Ghost in the Shell franchise. Originally serialized in Kodansha Limited's Young Magazine between May 1989 and November 1991, Ghost in the Shell eventually spawned two anime feature films, two anime TV series, a made-for-TV anime movie, a number of prose novels, video games, and two more manga series.
Unlike the popular feature films Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence by Mamoru Oshii, Masamune Shirow was involved in the production of the Stand Alone Complex TV series. As a result both seasons of the series include more ideas, plot points, and concepts from the manga than either feature film. Like all other incarnations of the franchise Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig follows the exploits of Major Motoko Kusanagi and the elite division of Public Security known as Section 9 as they investigate technology-related crime and terrorism and battle nefarious cyber criminals.
As 2nd Gig opens, two years have passed since the events depicted in the final episodes of the first Ghost in the Shell TV series. Section 9 has been officially disbanded, a new prime minister has been elected and formed a new government, and Japan finds itself embroiled in a post war refugee crisis. The refugee crisis has come to a head as Individual Eleven, an anti-refugee group, has taken a terrorist action, storming the Chinese embassy, and taking hostages. This action proves to be more than the police Special Assault Team (SAT) can handle, and in her desperation the new Prime Minister turns to Section 9 for help.
As in most works by Shirow, the story line of 2nd Gig often involve as many moments of the behind the scenes politicking involved in police work as actual scenes of police work. The opening episode of the series inter-cuts scenes of Section 9's commander Aramaki cutting a backroom deal with the Prime Minister to reactivate Section 9 with scenes of Section 9's investigation and rescue operation. The downside of all this are several scenes of clunky, longwinded expository dialogue as the characters catch each other up on the situation. However, patience during these scenes is rewarded by stunning action involving the familiar Section 9 team members.
When Aramaki and the Prime Minister finally cut a deal, Section 9 is ordered to make their own entrance into the Chinese embassy and rescue the hostages ahead of the Police SAT force. Section 9's mission is jeopardized when the impatient SAT commander launches his operation ahead of schedule. Section 9 is unable to subdue all of the terror suspects and one of them manages to hold the SAT team at bay by using a hostage as a human shield. However, the standoff is broken when Kusanagi uses what has become a signature maneuver to kill the terrorist without risking the life of the hostage - using her thermo-optic camouflage to become invisible, she descends from above on a bungee cord style tether and fires through the window, hitting the man in the head. The episode ends with the Prime Minister thanking Aramaki and Major Motoko Kusanagi for their actions in the crisis and giving them retroactive orders re-establishing Section 9 and authorizing their operation.
Show More The second episode eschews action and violence for subtler psychological drama as it explores the impact of the increasingly technological and impersonal future society on the life of a single individual. The episode reduces Kusanagi's screen time to a cameo, gives a walk on moment to Batou, and ignores the other members of Section 9 completely as it follows the daily life of Gino, a veteran of one of the many wars that have plagued the early 21st century. Movie buffs will recognize this episode as a take off on the Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver with Gino filling the part of the Robert De Niro character Travis Bickle and an undercover Major Kusanagi filling in for Jodie Foster's teenage prostitute. Gino like Travis Bickle has returned from the war an emotional and mental wreck, like many veterans before him he struggles to make ends meet in an unfulfilling flunky job piloting a helicopter for an uncaring and piggish corporate executive who barely notices his existence. This episode asks interesting questions about the nature of warfare: Not only what happens to those we call to serve after the war is over but also what is the motivation for war? In the past wars were motivated by clashes of ideology, struggles for power, and competition for resources, in this episode Gino suggests that to that list we should add that war has become the new testing ground for technological innovations. Perhaps it is true - nylon, plastic, rockets, and the Global Positioning System are just a few of the technological wonders to come about through warfare.
Gino lives alone; isolated by both his social awkwardness and his status a refugee. His sense of isolation and powerlessness is further underscored by his physical impotence - his lower torso from the waist down has been replaced by cybernetic implants and he has no genitals. While he claims to have a second job, Gino actually spends his hours away from work eating at cheep noodle houses, firing a weapon at a gun range, drinking, and having awkward encounters with prostitutes. Disgusted by what he feels is the moral decay of society, Gino descends into increasingly violent fantasies in which he heroically sacrifices himself to bring the Truth to the unwashed masses. Alerted that Gino may be a danger to his employer, major Kusanagi launches an investigation taking the role of a high class call girl just out of Gino's reach. Gino obsesses over the Major, she becomes his ideal perfect woman, he is tormented that he can never have her, even if he could, he could never make love to her. Kusanagi eventually concludes that Gino poses no real threat, his violent fantasies are just that - fantasies of just another unfulfilled loser at the periphery of society.
Episode three explores the impact of technology on human sexuality and fetishism especially among the extremely wealthy older men who run Japan's financial, economic, and political spheres. Section 9 has been badgered into helping Mr. Todokoro, a wealthy financier; protect his fortune from a hacker and cat burglar called Cash Eye. The audacious burglar has apparently used an oddly familiar female android to infiltrate Todokoro's offices and leave a calling card with a note threatening to steal Todokoro's entire fortune.
Show More Todokoro, like many of the older wealthy men who run Japan's financial, economic, and political spheres has a fetish for the sexy female androids that have become the popular high tech sex toy for those jaded by life's pleasures. Part of Section 9's mission involves Major Kusanagi impersonating such an android at one of Todokoro's elaborate parties for members of Japan's elite. Much to the disgust of the Section 9 crew, many of these men would not only rather have the company of androids; they go out of the way to keep them secret from their wives. Not only that, they attend elaborate parties accompanied by their sex dolls in the same way that today's millionaires often appear with trophy wives. Androids are even better than wives, they can be programmed with any personality the owner wants, and since they are only machines they can be used any way the owner desires without any sense of guilt. Todokoro enjoys making love to his androids while they lie still as statue - the ultimate masturbation aid. Even though he knows the Major is a full body cyborg and not a droid, Todokoro can't help but have lecherous thoughts about her as well.
In an attempt to protect his money from electronic theft, Todokoro has converted it all into cash and placed it in a giant vault, protected by the most elaborate security system money can buy. When the burglar seemingly manages to enter the vault under the nose of both Section 9 and Todokoro's own security team, Todokoro enters to vault to investigate, when he discovers his money is still there and the burglar hasn't been killed in the vault as he has been led to believe, Section 9 admits that the entire thing was an elaborate ruse designed to investigate Todokoro himself for tax evasion and money laundering.
Much of 2nd Gig alternates between stand alone episodes described above and the Individual Eleven storyline. Much like the Puppet Master storyline explored in both the first Ghost in the Shell manga and movie, one of the central themes running through the Individual Eleven storyline is the idea that as we adapt ourselves to our increasingly information intensive society we become vulnerable to outside control by less than benign individuals or groups who know more about the technology than we do. The Individual Eleven can best be described as terrorists opposed to the large number of refugees who have entered Japan in the post war years. Much like the Jews in post World War I Germany and to some extent Arabs and illegal immigrants in our own; the "Asian" refugees are often scapegoated for the misery now plaguing Japan in spite of the fact that they are an integral part of the Japanese economy. However, as with much of Ghost in the Shell, things may not be all that they appear. From the opening episode it is apparent that the members of Individual Eleven are something other than committed terrorists. The truth may lie in the essay titled "Individual Eleven" which is in reality a computer virus designed to infiltrate cyberbrains. While the members of Individual Eleven may possess radical political views, they are not necessarily inclined towards violence until they read the Individual Eleven Essays and their cyberbrains become infected with the virus. The person behind this virus and his reason for creating it is one of the mysteries at the heart of the series.
Based on works by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, like its predecessors explores the impact of technology on society and the individual. Unlike the feature films which centered on the effects of technology on one or two central characters, 2nd Gig often explores the effect of technology on society as a whole through Section 9's observation and interaction of minor characters. The series longer format also allows for a greater development of the themes and ideas found throughout the comics. Although animated, the Ghost in the Shell TV series is deeper and more sophisticated than most live action science fiction series currently being produced in the US.
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