A review of episodes 3 & 4 of Ghost in the Shell: Arise
I was six when the Ghost in the Shell manga was first released, twelve when the Mamoru Oshii movie was originally released and fifteen when I saw it on Manga Entertainment’s first VHS release of it. Since then there has been second Oshii movie which, like its manga sequel by Masamune Shirow, many people would rather forget happened, and the almost universally well regarded Stand Alone Complex TV series, all fifty two episodes, two compilation movies and an original TV movie of it. That’s an awful lot of history for a franchise and is something that the last two releases of the latest entry, Arise, seem all too aware of.
Ghost Tears and Ghost Stands Alone, despite being initially released in theatres, are episodes rather than movies. At only fifty minutes each they have neither the time nor the isolation that movies do, and one would argue, that Ghost in the Shell as a concept needs. I said before that the first two entries, Ghost Pain and Ghost Whispers, held onto the ideas that run across the franchise:
“The layering of bureaucracy and machinations of governments and individuals in a world that is highly networked and ruthlessly mechanised, and ultimately facing new and increasing challenges because of it.”
That’s an awful lot to cram into only fifty minutes, and it has required some sacrifices that not everyone has taken to kindly.
A review of episodes 1 & 2 of Ghost in the Shell: Arise
It’s not even worth reading this post if you’re expecting the kind of excoriation that many have lumped on the latest Ghost in the Shell instalments. I’d already set out my stall with Arise when promotional material came out for it and my affinity for Standalone Complex is sparsely documented but well understood. Fifty percent of the expected run-time of Arise is now done with both Ghost Pain and Ghost Whispers out on home video release, it’s interesting to see what direction the series of OVAs has taken over and above the previous powerhouse of Standalone Complex and the two Mamoru Oshii directed movies.
a younger and more inexperienced Kusanagi without her usual squad for support
For one this is definitely a divergence from the established lore for all of the characters involved, most of all Kusanagi who was no longer involved in an accident when a toddler forcing her to get one of the first fully prosthetic bodies. Similarly her presence during WW4 where she met both Ishikawa and Batou is in question, yet her position in the military remains. Aramaki is no longer greying and quite as world weary and the Tachicomas that became the Uchicomas are now the Logicomas - same idea different skin.
A lot of anime deal with identity, but in different ways: whether it is the all-encompassing, driving force behind the movie and series extravaganzas that are Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion or as an undercurrent to more prevalent themes like with Guts in Berserk or Faye in Cowboy Bebop, it is fair to say that many different anime use identity as at least part of their narrative thrust. Even looking at disparate, popular shows like Bleach and Naruto reveals a simplistic version of the theme with the push to become strong and protect - a topic that is an essay in itself. It's only when investigating beyond the obvious that it becomes apparent identity is prevalent in so many different genres of anime that it begins to reflect how they were conceived and upon the creators themselves.
how flippantly cyborgs view gender when the possibility of reproduction is removed
Identity is a wide and multitudinous topic that has been researched by psychologists and philosophers alike for centuries so it's no surprise it is present in a culturally reflective medium as anime. Perhaps the most subversive and comedic is gender identity and the question of what defines gender. The earliest anime I can recall that toyed with this is Ranma ½ which had the titular protagonist switch from one gender to the other with the application of cold and hot water - it is played for laughs more than as a thoughtful treatment on the subject but the enforced gender switching is in so many other series from Kashimashi to Kämpfer that it can hardly be ignored. This is without mentioning the less extreme sex swapping with cross-dressing which has of course birthed one of the most cherished anime cultural staples: the trap.
The news of a Ghost in the Shell television series was met with a mix of joy and trepidation; highly regarded in the West and being helmed by a then unknown director, the assumption would be that the themes and delicately balanced characters of the Mamoru Oshii movie as well as the racy futurism of the original Masamune Shirow manga would be lost on a televised broadcast. Defying expectations however the series is supremely accomplished, blending the setting of a near-future, highly networked society with cyberpunk brassiness and an acute focus on the implications of such a world and what it means for communities, individuals, organisations and power structures. Production I.G. proves that their animation production was up to the challenge by rendering a fully realised, distinctly designed world where everything from skyscrapers to handguns have a plausible tangibility to them.
Each scene demonstrates a craftsman's dedication to constructing an immersive and entirely believable future society
Spanning two full length series and an original televised movie, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex follows the secretive paramilitary organisation known as Section Nine across three large scale investigations, distinct in chronology from its predecessors. An eclectic team composed of faces familiar from the 1995 film including Motoko, Batou, Aramkai and Togusa as well as bit parts and new members such as Ishikawa, Saito, Pazu, Borma and the artificial-intelligence tanks, Tachikomas. The case of the Laughing Man starts with the death of a friend before plunging into corporate terrorism, technological misuse and conspiracy as well as demonstrating the first large-scale instance of the titular Stand Alone Complex syndrome. The Individual Eleven investigation had more immediate ramifications when a fleet of military helicopters is inadvertently hijacked and flown brazenly over a refugee slum; igniting existing tensions, a concentrated campaign of provocation accelerates the new government's plans for dealing with the refugee problem but transpire to be part of a sophisticated powerplay by a megalomaniacal official and a dwindling Western superpower. The third and final investigation begins with a series of suicides by foreign operatives and portents of an individual known as the Puppetmaster, the trail exposes a systemic kidnapping of children for a project known as the Solid State Society which, unbeknownst to her, has a very personal involvement with the now freelance Motoko.