Review: Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society (15) / Director: Kenji Kamiyama / Screenplay: Kenji Kamiyama / Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Osamu Saka, Akio Ohtsuka, / Release Date: May 21st
Depending on your knowledge of the Ghost in the Shell universe, this may not be the best place to jump in. To clarify; first was Masamune Shirow’s original manga, director Mamoru Oshii then made two movies which took Shirow’s technology dominated universe as an inspiration but were very much their own thing. Anime house Production IG then brought the universe to TV with the Stand Alone Complex two season 26 episode arcs in the middle of the last decade. This was closer to the manga and ignored Oshii’s movies. Ghost in The Shell – Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society (henceforth known as GITS-SAC:SSS) is set two years after the end of the TV series. Everybody got that? Good, let’s get into it…
GITS-SAC:SSS finds Section 9 hunting a master hacker by the name of ‘The Puppeteer’ who is hacking into cybernetically enhanced brains belonging to government officials and making them kill themselves. The Puppeteer seems to have political connections and a wide knowledge of the personnel who work for Section 9. Toganusa is now the boss, having recently had cybernetic upgrades with Batou remaining on the sidelines and Major Kusanagi having quit section 9 and now spending her days conducting her own investigations for anything that tickles her philosophical fancy on the net. The more Section 9 investigates, the more the Major comes under suspicion.
I’m not a genius but I’m not exactly a dunce either, though admittedly I had problems keeping up with the fast moving and complex plot in this. It took me a couple of viewings to fully absorb Mamoru Oshii’s first two GITS films as stunning as they are. GITS-SAC: SSS plays out like much of the Stand Alone Complex did, it’s what studios would come up with if they had to make 24 thirty years in the future. I understood the film whilst I was watching it but if you had to ask me what happened now a day or so later I would have a job telling you. There are many characters within Section 9 but also many supporting players whose allegiances are not always clear. The lines between human and cyborg blur constantly and the action scenes are never less than thrilling with hardware on display that would make James Cameron envious. For all the invention and the thrills this has going for it, it’s a shame that the plot ultimately boils down to a re-tread of the first Oshii film. I know they are set in alternate timelines or what have you but come on; it’s been said and done. The net is vast and infinite indeed…
Although it isn’t quite as beautiful as Mamoru Oshii’s cinematic films, GITS-SAC:SSS is wonderful to look at and the Blu-ray transfer is really quite amazing. Sadly there is no sign of the 3D version which came out in Japan last year but never mind. The good thing about the SAC series and this film is that it breaks recent anime tradition and never succumbs to ‘fan service’. So there are no gratuitous shower scenes or any unnecessary wide eyed jiggling, this is a franchise whose primary concern is thrilling you as well as making you think.
For long-time fans of this universe, this is a mostly brilliant and worthy conclusion to one of the best anime series of recent years. For anyone else not familiar with it, knock an additional point off the score out of ten.
Special features: Design features, making of, trailers, Interviews.