The Laughing Man tells the story of the entire first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, regarded by many people to be one of the best anime series ever, as a 2 and a half hour movie. It is a compilation of only the material from the 26 episodes of the series that is related to the ‘Laughing Man’.
It is AD 2030. Six years have passed since a super-class-A hacker known as the Laughing Man carried out a series of terrorist acts against various micromachine manufacturers, before seemingly disappearing without a trace. New leads now become available, and the Public Safety Section 9 anti-crime unit becomes involved in the investigation of what may be the return of the Laughing Man. As the team learns more and more about the mysterious hacker and his motives, they are also drawn closer and closer to danger…
The quality of the show is simply stunning. Pretty much every aspect of it is top notch. The animation is superb, with excellent attention to details. Light, shadows and reflections are drawn to perfection, creating a life-like feel to the anime. The editing is fast and fluid, and the camera work clever and creative. There are plenty of action scenes, which are sure to thrill and impress at the same time, and are probably amongst the best that you will ever see, be it anime or live-action.
The audio is also great. The music is exciting and works well with the visuals, especially during the action scenes. Even little sounds such as police car sirens or opening doors are done so well that you may wonder if they are really coming from the speakers of your TV, or from the living environment you are in.
The original story is imaginative and interesting. It is also very complex and philosophical, and themes such as justice, the role of technology in our world, and the meaning of human existence are discussed through clever plots and dialogue. It really makes one think: when you are confronted with the depth of darkness of the human mind, would you become a deaf-mute and force yourself to look away, or would you stand up and fight for justice?
Ironically, the complexity of the story also causes a problem for the movie. To create the film, the original material of the series was re-edited by its director, with some dialogue added and some re-recorded to allow the story to have a better flow. During the process, however, it is inevitable that some details and interesting plot points are lost. Of course, to transform such excellent and complex material into an ‘abridged’ version is never going to be an easy task. Therefore, it is perhaps forgivable that the flow of the story doesn’t feel that smooth in some parts of the movie.
Overall, The Laughing Man is a top notch animated sci-fi action thriller, and one really cool adventure. If you have seen the series already, then watch this movie only if you want to find out what a 160-minute version of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex looks like. On the other hand, if you haven’t seen the series but want to get a feel for what it is like, The Laughing Man is definitely for you. See it and discover what the best anime has to offer.