I’m not really an anime fanatic, certainly not when compared to some of the Heroic team — I’ve seen a fair few of the major feature releases over the years, and the occasional series, but none of the series has ever really grabbed and held my attention. That is, until I saw Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I watched both series, enthalled, in three or four sittings. Then I watched them again. It’s superb work, tailor-made for the people out there reared on cyberpunk science fiction novels and dystopian visions of the future. For those who haven’t seen it, the series shares the world and characters of Mamoru Oshii’s classic films (Ghost in the Shell and Innocence) which are based on the same source material, the manga created by Shirow Masamune. However, the series presents an alternate reality in which the events of the films never happened. Instead, it’s a more episodic view of Section 9’s battle against threats to national security and government officials, with a number of long story arcs connecting the episodes together.
And you’ll have to watch the series before Solid State Society, a feature-length film set after the events of the second SAC series. There’s absolutely no backstory presented, and no chance to get your bearings before being catapulted into the latest labyrinthine Section 9 investigation. As the film begins, the team are investigating a series of suicides, all former members of the Siak Republic (a fictional state in present-day Indonesia). They finally catch up with one remaining Siak colonel at an airport where he’s holding several civilians hostage, but are unable to take him captive before he also commits suicide. His final words are that “the Puppeteer is coming”. It becomes clear fairly soon that the Puppeteer is a very talented hacker with an unknown agenda, connected somehow with all of these suicides. While the team are investigating, their paths also cross that of Major Kusanagi, who’s pursuing an unknown agenda of her own, though she’s clearly at least one step ahead of Section 9.
For those who loved the series as I did, Solid State Society is a fine addition to the Ghost in the Shell world. It feels much more compressed than the series did, having to pack the complete story into 100-odd minutes rather that several hundred, but it still works. My only complaint is that it’s not that original a plot when compared to the first and second series — the Puppeteer just isn’t as interesting as the Laughing Man, for example, and there are other elements of the story that cause a little deja vu as well. It’s still great to watch Section 9 unravel conspiracies and battle enormous hulking robotic exoskeletons, regardless. There’s a nice touch in the end game, too.
As usual for Production I.G.’s work, the animation is excellent and the film itself is beautiful to look at and listen to. Madman’s DVD is well-presented, with both English and Japanese dubs, English subtitles, and a whole disc of extra material. Thoroughly recommended, along with the entire preceding series!