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Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex follows Section 9 in Pursuit of The Laughing Man. A hacker who finds out that a type of surgery has lead to a killer illness. There is an alternative therapy that can be used but the Japanese government keeps it quiet due to the profit made on the surgery. The laughing man kidnaps the CEO of the company that administer the surgery on live TV to force him to make a statement at the ineffectiveness. He simultaneously hacks every piece of technology viewing him so his face is sealed by a laughing blue face, with a J D Salinger quote surrounding it. Major Kusanagi along with Section 9 fight to get to the bottom of it, only to discover the truth.
The company Production I.G. that produce the show are the team behind the infamous Kill Bill cartoon scenes. Their attention to detail is astounding in this series. The sprawling Japanese cities remind you of the works of William Gibson which this series takes a fair amount of influence from. The colours in darkness are impeccable for in darkness there are so many colours you can work with to create the detail needed: usually several shades of grey.
The darkness and seriousness of the piece is provided by the comical relief of the Tachikomas. Hard hitting battle tanks with the voices of munchkins, each with their own quirky personality.
You learn more about these in series 2, which although good, it doesn't maintain the same interest that the Laughing Man case embodies.
Warning, this wont be to everyone's cup-of-tea but to those into the Cyberpunk scene, I'm most likely preaching to the converted.
I have to come right out and say here that this is undoubtedly my favourite mecha oriented anime. It hits all the right spots for me: It features adults rather than kids and teens, the themes are profound and far reaching, and with a little levity that goes a long way from keeping it too dark. Not to mention an absolutely fantastic soundtrack.
The Ghost in the Shell refers to the soul in ones body. It is the year 2030 and cybernetics has advanced to the point where not only can people opt for cybernetic enhancements, but severely injured persons can become transplanted into cybernetic bodies. This leads to the question of just when does a machine become a living being, acquiring a soul or "ghost in the shell", as society recognises that just as the scientific advances have made these medical breakthroughs possible, likewise the same science is producing ever more seemingly aware artificial life forms. The most advanced of these is light armoured tanks, the Tachikoma, used by the Section 9 security force stationed in the Tokyo like fictional city of New Port that the series follows. Extremely childlike in their demeanour, they absorb information like sponges, exceeding the expectations of their creators with often comically serious results.
This box set follows the story arc whereby a terrorist known as the Laughing Man has appeared. A gifted hacker, he not only manages to manifest himself wholly in the virtual world but seemingly is able to manipulate persons around him so that they unwillingly carry out his wishes, seemingly at random. His ultimate aim is unclear, making him difficult to predict, while his hacking ability puts Section 9 at a disadvantage, as to take over persons he hacks into their cybernetic network by unknown means. Section 9 must use all their cunning and resources to track him down and stop him before his plans come to whatever terrible fruition he has in mind. Each episode is not entirely a cyber Mission Impossible type show, with each episode carefully asking and considering the nature of sentient consciousness in an accessible manner.
One of the most outstanding features of the series has to be its approach to presenting the alternate future we see. The reality is carefully crafted, with the science readily graspable and extrapolated from scientific advances we are already familiar with and even encounter nearly everyday. The side effects that can be experienced from the advanced use of the cybernetics is also shown, with no punches pulled for the devastation wrought by adverse reactions suffered by those when the enhancements go so terribly wrong. It is an imperfect future, plausibly extrapolated from our own both by the outgrowth of our own familiar technology as is the turbulence experienced by the society we see. The legal repercussions of the technology and its use (and restrictions thereof) in society are also highly believable. Interestingly enough, just as the fictional tech is extrapolated from actual current advances, the fictional devices themselves have inspired actual research to make them reality; one such occurrence being active optic camouflage. You can actually view live clips of the tests of the resulting technology released by Tokyo University (someone thoughtfully compiled them into a video over on You Tube). Between this research and Osaka University's advances in cybernetics with their robotic child and teacher (both actually in manufacture for the public to purchase by the way), it is all too easy to slip wholeheartedly into this fictional universe, though not unpleasant to do so.
The art itself is very beautiful. Unlike many of the mecha animes where stress is on making the mecha simply look cool and colourful, here the attention is to realistic detail, though light and colour also play a role. Perfectly complementing the art and storylines is the music, which is often considered some of the best music to ever accompany an anime. The music is composed by Kanno Yoko, who is also renowned for her efforts for Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne, and Wolfs Rain amongst others. The music alone is well worth listening to and can be heard over on You Tube, as well as various online Japanese radio stations, and appears on no less than 6 dedicated albums and a single, with sales figures well into the millions.
While this 26 episode anime is based upon the manga by Shirow Masamune, it should be noted that the storylines differ so what you get is not a repeat as happens so often with anime. This box set concludes its story arc, and the second season, Ghost in the Shell: SAC: Gig 2 has its own story arc, so viewers are left with a satisfying conclusion without having to breathlessly await arrival of the second box set.
Kudos go to the studio for the presentation as well. We get a high quality viewing experience thanks to the compression rate not being too high, with the episodes spread out over seven discs. You can choose to view it in the original Japanese, with or without English subtitles, or in dubbed English. Personally, I prefer the original with subs rather than the American dubbed voices, as the seiyuu who did the original voices match the characters looks and depicted moods much better. Sound is Dolby Digital 5:1, so all the action sequences are really enhanced by a good sound system. The little bonuses of having cast interviews, character profiles, an interesting piece on the science within the show, and even the little booklet with its essay on the series, all add value to the box set, even if you arnot an ardent fan. Due to its mature themes, I would recommend this anime for those over the age of 15.
This is is a the entire collection of the ghost in the shell tv series part 1, it is composed of 26 episodes and includes both an English subtitle and dubbing track which are both equally good I found, as the dubbing is good and never strays to far from the original script, although in the first few episodes the lip sync may not be so good in English but it does get better as their series progresses.
It was created after the original ghost in the shell movie, the dvd special features contain manga anime previews and interviews with the Japanese voice actors, musicians and directors which i thought was very beneficial.
What actually made me want to watch this was because the sound track was directed by the famous Japanese composer yokko kanno, she also wrote the sound track for wolfs rain, cowboy bebop, black jack, escaflowne and the macross series. The sound tracks for these anime could easily be listened to on their own like any other musical album.
After a while however i got to really appreciate the characters and story line.
Ghost in the shell is based in the futuristic world of japan where the majority of people have decided to become cyborgs (part prosthetic part human) in order to have easier access to data flows over the web and longer life expectancy, for instance if they are shot and severely disabled in a prosthetic body then they can simply have their brain transplanted to another prosthetic body, or a tank or whatever they so desire.
The plot focuses on a secret security organization called section 9, which is pretty much organized by an extremely beautiful but deadly female commander (as seen on the box).
The tv series focuses on the team trying to uncover the secret of the laughing man a terrorist hacker who does not seem to exist on the physical plain of existance, yet appeared on live tv and attempted an assassination of the distributor of the mori vaccine. ( this was a vaccine which would prevent cyber brain sclerosis, a disease which caused brains to harden during the transplantation to a cyborg body and eventual death of the patient, but was held back in reserve for unknown reasons until the last few episodes of this series, but could have prevented thousands of deaths).
There are many side episodes and comic relief plots also involving the new mini tanks which have extremely sensitive artificial intelligence and start to develop their own personalities and possibly emotions towards the second in command of section 9 ( "Mr Bato" they start calling him), it seems he becomes quite attached to them too and the series turns a bit darker when they are taken back to the factory for advancing to fast on a mental level. They add a certain naivety and innocence to the program and fill in gaps which maybe aren't obvious to first time viewers of ghost in shell.
There are a lot of questions in this series that probe the existence of artificial intelligence and ask what separates man from machine when the machine starts to develop human emotions and characteristics, and if a human become almost 100% prosthetic physically does your body still contain a soul? It is quite controversial at times questioning religion and certain scientific methods which maybe are a bit of a no go area in the real world.
The computer graphics and animation look stunning, the characters all have their individual quirks and preferences which then develop and subtly delves the viewer into the history and background of each member of section 9, and if not in this series then in the second GIG.
The music flows well and contributes tension and excitement. It also manipulates the emotions of the viewer and intrigues you to watch on.
The introduction scenes are beautifully colorful and explains small sections of the commanders past very briefly, the music used is quite hard to describe maybe techno mixed with choir singers, it reminds me of something moby would release.
The ending theme is very simple but the music is very rock inspired and with English vocals which may have ambiguous meanings, but is a pleasure to listen to and lessens tension between episodes if you are watching multiple episodes at a time.
The series is has a very unique charm and there are times when you can totally emphasis with the tragedies in the characters lives and feel almost moved by their grief and frustration.
There is quite a lot of violence and adult themes in this series, it is also quite hard o follow unless you pay close attention so over 15s only.
This also appears on ciao under the same user name.
Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, 'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex' takes viewers to futuristic society where technology has saturated citizens' daily lives. Along with the new technology comes new types of crime that exploits it, but female cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team of police, Section 9, devote their lives to chasing criminals, both on land and in cyberspace. In these episodes, the team must figure out the secret behind a spate of android suicides, stop a far-reaching hacker conspiracy, solve a hostage situation, and much more!