Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Kōkaku Kidōtai Stand Alone Complex)

Let's say that you just watched the original theatrical film (reviewed here) for the first time. You undoubtedly are intrigued by the Ghost in the Shell universe and want to experience more. So what do you do? Well, there's always the manga... if you can find it at a reasonable price and in the unedited version. But, more often than not, you'll probably go the anime route. If that's so then you'll be in luck. Again, this is assuming you can find an edition at a reasonable price that isn't bootlegged.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is the animated series that debuted in Japan in 2002. However, it'd be a bit of a misnomer to say this series either expands on the original movie or acts as a sequel to it. This series is a separate entity compared to the movie. If you want a sequel to the movie then you'll need to look for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (not to be confused with the re-released version of the original motion picture known as Ghost in the Shell 2.0).

This series introduces us to the characters we know from the film, but this time the world is slightly different. There's no sign of the Puppet Master and the conclusion of the film has no impact on this series. Again, treat them as different creatures.

The Major is more or less our main character of this series, but she's not quite the same character she was in the movie. In this series she's still a kickass cyborg with a female body, but she's not as morose. And there's also nary a shot of boobies. Unfortunately, the television treatment means that she doesn't have to take her clothes off in order to do her cool stealth invisibility thing. But this also means that Batou and a few others can turn invisible without needing to be naked, too. Female viewers might be disappointed by that, but I am grateful. I'll take no boobies if it means not having to see some guy's schlong in the process.

Jokes aside, this incarnation of the story does have some more overt sexual ideals. The genetically enhanced humans and cyborgs behave more sexually. It's subtle in most ways, but it's there. There's a scene in particular where the Major has two women in her room. These women are clearly more than just servants, if you catch my meaning. Apparently, the Major does have a night life. 

The Major also gets along better with her teammates, it seems. She even socializes somewhat. 

As a cyborg it seems bizarre to indulge in human behavior and on some level even the Major knows that. That's why the Major is willing to change her body or her memories if her duties force her to do so. However, something human does seem to remain inside of the Major, or her "ghost," if you will. The same goes for all of the characters. 

When not dealing with the Laughing Man or other terrorists, the main members of Public Security Section 9 get some much needed characterization. This includes Batou, Togusa, the Major, Aramaki, and even the Tachikomas (also known as "think-tanks.") In fact, I'd argue that the Tachikomas get the most characterization out of anybody and they aren't even human or of human origin. 

Of course, this series is really all about the search for the Laughing Man and the "Stand Alone Complex." With everything going on, it can be tough to forget this show actually has a cool plot. 

Despite all of the cyberpunk tech stuff, this series is a mystery at heart. Who is the Laughing Man? What did he do? Why did he do it? The members of Public Security Section 9 are supposed to solve these mysteries, but things get more complicated as the Laughing Man gains more acceptance among the public and a "stand alone complex" is created. 

The series is divided into two types of episodes. One is called the "stand alone" episodes and the other is called the "complex" episodes. The "complex" episodes generally deal directly with the Laughing Man mystery while the other "stand alone" episodes are essentially side missions or character episodes. 

The "complex" episodes were later edited into an OVA called The Laughing Man, but that doesn't mean the "stand alone" episodes aren't important or really good. This entire series is excellent. The OVA was just more of a marketing thing, I imagine. Especially since it featured some original footage, too. 

The series contains a great soundtrack written by the very talented Kanno Yoko and a fantastic opening song sung by the late Origa. 

Of course, the series has some fantastic dialog. This series had to have really good dialog, too. The entire story is the dialog. When watching this anime you'll realize just how incredible it is. The guys that wrote this stuff must have spent so much time writing in order to convey the information properly and concisely. So many of the phrases are complicated, too. The voice actors did one helluva job saying these things while also making their characters more than just drawings on a page. And what beautiful drawings there are, too. 

Speaking of writing, this series is bound to get someone interested in the works of J.D. Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye. There are plenty of references to Salinger, but the most famous is probably the "Laughing Man" name and the quote on the Laughing Man's logo. 

Certainly, this wouldn't be the first time that anime has gotten me interested in literature so I imagine that I'll spend some time with Salinger's works in due time. 

There's a reason this is one of the classics. It makes me want to read literature, by God. 

Obviously, a review for Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig will be coming up shortly. 

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