Maybe I do have a favorite series? – GITS:SAC

Remember that one post I wrote about a while ago how I don’t have a favorite series? I could have been lying about that fact. Most likely lying to myself to be a little fairer towards other series. Looking through that post about, all those thought processes toward not building a list of my favorite shows still stands. For example, I’ve watched Chihayafuru and Natsume’s Book of Friends this year and those series are definitely going to be amongst my list of favorite series that I would recommend to anyone. The thing here is that there has always been a series that I’ve compared everything to. I think I am going to stop beating myself around the bush here. It’s Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I feel like many of you were expecting a Gundam series. Close, but Stand Alone Complex is nearly perfect to me. It has everything I want to see in an anime series and more. My most recent OWLS post has helped me realize this.

(Just to let you guys know, this post will not be spoiler free at all.)

section 9

Before I dig into the specifics of this series, maybe some added context is needed here. I mean, what is the point of talking about a series if all parties involved don’t know what the hell I am talking about. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a cyberpunk series centered around a group of former military cyborgs and a normal ex policeman named Togusa called Section 9 under their leader named Aramaki. The two cyborgs that you really need to know are Motoko Kusanagi who is the Major and Batou, the ex cyrborg special forces member, but everyone is a specialist in something. Section 9 are experts in cyber warfare in everything way possible. That could be actual warfare that require stealth missions to anti hacking methods. The main case of the first season was centered this mysterious hacker called The Laughing Man while Second Gig is first centered around a mystery group called the Individual Eleven at first and becomes a political case centered around immigration afterward. Really solid stuff that I love.

Ghost in the Shell Laughing Man

I think the best part of this series is that nothing is exactly as you would expect it to be. Especially arc conclusions. I feel like some people would consider that to be pretentious, but I think everything is earned here.  If Ghost in the Shell was a standard anime, the Laughing Man case would just be resolved after he is caught. The ending result is far more complicated than that and that’s why I love. Especially with the build up from multiple incidents that show this case is just a run of the mill case. There are plenty of political things behind it. I will say that the second season is more straight forward with the plot then the first, which is sort of a detriment, but it’s still just as interesting and has larger implications to it all. The villain has an obvious villain face, but he is incredibly interesting and plays the political game in wonderful ways that makes him extra devious. That and the other added craziness in this story. Just as interesting as part one in my eyes.

To add more to this aspect, let’s talk about Ghost in the Shell’s world building. In story structure, it’s very similar to Cowboy Bebop. You know, some story episodes with everything else being one offs to explore the anime’s world more. The difference between the two is that Stand Alone Complex takes place in a city while Cowboy Bebop takes place around a universe. This thing feels more natural towards Ghost in the Shell, because it’s in a more central area instead of exploring little bits and pieces of an entire solar system. It means you know the city Stand Alone Complex takes place in and you can possibly live and breathe in it. Section 9’s cases not only explore the political complexities involved in the city, but the cities underworld as well. Also, considered that this series explores cyberization and cyborgs, we see all the effects it has on society. You know, your brain diseases AND certain fetishes that people acquire from the whole thing. Like holy crap, what other series takes its world building to that level in fifty episodes? Mobile Suit Gundam’s Universal Century needed tons of series to explore its universe as completely and Legend of the Galactic Heroes has 110 episodes that it needed to accomplish all of it.

stand alone complex city

Should we talk about the visuals and the audio aspects of this show? I honestly don’t think that I have to, because a lot of quick google and youtube searches will give anyone a good feel for what this show has to offer. Still, everything about this show is amazing. This series came from the early 2000’s, but every single visual aspect about Stand Alone Complex could easily fit into whatever is produced today. The characters designs are great, everything about the background art is great, the animation is out of this world, and everything else. Should I also mention the soundtrack is made by Yoko Kanno? Do I have to say how amazing the music is now, because Yoko Kanno is an instant mark of quality to me. The less obvious thing that NO ONE ever talks about is the English dub. It’s perfect. Every single voice fits their characters with a solid voice cast of Crispin Freeman, Mary Elizabeth McGlyn, and Richard Epcar amongst other people. You don’t see an all-star voice cast like that very often anymore, so this is the stuff of legends to me. I love every single one of them.

I know that I have been gushing about this show as much as possible, but it does have a weakness. It’s characters. As big as section nine is, the show only focuses on Chief Aramaki, Batou, Togusa, Major Kusanagi, and the Tachikomas. You know, those small spider tank things that Section 9 rides around on? They have the voices of children and are completely adorable to me. The other members do have an episode to flesh them out a little more, but it’s never enough for me really. Still, there is a lot of interesting dynamics between the well-established characters to make everything work for me. Togusa and Batou has an interesting repertoire considering that they are exact opposites of each other and tackle cases better because of it. The Major and Batou also have fun interactions with each other. Chief Aramaki is the leader, so you see how hard he pushes his workers and his own back story. I should also mention that the major’s sexuality is explored as well.  Just fun stuff all around really. Oh yeah, the Tachikomas. Those are more interesting when discussing the show’s A.I. element I think.

tachkikoma.png

Speaking of A.I. stories, those are some of my favorite kind of stories in science fiction. Here we are with that sense of exploration all over the place combined with what conceptualizing what makes a person a person. In their full cyborg bodies, Major Kusanagi and Batou still carry some of their human traits with them. Our major finds a cyborg body that is able to wear her keepsake wrist watch and Batou still uses work out equipment or some reason. Things they don’t need as a cyborg, but it reminds them of their humanity. Then we go over the Tachikomas. You know, those adorable spider tanks that have the voice of kids? If there is a real sense of exploration of humanity, it’s with them. First, they are spider tanks that say some quirky things to define who they are and then they only get smarter. They start asking for souvenirs from the Major’s travels and eventually start philosophizing about their existence and existence itself. Quite a jump, don’t you think? Yeah, and the series addresses that. Nobody knows what is going on with them, not even their creator. Yet, these “children” are some of the most dedicated soldiers in the Section Nine force and they deserve all the respect they can get. Maybe they are annoying to some, but I love them.

While I can admit that this show isn’t flawless, despite all the things I’ve said and haven’t said in this post, I can’t help but admit that Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is my favorite anime. I don’t think I can hide that anymore. I do admit that the series is more involved than a lot of anime series and requires a little leg work from the viewer, but the result is more than worth it here. Call Stand Alone Complex pretentious if you want to, but I can’t see it that way in my eyes. To me, the best sort of media always requires some audience participation too because it means that the entertainment is not mindless. Great characters caught up in action spectacle is something that I adore, but that show will get an additional bonus from me if that show also is exploring some heavy themes along the side of all of that good material. That is Stand Alone Complex to me and I love it to death and back.


 

12 Comments Add yours

  1. raistlin0903 says:

    I pretty much love all things Ghost in the Shell and I love this series as much as you do. Honestly don’t even know if it is my favorite animeseries (it certainly contains my favorite character: the Major), but it’s definitely terrific. And I can never read too much about it, so that’s why I really enjoyed this post! It’s been quite a while since I last saw this series, so maybe it’s time for a rewatch at some point next year 😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      The Major is enough of a reason to love Ghost in the Shell! And you’re right about Ghost in the Shell just having such amazing installments.

      I’m glad you read this and I think I need to rewatch it soon as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. RisefromAshes says:

    A fellow GITS fan! I rarely have talked about it on my blog (a true shame on my part) but I’d honestly put GITS as my favorite franchise in all of anime. Stuff that makes you think, philosophize about what it really means to be human, and hey throwing out there that Motoko is a canon bi-sexual helps out a bit too.

    Really loved seeing your thoughts, especially about the Tachikoma’s since they’re so cute!! and incredibly important to help balance out the heavier parts of the series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      I’ve rarely talked about it as well, which is something I’ve been trying to fix a little bit. And I agree with you, it is one of my favorite franchises at well. Everything you say is right about the show.

      The Tachikomas are the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A Library Archivist says:

    GITS has some history in it. Decades ago I was a member of the Chatsubo Usenet group. We were descended from the original Mirrorshades Group, which was responsible for Snow Crash and Neuromancer and Synners, written at the same time as Blade Runner was in production in the early 80’s. Those books are the direct ancestor of GITS original Manga and its first movie, which led to the tv series we both like. Matrix was crap, and stole without credit from GITS movie.

    The TV show was the first good cyberpunk series, and made Neuromancer very unlikely to be made despite it being reasonable now with current technology. There’s substantial parts in freefall and space, and you’d need heavy amounts of animation for backgrounds to really work and give you the sense of a post-nuclear war recovery and all the abandoned domes. Much like Rowling didn’t understand money, Gibson didn’t understand time and insisted that Neuromancer took place in 2020 despite needing 170 years to cover the construction, use, reuse, and decay of all the stuff in his setting for it to be even remotely plausible. GITS took that idea and made it more reasonable, and did it before Hollywood stopped snorting cocaine and bought priuses to distract from the rapes. Hollywood is too mainstream to ever make a good cyberpunk movie. Matrix isn’t a good cyberpunk movie. Its an action movie. And Ready Player One was a nostalgia movie with way too much SJW preaching, and it bombed because of it. The book didn’t have much of that and was more interested in the history of 80’s culture. So not really cyberpunk.

    GITS is astonishingly good anime, and GITS belongs on any fan Top 10 list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WingKing says:

      I don’t disagree with you that Hollywood’s track record with cyberpunk is spotty at best, but Ready Player One was hardly a bomb. It took in almost 600 million in Worldwide box office (220 million in China alone), which was way over its “break-even” number, and it’s currently the 8th highest grossing movie of the year.

      Like

      1. A Library Archivist says:

        Didn’t it bomb in America, where those movies were supposed to be the start of a golden age of reboots? I actually like the book and audiobook, but I can’t be bothered with the offensive politics they turned it into, according to all the reviews I read. I’m not surprised it did well in China though. They intentionally make different scenes and cuts so the Chinese edition will sell better there. Its the marketing and ticket/DVD/BluRay sales in the end. I still think we haven’t have a cyberpunk movie, and Matrix pretty well spoiled it. The GITS live action was appalling. “You’re a special snowflake body model” crap is the opposite of the source material. The Major uses that body because it is generic, not because its special. She’s just that good at controlling it because she’s been in one since she was 5-6 years old. Survived a plane crash with only her brain intact. There was an entire episode about that in 2nd GIG.

        Like

  4. Jon Spencer says:

    GiTS, especially the SAC series is fantastic. I can see why this one would be your favorite for sure, even without you having just explained it. Enjoyed reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scott says:

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

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