It’s always hard to separate one’s own feelings of nostalgia and love when a newer product of something like you appears. The thing is more likely than not going to be the same thing that you like beforehand. A new creator will walk into a franchise with different ideas and a way of thinking and nothing ever feels the way you did before. I feel like I’ve been suffering through this a lot with franchises that I love for a while now. Separating the feelings, I have for a lot of franchises and now Stand Alone Complex has been hard. Stand Alone Complex is my favorite anime. Look at this list and the truth will be revealed. Did you not expect this? Still, this post is my attempt at trying to do just that. gulp I’m going to fail, aren’t I?
Spoiler Alerts All Around. I won’t mention everything and all characters involved, but a lot of ideas and plot things will be ruined for people who care I suppose.
In the year 2045, eleven years after Solid State Society, the economics of the world have changed. After an event called the Simultaneous Global Default, the economy world is thrown into a crisis when all paper and electric money throughout the world are devalued. The top four nations of the world engage in an endless “Sustain-able War” to keep the global economy going. To shake this up even further, a new type of humans whose cyber brains are in over drive called “Post Humans” are living factors that disrupt the economy of the world itself. Will Section 9 reform from whatever happened years ago and handle this conflict?
I really mean that by the way. In the beginning of this anime, Major Makoto Kusanagi (leader) , Batou (former marine), Saito (sniper), and Ishikawa (hacker) with a new, African American member whose code name is Standard (and is made fun of a lot because of his incompetence and lack of skill?) are wandering around Palm Springs and places near it as mercenaries. They follow the missions provided for them by the United States Government to handle Post Humans. Hopefully. Of course, this threat is somehow beyond them in a crisis they didn’t need. Togusa, human and newly divorced, is assigned by Aramaki to save them and the gang is united together once again in Japan.
Ok, first thing is first for this one. The CG visuals of SAC_2045 are questionable at best. I knew that the visuals would be cg because one of the directors behind this series was the guy behind the CG Appleseed movies. Movies that at least look better than this. I do think that the vehicles, Tachikomas, tanks, helicopters, other vehicles, and guns looked great and possibly the best they’ve looked from a CG perspective. The character models themselves were pretty bad. I don’t just mean the models themselves because some of these characters are cyborgs and can have whatever body they want, but the way they moved in general? It’s better them some cg things on Netflix, but there was something that just feels off here.
We could mention about all the errors like the lip flaps never fitting, the various obvious non flowing CG except for Togusa’s second layer of hair that moves all together, or the unfinished fights that look awkward, I mean everyone else has. Why would I. (Oops). Still, the shine on the skin of our human characters is so off. I don’t mind the Major and Batou having a shine to them because they are fully cyberized and are supposed to look off, but not the human characters. It’s just so jarring and questionable. Why would you make something that was originally, mostly traditionally animated into CG? It’s just a jarring experience.
That awkwardness leans into the first half of SAC_2045 too. I remember Taku mentioning in his post that there might have been some dealings to make this piece of anime happen and I can believe that. The first episode alone has a major tonal problem from everything we’ve seen from SAC up to this point. I don’t mind the idea of Section 9 breaking up and some of them becoming mercenaries. It’s been 11 years, things can happen. Did this opening half have to be the most American forward and on the nose thing possible though? Major Kusanagi stopping on the way to palm springs and drinking a cold one felt wrong, same with obvious college football kids suffering from tuition problems, or attacking a 1%ers house to kidnap him because he is a “Post Human”. Plus, what was going on with how they treated their new recruit? The poor guy needed much more respect then he was given.
There is nothing wrong with world building. Not at all. There is also nothing wrong with Ghost in the Shell being political again because Stand Alone Complex has always been political. The first season dealt using the Laughing Man as a figure head for a large amount of crimes while medical companies and politicians were pushing around money behind the scenes. 2nd gig dealt with a refugee crisis that some members of government paid for so their own political interests to happen and possibly sell out Japan in the first place for their own interests. 2nd gig is more on the nose, but the story was still excellent. This story, at least at first, was dubious at best. I could pull out older SAC maps where Palm Springs belongs in Russo-USA and not the United States in general so none of this makes sense, but that would be nitpicking. Oh, another woops.
With out of character familiar characters and a very on the nose look at our current political environment in a fictional universe without making it feel like it belongs. I think you can see why this first half didn’t feel right to fans. We were saddled with all of this upfront rather than leading up to it naturally. Wasn’t this supposed to be a criminal investigation series? Maybe this was to show us how the world felt different from 11 years ago by putting characters in different situations the audience is used to and that makes sense. That could have been handled better. Even with the normal voice actors in play after all these years, it didn’t work that well. The ending product here smelled and tasted wrong for a lot of reasons.
The second half of SAC_2045 feels like an attempt to recover from the first half. As in, it feels better and at least more Stand Alone Complex like. We see more of the world, how people are affected more on a connective and human level from the Post Humans and the Sustainable World other then increasing prices of food in the middle of a desert. People are actual people with problems and not just figure heads of problems. How was a person affected by all of this, what are the personal and political problems for this happening, and so on. With a new and reformed focus on the story, everything felt much more naturally. Section 9 is back and investigating the incidents in question. Somehow, it just works.
I do like how some aspects of the first half leak into the first half. Well, for the most part after all. The Major Makoto Kusanagi, Batou, Saito, and Ishikawa were mercenaries still after all. It was nice to see that being respected in the second half and not just thrown out with an instant reforming of the legendary Section 9. The Prime Minister had to make a deal with Makoto Kusanagi to work for him. The power of this situation was on her crew’s side on all angles. Not even US interest could hurt this part. You know what? That felt right. I’m glad that the questionable-ness of the first half didn’t just automatically disappear. A lot of terms and characters from the first half were put into their place in the second half how you would expect them to be.
This is also where characters really felt like themselves in Section 9. There relationships were the same, but pushed around by eleven years of who knows what. The Major and Togusa’s relationship was always interesting to explore and it felt like that changed and didn’t change at the same time. Same with Batou and Togusa. In fact, that’s everyone and Togusa. It’s almost like he’s the main character after all. The addition of a new character, Pryne, wasn’t bad either. She’s cutesy and a little too into Batou (who isn’t though?), but she somehow fits into these overly serious police people on screen. Someone who talks like a Tachikoma does or at least understands their language and how they think is always pretty interesting after all. Well, here it is.
In the end, I am giving Ghost in the SAC SAC_2045 (Part 1) an ok. I do think there are possibilities here for the sequel that could make it great, but this part is held down by so many questionable and bad things to give it any other rank here. It’s not bad, because there is some good here. You could have fun with this if you haven’t seen Stand Alone Complex before or even just ignore a lot of the background series when watching this, but it’s still a part of Stand Alone Complex and it’s universe. That singular image of the Prime Minister from 2nd Gig in the Prime Minister’s building says that it does, not just the characters and their interactions. I don’t think you can instantly disconnect the two. With the second half as interesting as it was, I have hope for the future. That’s all I need to continue.