r#104 – ghost in the shell: stand alone complex 2nd gig

Nesha here, and welcome to #meo404, everybody! This post is going to be this week anime perspective of mine, and we’re going to be talking about the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Hopefully, you have got the chance to watch the first season of this series, because it really-really is good classic anime series; great storyline, dope soundtrack, and even more … an extreme level of character development. If you have not watched it, then I suggest you to read my review towards it (click the link above) and get the idea of how good this classic series is.

Okay now, let’s get right into its second season!

synopsis.

Two years have passed since the Umibozu —a special forces group, a black operations unit in the employ of Japan Maritime Self Defense Force— had forcefully disbanded Section 9. But in that tenuous time, Section 9’s members have regrouped together and their headquarters have been reconstructed secretly, now is in the way of trying to resume their previous role as the special forces team specializing in the cyber warfare. However, the reformed group is now operating without the consent of the Japanese government because the Special Forces Restriction Bill forced the group to separate.

But this decision changes abruptly when a skyscraper containing the Chinese Embassy is stormed by a group of terrorists identifying themselves as the Individual Eleven. As the summoned special assault team can’t handle the situation to the point where their own SAT officers are captured in the interior of the crime scenes, the newly-elected Prime Minister named Kayabuki Youko takes matters into her own hands and instructs Aramaki to have Section 9 storm the scenes with the promise that she will reinstate Section 9 if the team can resolve the incident without casualties among the strategically-positioned hostages. From that point onward, Section 9 officially got back on the surface as an official unit of law enforcement once again.

In the mean time, the setting is backed by the remnants of the Third and the Fourth World Wars, a situation where about three million Asians became refugees and invited into Japan as a source of cheap labor; which is a concept that based on the reclaimed island of Dejima —a Dutch trading post notable for being a single place of direct trade and exchange between Japan and the outside world during the Edo period. Later on, these refugees soon became unemployed in the post-war period to the point where their social unrest borders on the outright war. This second season mainly explores the political and social ramifications of the two world wars that took place prior to the events of the series —centered on the case famous by the name of Individual Eleven; a group which seems to be modeling themselves after a real-life disturbing event known as the ‘May 15 Incident’ where a group of naval officers assassinated the Prime Minister of Japan and then gained the support of the public in an attempt to stir up the refugees’ spirits by fighting for them against the Japanese government.

individual eleven.

So now we’re moving a little bit from the synopsis to discuss more about this … thing, known as the Individual Eleven. In short, the Individual Eleven is going to be revealed as a fake file/essay that contained a cyberbrain virus which has only affected those who were ‘virgins’ before the age of cyberization. And before everyone else, one of the rare survivors is Kuze Hideo; a full cyborg who has a hidden immunity by reasons of his cyberization came before he lost his virginity. Kuze is also a usual lone among the ‘prostheticized individuals’ since he has chosen to have a sculpted face that is far more difficult to manipulate than a standard prosthetic face, this condition has made his appearance pretty unique as his mouth typically will remain motionless while he speaks.

Borma, the resident explosives specialist from Section 9 was infected once by this called virus, while our main character Kusanagi Makoto soon to be revealed as one individual who has the same immunity towards the virus just like Kuze Hideo. Hack or to be hacked, the virus will remain dormant up until the victim downloads all of the other ten essays originally created by a political theorist famous by the name of Patrick Sylvester, until then the program executes and the person infected will commit a suicide.

The whole discussion of Section 9’s members then started to refer this as a ‘social virus’ as they began to realize there is a mysterious someone who is secretly leaking the virus to create the Individual Eleven ideology and construct a completely new stand-alone complex, a highly organized conspiracy that is comprehensively evil against the government. However, it seems that the virus itself does not cause the members of the terrorist to commit the acts of terror, but it actually is their own political view which causes them to do so. The virus only seems to be there to infect/encourage the possible unwilling martyrs to kill each other as the act of mass suicides. The case then continues, revealing the possibility of other people such as certain refugees who committed suicide bombings could also be considered as the parts of the Individual Eleven, considering that after they got their criminal profiling, they are actually presumed as people who were infected by the virus.

settings.

So as I said before, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG is created as the sequel of its first season, but besides that, 2nd GIG also still based on Shirow Masamune’s Ghost in the Shell manga series, just as its still being an alternative setting/universe of the very first original movie Ghost in the Shell. And just like its first season and its basic premise, this 2nd GIG also uncovers a significant amount of complicated things especially those background stories that were only vaguely talked about during the first season of the series, these are include the informations of the two world wars which happened between the turn of the century and 2032 where the series takes place.

Explained casually that according to our main characters’ perspective, there were two major conflicts that changed the world politics; the first being nuclear World War III, and the other one being the non-nuclear World War IV which also known as the Second Vietnam War. As the results of these wars, the increase of independent states and sovereign regions were —and maybe still— growing from the chaos of the last 30 years, though the world remains divided but, several locations only exists to be occupied by the people whose their sovereignty is in question; in those certain locations even, no one is really sure who owns or governs its place anymore.

These concepts and back stories of wars were initiated with the series’ story concept —Oshii Mamoru— who had contributed with his ideas to the approach of the entire series and initial planning stages, leading a famous Japanese anime director and animator Murase Shukou stated that they were initially going to concentrate on how Japan was going to participate in war after 9/11 as intended to portray a fictional future.

In other words, we simply could not ignore the way society had evolved since the events of nine eleven; that was the approach we decide to take, and I tried to illustrate a 21st century [near future] war. But to tell you the truth, I could not avoid feeding back into modern reality.

— in an interview with Kamiyama Kenji (Director of this series)

But of course, this is just a fictional history … everything in this series is a purely fictional story even though some of them are based on the real-life conflicts and the potential cyberpunk footing of the near future. And to be honest, I haven’t even completely explain you all the main backstories, such as the development of the ‘Japanese Miracle’ and the rise of the American Empire in 2015, the Mexican War and the South American campaign in 2020, the Peninsular War in 2024 … to even more and more details that I will just shutsstsss so I could let you curious and find out all about that yourself when you watch this 2nd GIG.

But anyway, I just want to remind you that although the series is covering a broad concept and so many interesting topics to explore, all of this is just simply a fiction; but then I realize, that is exactly what made the series very enjoyable to watch, the creativities that are relatable to our real-life and even possibly our future life as well. Overall, it was fun watching this series, but let me tell you that Stand Alone Complex —especially its 2nd GIG— is actually not for everyone. But I will save this discussion for the end of this review … so read on, my friend!

script.

First of all, I don’t know if you’re still aware that all of the background histories I just explained above are only the setups to backing up the main plot of the story; in the other words, it’s not even the main ‘comedy’ the series tries to tell. So what is the real story is about?

In the first season of Stand Alone Complex, the members of Section 9 were focused on the traditional mystery events surrounding the case known as the Laughing Man; an individual who was causing havoc leading to the exposure of a massive conspiracy between the government and some powerful corporations. When it comes to this second series, Stand Alone Complex presented itself a little bit more aggressive by taking its conspiracy to a higher level, with the various individuals who are attempting to use an ideology and sentiment to gain political power. This is in my opinion, actually a pretty brilliant concept to adapt to a story, but could also be a disaster if they don’t execute it right.

But to be honest, I want to tell you from the start that they have failed to deliver this premise … and even more sadly, the way of the story told is quite different from the way of how its first season have been told, and that is something I very much disappointed. In seriousness, one of the main reasons I have enjoyed the continues series of Ghost in the Shell is how the series conceptualize the dystopia future and even more, how technology affects the world around the characters in it. But the twist is, they have managed to adjust that concept with issues that are not distinct from the real-life issues people are facing today. Here in the 2nd GIG, we’re introduced to the overpopulated Japan where immigrants from the last two world wars are rushed to fill in every vacant building to even govern their own state and nation to set apart from Japan itself as a country —this outlook is mainly there inside the immigrants’ perception because they are looking for their rights and citizenship while the initial Japanese people are trying to pitch them out to reduce the increased taxes needed to support services of the even unknown immigrants.

But of course, the story is not revolving around the huge numbers of civilians, even the act of terrors are being done by only a small group of people that are known by the name of Individual Eleven, leads by the main villain who is later known as Kuze Hideo. With this set, the show has given the opportunity to develop the characters even more and present a ‘dance’ full of tenses and a brilliant game of chasing mystery —just like how the first season was presented. But sadly, this second season does not quite hit the same bar of excellence as its predecessor. Though Kuze has been revealed fairly early in the series, the dance between him and the Section 9 is not that powerful to the point where for some people, Kuze’s attempts of terror will be stepped over as a forgettable episode and the whole undertaking of terrorism will leave you not interested.

From where I have seen it, it was caused mainly by the set that made the villain seem distant and almost detached from the story. There is almost zero encounter between Section 9 and Kuze —probably just once or twice throughout the series before the last episode— there is also no face to face conversation between them, not even in the virtual network, not until the last episode. Section 9 is almost like chasing an unknown ghost, while it sounds interesting but in reality, chasing a villain who only known as someone who is full cyborged and nothing else will never give any weight to the story. It’s disappointing because their dance could be performed better, that’s the point I want to make. Anyway, we’ll talk about the characters later.

So, the last thing to talk about in regards of the script is the fairly unique episode formats; whereas the previous season used two different episode types known as Stand Alone in order to explore the world and concept around the main story, and Complex where the show focused on the progression of the main story … here in the second season, they used three different types known as Dividual, Individual, and Dual. In short, let’s just say that the Individual episodes are focused on exploring the existence of Individual Eleven and the main plot itself, while the Dividual episodes are focused in telling any independent storylines and self-contained plots which can be considered as character-focused pieces … and it leaves us with the last format, all the Dual episodes are focused on the Cabinet Intelligence Service where the treads are spreads by a character known as Kazundo Gouda, which made these Dual episodes as relevant to the plot as the Individual episodes.

Anyway, you can forget all of these episode formats if it’s too overwhelming to digest; you can just simply watch the show and enjoy it.

cast.

As you may have guessed, the characters are the ones which lowered my expectation in almost every episode by the time I was watching this series. Because the characters are the key point of the story itself, and when the story failed to bring the audience what they expect, the show has failed all the way. But that is not the case, of course, Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG is not failed all the way. But just imagine you have been told about this amazing story about the world wars two that has been happening, and then the immigrants’ issues where Japan is now in chaos, together with the same level of greatness of the Individual Eleven’s complicated ideology … but then you watch the actual show and realize that the narrative doesn’t deliver an equal level of its background information; you must be disappointed. My point is that the characters have failed to come out big from this amazing background story, even those backdrops are almost like completely meaningless despite being used only for the characters’ material conversations.

But of course, these characters are not completely useless, not at all. Some of the Dividual episodes actually are good even though are not directly affect the main storyline, they have managed to build out strong one focused character in each episode and give us the audience some more reasons why we should love them. My best pick is the backstory of the least cyberized member of Section 9, Saito; explaining the reason why a great sniper who can handle any automatic firearm with deadly accuracy and precision joined Section 9 and fighting alongside with Major Kusanagi, it was absolutely one of the best highlights of the series. Moreover, his episode happened to be explaining also about the cause of why his left eye must be replaced with a prosthetic eye that later famous by the name of Hawkeye —it’s just too cool to be missed.

But the villain though, I don’t even think that my time is worth to be taken to write about him. He’s just simply too simple, while of course there are a few interconnected stories and rumours about him here and there throughout the series, but nothing has made me pay any interests for him; not pity, not proud, not sad, he’s unconditionally have not made me impressed at all. He’s just … oh, yeah, of course, okay and nothing else; even at some point of an episode, I felt weird of the way he talks even though I already paying attention to him since the beginning —as an anime reviewer— but then realize that he’s literally not a character I was imagined; his character somehow seems always like in needs of establishment.

visual and arts.

When it comes to its visual and animation, the first thing that comes immediately into mind is the CGI that has been used less often in the show, though I don’t know if maybe it’s actually has been used more subtly, what I understand is that I noticed it less often; either is the truth, it’s definitely a good point for the series considering that the visual is still stands out and still one of the best things happened to the series. And remember, it is released in 2004 … I bet you won’t guess this was released in that year if I don’t tell you about it. For the comparison to its first season of the series, I can say that the 2nd GIG is up to par with the first one, but not just quite yet.

Again, the soundtrack for the series was composed by Yoko Kanno who is already best known for her work on the soundtracks of anime films, television series, to even live-action films and video games. While the opening theme for this 2nd GIG is once again performed by Origa who have filled the first season’s opening theme as well, the ending theme is one of the dopest ending songs —titled “Living Inside the Shell” that performed by Steve Conte; an American musician, songwriter, guitarist, music producer, and basically an artist focused in NYC.

The character voices are largely unchanged from its first GIG, which I of course have no problem with that at all. Though the narrative that forced our characters to not interact as close as in the first season still bothers me a lot, but the casts’ performance is not the source of this lacking quality of the narrative. Overall, their voice acting are still great, Tachikoma especially. Though by the way, I think the movement of Tachikoma is a little bit too much; I mean, the interactions between them are quite overwhelming, when a bunch of Tachikomas are moving around only up and down like a bunch of abnormal robots, it’s a bit too weird —but that’s it, nothing is wrong with Tachikoma except that and only that.

closing – nesha’s final verdict.

This is a long review, I know; maybe because the franchise of Ghost in the Shell always has literally so many huge and broad things to explore, and the only sad thing about this second season is that all the interesting concepts have already happened long before the story takes place. It was a great feeling to finally know all the amazing backstories, but that’s not what I signed up for; with the audience’s low interests towards the current issues the show is facing, all of that backstories couldn’t be matter anymore.

So turned out, this second season is not as great as its predecessor and I can totally understand if you’d be bored and losing interest towards this whole 26 episodes. I totally can feel you. But still, I haven’t skipped one opening and ending theme and may this can prove you how dope their soundtrack choices are. In the last episode, a new ending theme is introduced; “Christmas in the Silent Forest” and it was dope just like the one before that. A few titles of insert songs that are also dope exists here and there as well —I even cried when Tachikoma sang a happy song while they launch themselves as a suicide missile … such a sad scene in the last episode.

I guess this is not an anime for everyone to watch. I can see that for people who are new into watching the sci-fi and seinen series, this anime might turn out to be a great introduction to an amazing new world for them, most people even like it very much. While for a fan of Ghost in the Shell franchise, I could see also how they would pick up the stress and the struggles of watching this as positive things. But as for me —someone who understands a little bit better than others— this show tends to leave me bored and even throw me to sleep. With the three different episode formats, it’s very hard to say that the pacing is balanced, it’s even actually far off. In the other hand, the narrative is not creative enough to get you drown in the story, and that is just sad. While the last thing that is too sad to be true; I couldn’t notice any plot twist except one that is totally expected.

So yeah, that was it.

additional pieces of information.

material resources: http://www.production-ig.co.jp/contents/works_sp/1120_/index.htmlAllcinemaANNOfficial pageWiki (en)AnimeNfoMAL, and MAL (S2-S27)

*this image is available to be downloaded!

Okay so, maybe the reason I’m explaining you this anime and talking about what types of people who most likely would enjoy this at best, or even explaining how people would enjoy this series in general; I think it’s interesting to know how a single anime show can maturing a person’s perspective towards the whole anime industry. It happens a lot to people to find their own specific niche in watching animes, read a manga, or even do anything otaku. In the future, more anime show like this 2nd GIG will come out; ones that will be giving a various type of perception towards its audience … and to be honest, I’m more interested in reviewing those animes rather than ones that give the majority of people the same feeling when they watch it.

So there you have it my full perspective towards this series, though trust me when I say this to you; I haven’t even broken down everything that is happened in the show. I guess you people who enjoy backstories and storytelling from anime they watch, those people will definitely enjoying this series more than me. Because once again I say this, Ghost in the Shell is an amazing world to explore.

Okay, that’s it. Do like this post if you’ve enjoyed reading my review, do comment down below to let me know your thoughts towards everything I pointed out. I’ll catch with you again, I guess this week or whenever I will post next. Keep watching anime, and I’ll see you again next time … bai-bai now~

© content written by nesha5971
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5 responses to “r#104 – ghost in the shell: stand alone complex 2nd gig

  1. Pingback: I’ve Reached A 100 Followers! (A Short Reflection and Thank You) – Manga/Anime Essays·

  2. I have thoroughly enjoyed every incarnation of Ghost in the Shell, even the live action movie. None of them quite measure up to Laughing Man or the original anime. Doesn’t get much better than that.

    • i am glad that you have enjoyed this series, stand alone complex is definitely one of the greatest classics. though i still think that its 2nd gig have failed to work the way i wanted to be, i could see how the show itself has drawn a lot of people in watching it. and i completely agree that the arc of laughing man is executed way better than this individual eleven. still, i still have the list of my plan to watch, and i hope the next series of ghost in the shell i will watch will deliver me the better character development and a more interesting concept of its overall plots.

  3. Personally, I’ve only watched one of the ghost in the shell short series but after reading your review im a bit interested. Will probably be putting them on my list to watch later. Great review though!!

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