BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a near future Japan, a specialized team of cyborgs and hackers are used to help solve crimes that the regular police force can’t.
PROS: A strong ensemble police drama, interesting stories, strong characters.
CONS: Occasional use of ‘technobabble’.
BOTTOM LINE: Definately a top 10 Anime show, most likely top 5. Anyone who wants to discover anime won’t go wrong with this series. Fans of the orginal Ghost in the Shell movies won’t be disappointed either.
In a near future Japan, technology has advanced to the point where governments have complete Big Brother powers, people augment themselves with various pieces of technology becoming cyborgs, and the human brain can augmented or replaced entirely with cyber brains. In this future, criminals use this technology to their advantage to symie the local law enforcement. Section 9 was created to help solve specialized cases and bring the criminals to justice. Even if that means following the trail to the highest levels of government.
First, a note about what Gits:SAC isn’t. It isn’t a sequal to either of the two GitS movies. Neither is it a direct pre-qual. Rather, its more of an alternate pre-qual with the same characters and, in many cases, the same voice actors as the movies. Second, unlike the movies, the GitS:SAC focuses on technology and how it impacts society, criminial and law-abiding, alike. Third, and also unlike the movies (which, for the record I like, but not to the extent others do), GitS:SAC is an engaging and accessible police drama, with heavy doses of character development, action and conspiracies. Much like the X-Files, GitS:SAC weaves two types of episodes into its mix. Stand Alone Complex episodes are just that, stand alone. They add depth to the show, but don’t further the overarching plot. The Complex episodes, which comprise about half of the episodes, deal with Section 9’s investigation into the terroristic acts of The Laughing Man against certain medical companies who use nano-machines to help combat the new disease of cyber-brain sclerosis. The Complex episodes come to a head on the last volume with Section 9 discovering the why behind The Laughing Man, but not the who.
I think the creators wisely decided to steer away from the movies’ heavy emphaisis on personal and philosophical matters. For GitS:SAC, they’ve created an ensemble crime drama with many of the same characters from the movies, but with an emphasis more on the stories than on philosophizing. They do delve into the consequences of advanced tech that allows people, like the main chatacter Major Kusanagi, to be almost completely mechanical with the sole exception of their brain, and even that is modified to allow an always on connection to a super web. We get some interesting, if not downright clever, examples of how people will use this new technology to further their own goals. For instance, it appears that everyone in GitS:SAC has eyes that are connected to the ‘web’ and they see things akin to the augmented sight a la The Golden Age. This allows people to add depth to their vision, but it also lets The Laughing Man hack into the data stream to edit out his face. Very cool. But at the end of the day, the creators main focus is on the characters and allow the viewers to decide for themselves what the role of technology in society should be.
The animation itself is quite good and uses a mix of 2D and 3D CGI. Occasionally, this produces rather odd-looking scenes, particularly in respect to vehicle movements. But its not enough to detract from the overall feel. The future Japan, while being overseen by a definate Big Brother state, still seems open and not repressive. The look of Tokyo is bright and clean with none of the oppresiveness you might expect, which is another plus for the show, since most stories of tech laden futures produce dark, repressive societies, like Blade Runner.
The only negative I could find is in a few of the stories themselves. I don’t know whether its an artifact of the translations (I usually listen to the Japanese soundtrack and read the English subtitles) but occasionally the explanations of what was happening, especially concerning the use of the computer technology, sounds suspiciously like technobabble. This detracted from a few stories beacause I couldn’t follow what was going on. However, this happened rarely and only knocks the final rating down a half point.
This is a fine example of what’s good in Anime and is also a worthy extension of the Ghost in the Shell franchise. Check it out.