Whew! That’s a long title isn’t it? And S.A.C. stands for Stand Alone Complex. Hello again manga and anime friends. The Ghost in the Shell franchise is a rich collection of science fiction and action stories based on the original, and highly influential movie from 1995. But this month, we look at a later sequel series, made for television. The entire franchise has had an R rating for violence, profanity, and some mature themes but older teens should be fine watching compared to much of whats on the air today.
The famous “Section 9” unit is an anti-terrorist SWAT team with cutting edge cyber-terrorism training and equipment. The heroine of the story is Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg officer with incredible athletic, combat, and IT skills. Her human brain is all that remains from her original body that was lost in a horrible event when she was young. Not much is known of the circumstances around the event. Over her life she has had hardware and software upgrades and trained to become a military officer and then joined the police force after recent major wars. Her main partner on the force is Batou, another veteran military officer and policeman who has cybernetic vision. He probably lost his eyes in combat during the recent wars. Much of the crew is made up of former military veterans who have joined the elite Section 9 unit after distinguished careers. They include a sniper, information specialist, and a junior officer gaining valuable experience. The section is lead by Daisuke Aramaki. He is a seasoned director combining vast experience and keen judgement. His character is distinguished by his balding head and prominent locks of silver hair over his ears and beard on his chin. Comic relief is combined with mecha butt-kicking power in the form of the sections dated, but lovable spider-like robots. These “Tachikomas” have all kinds of advanced weapons and technology even though their A.I. is archaic. Their voices even sound like children and lend to their effect in comic relief.
Artistically, a TV series is of course more limited in what it can invest in image quality and detail than what was originally offered in the famous feature film. Still, a good color palette was developed that works well with the frequent night scenes and urban battle situations. Technical drawing of aircraft and vehicles are a favorite subject for sci-fi anime crews. 2nd Gig does not disappoint. Often times you will find vehicles “rendered” in 3D animation graphics first, and then edited into the video frames of the story with the characters “rendered” in 2D, drawn by the artists hands. This is more and more common these days and some stories are completely animated with 3D graphics. We’ll have to look at some of those in the future. A great example is the film Avatar, but there are 3D anime films that we can discuss.
Musically, the score is impressive with use of modern Pop and EDM styles in the title songs. Incidental music includes more of the same, but also makes notable use of classical chamber music styles and genres. One trend in particular is the use of expressionist, “quasi-tonal” string quartet music during mysterious or psychological scenes in the story. Memory and A.I. hacks are great examples to listen for. It’s spooky and very powerful.
2nd Gig offers an exciting story weaving together political intrigue, national security, terrorism, cybernetics, SWAT tactics and gear, a refugee crisis, and deeper questions of the human experience. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a machine? Humans can have a spirit, can machines have a ghost? The Ghost in the Shell franchise started with this question and a resounding “yes” was the answer. But on deeper examination, the question was only ever about humanity. The lines have just become blurred by the development of computers, cybernetics, information technology and artificial intelligence. Sci-fi and action fans will love this series. So will existentialist philosophers and political scientists. The dialog can pass very quickly so with this series, you have my permission to watch the English dubbed episodes, if you want. Listening to the Japanese is always great but you may find yourself rewinding at various points to catch all the plot and character development. The stories are wonderfully written and demand concentration.
Did you know that in addition to physical books and DVDs, your library card gives you access to anime and graphic novels online? The BPL subscribes to Hoopla, a streaming service that allows you to check out and enjoy the media you love on your computer, tablet or smartphone. You can learn more about the BPL’s digital media collections here.
Want company while you’re watching anime? The Hyde Park Teen Anime Club meets on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.
*”Reading Backwards, Watching in Japanese” features reviews of anime and manga by John, the Teen Librarian at the Hyde Park Branch, on the second Tuesday of every month.