Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

sort

Reviews

kmull's avatar By kmull on Dec 10, 2009

Story: 8.5

The year is 2030 AD, and the available technology is enough to make me think that it is pretty likely that a non-oil alternate energy source must have been discovered prior to 2030, although that is pure speculation. Watching SAC made me realize that I should not bother with lasik eye surgery, and just find myself a pair of those sweet prosthetic eyes (Yes! I can finally return to 20/20 vision, with a guidance system and some other features to boot.)  The futuristic setting surrounds an elite group of law enforcement agents known as Section 9, headed by Motoko (a.k.a. The Major), who receives backup from a team equipped with intelligence, muscle, sharpshooters, a persistent old man with connections, and some interesting robots.

SAC has two episode types – stand alone episodes, which in case the name did not give it away, are entirely episodic, and complex episodes, which are interspersed throughout the series and follow a case surrounding a suspect known as “the laughing man.” The series never drags, probably since the stand alone episodes provide fresh plots, and upon returning to a complex episode, the viewer must refresh their memory about prior events related to the case, which keeps things interesting.  I enjoyed the format of placing the complex episodes throughout the series as opposed to keeping them together in one spot; it seems to highlight the idea that Section 9 works on whatever case is most pertinent, returning to the laughing man when time permits.  The complex episodes ultimately serve as the vehicle for the climax and resolution of the series, but that does not mean the stand alone episodes are worthless; in fact, many of the stand alone episodes provide a comedic or quick detour from the sometimes heavy laughing man case.  As a side note, I give bonus points to any writer that includes references to one of my favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye. 

The story of SAC is as much about the members of Section 9 as it is about the cases they try to solve; even the best plot concept needs good characters to help the events unfold effectively. The relationships between Section 9 members define the manner in which they can solve cases, and often dictate the direction in which the plot turns.  The plot may seem a bit formulaic – something happens, a new case is introduced, the characters attempt to solve the case, and it may or may not get resolved – but then again, sometimes formulas work; the formula in this case helps SAC succeed in telling a story, which is better than ditching the formula to allow the series to wander about until it finds eventual failure.

Animation: 9

Regardless of someone’s like or dislike for the GITS movies, I don’t think anyone will question the success of the animation and visuals; SAC is no different, and its animation mirrors that of the movies. The well thought out and executed cityscapes provide a great backdrop for Section 9’s missions, and an equally good mixture of day and night scenes varies the timbre of the series well.  The animation style makes for good battle scenes, complete with cyborg parts flying every which way (you may not realize whether certain individuals are human or cyborg until you see bunches of wires and machines exploding about the screen.)

Sound: 9.5

I only need say two words, and for many people, that will be enough: Yoko Kanno. As always, Kanno delivers, this time with a bass heavy, funky techno-jazz, setting the pace and tone of each car case, death scene, and emotional moment. The opening hits you like a subtle car wreck (if there is such a thing), letting you know this series will be fast paced and deliberate, with a few chances for the viewer to catch their breath and regroup. The background music adds suspense and intensity to the events as they unfold, but never overpowers.

I am a subbed kind of person, but this is one series that I have watched both the dubbed and subbed versions, and I am basically indifferent between the two; the voice acting is great either way.  Occasionally the dialogue feels a bit choppy, but I think that may be more a consequence of the fact that the members of Section 9 constantly relay orders and information – hence, no time for extemporaneous or drawn out thoughts.

Characters: 8.5

For those of you who have watched any of the GITS movies and cried due to lack of character development, watching SAC may be a good way to help you look more highly upon the GITS saga. Some background information presents itself directly, but insight into the characters is gained mainly through observing the Section 9 team work through cases and going back and forth with their sometimes biting remarks. Okay, I admit interactions do not necessarily translate into the strongest character development, but the members of Section 9 with all their idiosyncrasies are a great construct for the events that take place in SAC.    

The series must choose a few key characters, and the spotlight generally shines on Motoko, Batou, and Togusa; honestly, it would be difficult for every member of Section 9 to receive in depth analysis, and since Motoko, Batou, and Togusa tend to work the front lines, they are appropriate candidates for receiving the most attention. However, each minor character is developed to the fullest extent within the series and plays a unique role within the team and the plot. Even the AI support team known as the Tachikomas, have personalities of their own, which develop immensely after Batou spoils them with treats and affection (think of them as the resident puppy dogs.)

Overall: 9

SAC may be what Ergo Proxy wanted to become: a series about futuristic world with problems of its own, and the people who must take it upon themselves to prevent the world from deteriorating into complete corruption – unlike Proxy, SAC does not shoot itself in the foot with overtly philosophical musings.  I admit there are some philosophical underpinnings mixed into SAC, but thankfully they never drag the series into oblivion.  SAC provides a snapshot into the inner workings of Section 9 and its members, and gives the viewers a nice mixture of action, intelligence, and comedy.  In the end, that is all I can really ask for.

8.5/10 story
9/10 animation
9.5/10 sound
8.5/10 characters
9/10 overall
chaoserver's avatar By chaoserver on Feb 28, 2010

Story:

Ghost in the shell follows section 9, led by the cyborg major Kusanagi as they investigate a very interesting case. The story plays out well, and at no point leaves you bored, although perhaps a little confused, though it is not trippy or intentionally ambiguous like some other anime. The story takes place in a believeable(although perhaps not in the given timeline) scifi world. We see the new technologies and how humans have 'evolved' in the time, and how criminals operate, including new ways crimes can even be comitted. It is worth it to note that the catcher in the rye is referenced quite frequently, and being slightly familiar with it might help enjoyment.

An interesting plot that breaks many cliches fits nicely within this enviornment. So with such a intruiging story, why are points taken off? The disgusting answer is filler. If you purchased the season box set, nearly half of it is filled with horrible, inexusably irrelevant filler. Heck, one FULL disc is even filler. The filler is bad on so many fronts. First of all it's placement is inappropriate, after the story picks up, we are plunged into filler, and to my horror, the producers decided to have the series go between story, and filler(sadly more filler) for the middle portion, before finally returning to just the 'complex' story episodes. I watched it all, regardless, and can safely say only the second episode was a worthwhile filler to watch, simply to acquaint yourself with the characters and on the merit it's not bad. Second the quality of the filler is trash, no development, or really any decent themes are brought to the table. In cowboy bebop the filler which existed throughout the majority of the series was implemented well, however here, they stick out awkwardly and wholly uselessly, like a bad CSI episode. And lastly it breaks up what little character development is taking place, and the story. In other words skip the filler, and get the 8.5 story this should have gotten.

Animation:

The animation is perfectly suitable, done with the quality of some good movies. Action scenes are handled well, and the new world is etched out in a realistic well illustrated way. It may have been just me, but animation of Complex Episodes did seem better than the standalone, though.

Sound:

Great opening, ending, and soundtrack. The voice actors of both english and japanese versions are good as well, and they all combine for an overall good experience.

Characters:

The characters and their development aren't great. For starters, half the main team are not developed AT ALL and are barely in the series except when just standing around to show they exist, and in random scenes where they are doing a generic activity. Even the Main characters aren't touched on much until the end. The antagonists situation is unique, and definetley better than most the other characters. This is probably primarily the fault of all the filler, seeing as there are so few episodes to develop. Either way by the end we do see some emotion, development, and some interesting characters emerge. It's a shame it;s so hit and miss.

Overall:

Ghost in the shell is an ok anime, and if you skip the filler, a good one. I can't stress it enough, my second time watching it I skipped the filler and it was alot more cohesive and enjoyable. Though nothing profound or particularly impactful is delivered, the series brings forward many good and cool concepts. Even through mostly mediocre characters, Ghost manages to still pull through to a degree in every front, and won't soon be forgotten. If you like Scifi anime, and don't mind a relaxed feel that still is riddled with action, you need to check GIS S.A.C. out!

7/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
6/10 characters
7/10 overall
wigs's avatar By wigs on Nov 3, 2009

really feels like they dropped the art and the deep meanings of the movies in favor of mass produced cookie cutter money machine episodes

this series left a bad taste in my mouth because i felt like it could have been much deeper instead of playing to a younger crowd or one who just wanted to watch cyborgs fight

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
3/10 overall
UncannyDoom's avatar By UncannyDoom on Jun 29, 2012

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex had long been one of those anime I always heard about and knew about. It seems the reception is nothing but varying positives and even though it came out years ago, I never got around to it when I really should have. But now that the time finally came and went, I have to say, better late than never.

Stand Alone Complex, despite being nearly a decade old, still holds up as a fantastic anime today. It follows an episode structure that I find to be masterful when done correctly, which is involving a main plot combined with not really filler, but not really character building stand alone episodes peppered into the series. The result is an extremely plot-driven anime, regardless of whether or not it's the main plot or a side one.

Short and Sweet

  • Very intelligent writing and themes.
  • Yoko Kanno soundtrack.
  • Great animation that hasn't aged poorly whatsoever.
  • Unique setting.
  • Characters lack depth.
  • Satisfying from start to finish.

Story - 9.5/10

Between the sci-fi futuristic setting and mysteries surrounding crimes in this world, it's hard not to have your curiosity flowing during an episode. Stand Alone Complex contains some of the most intelligent writing around, with plenty of interesting ideas presented, and characters rarely ever seem to sit around and talk too much which lets the action pick up at a great pace. It's also is a rare anime where there really isn't anything I consider to be real filler. The stand alone episodes hold up great just like the complex main plot episodes. There wasn't a single one out of all 26 eps that I didn't enjoy and the only one I even thought could have been better was the very last one. Not that it was a bad ending, but the resolution of the main plot seemed like it didn't have the total impact it should have.

Animation - 10/10

While there isn't anything overly artistic about the animation of SAC, I gave the animation a high score because of how well it holds up for being a ten year old anime. It looked stupiendous back when it came out, and it hasn't aged poorly in any form. It has sort of a timeless look where nobody is ever going to watch it and feel like it's out of date. Colors and cityscapes look beautiful and the world is rich with detail. Although it does have some questionable moments of CGI in episodes, most of the time it's quite beautiful, particularly on the Tachikoma robots, computer screen tech, and creating nice depth and lighting effects. The action and fast paced stuff is also animated with such top notch fundamentals and camera work. Seeing metal get shot up doesn't usually look this good.

Sound - 10/10

Yoko Kanno composes a triumphant opening and ending theme here, compounded with an exceptional and somewhat overlooked OST that fits the setting and tone to a tee. It's a creative blend of sounds ranging from rock to techno, but everything does it's job to suit the moment and futuristic world. Voices are all very well acted, and do a great job distinguishing the characters and all seem very fitting. The only thing that ever comes close to faltering in the sound department is the childlike voice of the Tachikoma, which I know some people flat out hate. It tested my patience on an infrequent occasion, but I came to love those high-pitched think-tanks.

Characters - 8/10

Stand Alone Complex is story-driven, and if one comes in expecting to get a whole lot of backstory and development on characters, they may be disappointed. The cast is all likable and cool, but the show pretty much trades it's character development time in to spend it's hours weaving the plot. Motoko is a favorite for obvious reasons, being a rare strong-willed and non-cliche woman who can get the job done. She never waivers, and she doesn't stay predictably hard during the course of the show either. Batou was probably my second favorite behind the Major, and he gets blessed being the focus of some great moments that show off his skills. Togusa was another character I found myself respecting the longer I watched. He's definitely the kind of guy that could have been written poorly and turned into a hated face of an anime. I also enjoyed the Tachikoma and they actually may be the ones who technically got the most development of the show, and I loved their last few appearances.

Overall - 9.5/10

With no strong flaws, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a very impressive anime that knows it's fundamentals and plays to the strengths it has. It's never trying to be something it's not or appeal to people who wouldn't be interested. This is a thinking viewer's anime with some great moments of action and a little bit of humor. I was hooked from the opening moments of the first episode and left wanting more by the time I saw the closing moments of the last. There's a high value for rewatching this series and I can finally understand the classic status that this superb anime is given by most.

9.5/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
8/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
ratchet573's avatar By ratchet573 on May 11, 2011

There is a lot to like about the ambitious cyberpunk anime Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Based on the movie Ghost In The Shell, this series fleshes out some of the characters seen in the film, and adds a lot more. It has tons of stand alone episodes, but there is an overarching story about a mysterious hacker known only as the Laughing Man, the mystery of which is solved over the course of the 26 episodes.

Story
While a lot of animes take a simple, and sometimes cliched approach to the story, this anime takes a very complex approach to each individual story told. Some aren't quite as hard to understand as others, but it's amazing look into a future not to far off is so full of techno-jargon and science that for some, it might be a little much. The individual story episodes can sometimes be rather bland, a few aren't too compelling compared to others leaving inconsistencies. I particularly disliked the fact that the overarching story wasn't all that long, and you were handed a ton of episodes that had nothing to do with anything. When I watch anime I enjoy the whole thing to be overarching or at least most of it. I don't even think Ghost In The Shell hits fifty-fifty. You can skip half the episodes of the series and get the main, most compelling story down.But it otherwise is a fantastic story, something that you would expect from a hardcore cyberpunk piece.I personally enjoyed almost every episode with the exception of a few containing the Tachikomas.

Animation
The series has amazing animation. The characters all look good, as well as the background, machines, and movements. Everything is fluid and lifelike. There are a few points where the animation degrades, especially when characters are further away. It's an otherwise very beautiful anime.

Sound
There is a great opening song as well as ending. All the voice actors do a good job with their roles and all sound very believable. The sound effects are superb.

Characters
I enjoyed almost every character. Each had little quirks, though none really showed any development over the course of the series. The only characters I dislike are the Tachikomas, annoying little tanks with the voices of prepubescenet girls that constantly talk and talk and talk. While their story of becoming sentient is interesting, there could have been a better, much more likeable approach than making them as annoying as they are.

Overall
While there are fallicies with characters and plot, everything else is superb. The series will maintain it's place as one of the greatest science fiction anime of all time, as well as one of the greatest examples of the cyberpunk genre. The thing about this anime is that it doesn't present itself as an anime quite as often as all other anime. The Tachikomas seem the only part of the whole show that is traditional anime (cute weapons of destruction).

This is an anime only for those into hardcore science fiction anime or science fiction. If it's your first foray into anime or sci-fi anime or you are looking for something immensely violent, then I would suggest looking elsewhere. While it does have some action, it's not the intesely gory and exciting action of a Shonen anime.

Overall, I give it a 9

10/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
9/10 characters
9/10 overall