Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex


UncannyDoom's avatar By 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 It has sort of a timeless look where nobody is ever going to watch it and feel like it's out of date.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
kmull's avatar By 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
ratchet573's avatar By 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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
haize78's avatar By on Feb 18, 2015

I know that Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex is hailed as one of those anime masterpieces that you MUST see. So I gave it a go.

And after viewing it, I think it's definetely a good anime but it does have many flaws.

It's a sci-fi cyber-punk anime set in the future. It revolves around Section 9, a special and secret law-enforcement body whose mission is to prevent crimes and catch the bad guys. It's a very technologically advanced future world, where it's common for people to replace their original body with an enhanced prosthetic version; internet technology also allows brains to be linked and connected in special networks that facilitate information sharing and communication. All members of Section 9 have a military background and prosthetic bodies - the only thing that differs is the degree of cyberization. The series is a combination of stand-alone episodes (by some described as "filler" episodes) where Section 9 sets off to solve some kind of crime or catch some criminal, and a main story-line which takes over completely in the last 5 or 6 episodes. And I must say that until episode 20 or so I didn't care at all for the Laughing Man main story, it just seemed too complicated and as it was continually interrupted by the stand alone episodes I found it difficult to keep in mind all the details and follow what was going on. But the final episodes are without a doubt the best. The story really kicks in and it's a good watch. As for the stand alone episodes, quality varies: some are decent, some not so good. 

Animation is ok and the music is more than ok. Especially the Op is amazing.

As for the characters, that's one of the aspects that could have been developed much better. There are 8 members to section 9, but only three are ever in the spotlight, the rest are just there in the background. And even those 3, the Major, Batou and Togusa, by the end of the anime they do come to have distinct personalities but they have no background so you know nothing about them, and there is basically no development. Ok, it isn't a character-driven anime, but I think that a bit more character building and development could only have made it better.

The other thing that was a disappointment to me was how the topics are dealt with. There's an array of really interesting themes, but most times the anime just stays on the surface of them: some are just hinted at and some aren't even considered. Which is a pity. Think of prosthetic bodies as opposed to a person's individuality: how many times can you change body before you let go of your sense of identity? This topic turns up at the end of the series, but it isn't analysed in depth. There's some mention of "ghosts" in the series, that would be what we commonly refer to as souls, but it's just a suggestion. I found the tachikoma episodes really interesting; tachikomas are these military robots whose AI at a certain point starts evolving really quickly so much so that they even develop seeds of individuality, but the Major feels they are more of a risk than an asset and gets rid of them. It would've been another thought-provoking topic, the possibility of robots developing consciousness and individuality - but just the surface is scraped. And what about all the info sharing and the brains being connected as opposed to one's privacy? How deep can the sharing of memories and information go? More than once Batou hints at the Major's predilection for female bodies as if it's a weakness on her part, but does gender really mean nothing? Isn't it something that defines your personality and identity? And there are many more issues that aren't considered at all.

So as there is no character development and  the plot although good is by no means exceptional, the overall scoring for me remains just a tad above average.

6/10 story
6/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
5/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
mustardbomb's avatar By on Sep 15, 2012

You know what's great about animation in all of its forms? It lets us convey scenes that simply couldn't be done in live action. It lets us use a plethora of sets that would take too much money to construct. It lets us use many different character whereas that many actors is inconceivable.

Ghost in the Shell, of course, does virtually none of these things.

I tend to forget if I'm watching a cartoon, or just talking heads set to a static background image. I went in expecting a series full of tactical and corporate espionage.

What I got was two jack-wagons talking, one without pupils, while blue trashcans skirted about in a vain attempt to create comic relief. It was the animated equivalent of watching four of your nieces play house for hours on end.

Well, as far as near-static images go, they did rather well. I find the characters to be pretty detailed, and extremely varied. Is the animation good? It's so-so, not much to be animated. The art, though? Again, pretty good. Kudos on not fucking something up, guy.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Derp you just want action 24/7, leave serious cinematic conversations to the adults" To which I respond: This wouldn't be a problem at all if the actors were good. But no, they just read their lines so disinterestedly that the viewer gets bored. You can convey information through exciting and fluid dialog, but they settle on boring and expository. The actors can't sound excited by this, and maybe that isn't their fault. With that script, it ain't easy. But either way, they failed to deliver.

Outside the two main characters, who I enjoy, the rest of the cast is extremely interchangeable. This is bad, for those following along. The whole "talking heads" motif running through this review is made even worse when those heads barely have any face at all. The series delves into repetitive very quickly when the conversations all seem to be the same thing.

A futuristic Law and Order? Perhaps. Just as boring as any Law and Order? Definitely. This show lures you along with the promise of an actual plot, and yet it chases its own "tale" for twenty-odd episodes, leaving the viewer robbed of both time and brain cells.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
3/10 overall