For those of you not familiar with the GitS franchise, it was created as a manga in 1989. It was adapted to film in 1995 and became a ground breaking and critically acclaimed movie. A sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, was released in 2004. The TV series Stand Alone Complex first aired in 2002, and follows an alternate plot from the manga and films. The primary story arc of SAC and its sequel the 2nd Gig were rereleased in 2 compilation OVAs called The Laughing Man and Individual Eleven. Finally a movie sequel to the 2 series, Solid State Society, was released in 2006.
Ghost in the Shell is an archetypical sci-fi series of the cyberpunk genre that follows the activities of Section 9, a secret government cyber warfare and reconnaissance division. Led my Major Motoko Kusanagi, they investigate incidents related to a super hacker called the Laughing man in the primary story arc, as well as many side plots. The main plot has a fair bit of intrigue and action, but doesn't start until the last few episodes.
The side plots are highly episodic and vary considerably in quality. The better ones generally focus on filling in the support character back stories. Some of the side plots succesfully expand on the themes and motifs of the cyber technology and its effect on humanity established in the original manga and movie. Unfortuneately this generally comes at the cost of a lengthy filler episode that bogs down the plot. Then there are the Tachikoma episodes which can be downright painful to watch, more on them later.
The animation on SAC is excellent at least. The character animation is fresh and attractive and movements are smooth. The CG is well blended with the cel-shaded animation. There are very few scenes with lazy animation or inconsistencies.
SAC features all the same voice actors from the original GitS. The sound is crisp and clear, I had no difficulty hearing the dialogue, Tachikoma aside. Sound FX are appropriate. The soundtrack however leaves something to be desired. There's nothing terrible, but not much stands out either
The Major and all the gang are back. All the support characters from the original are fleshed out a bit more and the show generally does a good job of that. The individual episode villains however are never analyzed in depth, and never seen again after their episode. At least that doesn't slow the show down any further. SAC loses big points on this one for the Tachikoma. A herd of advanced AI tanks that can do almost anything and talk in high pitched voices more annoying than JarJar Binks. Much of the earlier episodes heavily feature them, but at least the Laughing Man plot uses them sparingly.
SAC is certainly not breaking any ground or establishing new trends, but it does some things well. If you are just looking for a high tech action anime, or you wanted to see more backstory from the Section 9 characters after watching the original GitS, then SAC is perfect for you. If you are looking for SAC to carry on the legacy of the original you may be let down. When over analysed much of the mystique and atmosphere of the original is lost. The technology is often taken to ridiculous lengths and many episodes consist largely of abstract animations of networks and computer hacking while Tachikoma talk over them.
If you are hesitant about starting a series this long The Laughing Man is worth watching at least and is the peak of the SAC story, imho. The 2nd season of GitS tries to establish a connecting story arc through the entire SAC, but it ends up rehashing a lot of the same subject matter. The follow up movie, Solid State Society, is even worse for doing this.