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 It has sort of a timeless look where nobody is ever going to watch it and feel like it's out of date.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