Arguably one of the greatest anime films of all time, Ghost in the Shell pushed the boundaries of modern science fiction, building upon the cyberpunk genre invented by William Gibson in his momentous novel Neuromancer. It inspired The Matrix, and also inspired an anime television series that was both complex and smart without being too convoluted. Ghost in the Shell’s futuristic world is something so beautifully complex and realistic, it’s like a sci-fi author’s wet dream. With Second Gig, there is a lot to live up to. Made exclusively for Adult Swim (back when Adult Swim actually played good stuff and was not a nightly parade of Family Guy and King of the Hill reruns), Second Gig is arguably better than its predecessor.
The story is complex. Very complex. There are multiple layers to what happens and while overall the idea and the main story are not that hard to understand, it’s the fact that you are entering a whole new world that makes it so complex. There are new types of crimes, there have been World Wars that have changed everything. This rich backstory and all of the science involved makes Ghost in the Shell as great as it is.
Second Gig revolves around an island containing refugees from the previous World War who are getting riled up by an apparent leader and a group known as the Individual Eleven. This leader is a very philosophical and ideological man who doesn’t know that he isn’t the only lead player on his side. There’s a lot of things going on and the refugees, wanting the island they occupy to be considered an individual nation from Japan, embark on terrorist actions and all kinds of violence and cyber-warfare to get it. In order to quell this rebellion, the Prime Minister calls in Section Nine led by Arimaki. What seems to be a rebellion turns into total warfare and more and more players join the battle, making things more and more complicated.
The story of Second Gig, to me, is a lot better than the Laughing Man arc of the previous season. First of all, it stretches across pretty much the whole season and doesn’t leave a lot of episodes that feel like filler, unlike the first season that had maybe eight or nine main story episodes and a bunch of inconsequential ones between. Secondly, the drama that is built up toward the final episodes is really good and keeps you glued to your seat. While the finale isn’t amazingly action packed and violent, it’s still really fun to watch and a great conclusion. And if you’re watching Ghost in the Shell for action, you’re watching it for the wrong reasons.
The story also contains everything you’d expect. Lots of philosophy. Lots of science. While questions are not directly asked within the series, you as the viewer are made to ask some questions, the simplest of which is “What is human”? Is a cyborg human? It’s very effective in that way without feeling forced.
The animation is decent, but not great. Character designs are cool but they don’t look particularly good. The sci-fi elements such as the Tachikomas and the helicopters look great and the city looks especially good at points. Otherwise, animation isn’t the strong-suit here.
Sound on the other hand is really good. The opening, I felt, was better than the previous season’s. The ending song is good. The music during the show is, you guessed it, good. The American voice actors aren’t bad either, though Kusanagi’s voice actor was not as good as everyone else. She was just kind of blah.
The characters are hard to really differentiate between (like I typically do with my reviews) because they were all pretty basic. They each had an individual personality but, for me, none of the characters took on a life of his or her own. And this isn’t particularly bad because Ghost in the Shell is more plot based than character based. While Kusanagi does have a bit of time to reflect on her past and this does give her more depth, it’s not a lot. All the members of Section Nine are cool, but none you can really invest yourself in. Meanwhile, the bad guy, Hideo Kuze, is actually the most three dimensional of the characters. His story is pretty likeable and his intentions seem fairly noble. You’ll either love him for his ideology and who he is or you’ll hate him for it. Which is why he’s such a great character and a great bad guy in a political situation. It’s one of the most effective parts of Second Gig: that you can support either side and feel a little bit more invested in the world the show portrays. That’s the thing, you don’t invest yourself in the characters, you more so invest yourself in the world.
Overall the focus on politics, philosophy, science, and warfare is a great step forward from the first season that seemed to focus more on showing you the science. The Laughing Man case was good, but the Individual Eleven case is complex, full of twists and turns, and fun to watch. While the series may fail in the character department, the characters are distinct enough that you won’t care. It’s the plot that matters, and Second Gig delivers there.
Second Gig gets a 9.2/10.