The studio that brought such anime as FLCL and the previous Ghost in the Shell (GitS) Stand Alone Complex (S.A.C.) brings a sequel to the popular series. Production I.G. along with Kenji Kamiyama, the previous director of S.A.C. and background artist for Akira, caught lighting in a bottle with season one of Stand Alone Complex. Following the events of the Laughing Man case, a new prime minister of Japan, along with Section 9, fight the threat of cyber-terrorism.
To start off, a recap of what GitS is would help. The anime follows an elite anti cyber-terrorist group called Section 9. It is a specialised group formed to fight against crime involving the evolving technology of the 21-st century. This group consists of: director Daisuke Aramake (political handler), Togusa (old school investigator without cyber enhancements), Batou (ex-militia soldier with many cyber enhancements), Makoto Kusanagi (the Major that runs the team), and a few other specialised persons. The word “ghost” referred in the title is in reference to one’s “digital soul” and a cyber brain. Technology has gotten to the point where it is perfectly acceptable to transfer one’s ghost/cyber brain into a cyber-body. This is much like how data transfers on a USB via computer. Problems arise through this such as viruses, hacking, and more. There are many questions brought up such as if someone could hack into your cyber brain and input false memories or delete memories, how would you perceive what is real? The possibilities are endless and that is what makes GitS.
In S.A.C 2-nd GIG, a new terrorist group called The Individual Eleven are committing acts of terror across Japan. Section 9 is given the task to investigate, while the new Japanese Prime Minister is in a crisis with countless foreign refugees seeking asylum after the events of World War III. As the series progresses, Section 9 encounters an intelligence officer named Gouda Kazundo and suspect that him, The Individual Eleven, and the refugee crisis could all be connected.
Writer, Mamoru Oshii, is not known for his easy to follow plots. In 2-nd GIG, The Individual Eleven just is not as captivating as previous villains. Put these two facts together, and it leads to many info-dump episodes along with quite a few speeches preaching about ideals. Unlike the first season, without an interesting enemy, all of the dialogue is almost lost. Watching a dub in your native tongue helps follow the show’s plot on the surface, but the interesting details and understanding of more complex plot regions are impossible through a single watch.
The highs of the show are sporadic. There are plenty of action sequences and special-op missions to keep the audience entertained to start. A fairly interesting plot unfolds with a terrorist group member questioning their ideals. This is in conjunction to the workings of an obvious evil character with grotesque facial scarring to his connection to the refugee crisis. If the two plots ran parallel, perhaps this would have been easier to follow. However, the plots run through individually focused episodes and important details are either missed or forgotten. This is clearly experienced when the typical GitS character dialogue discussion happens and the viewer can’t remember if that “topic” refers to the Individual Eleven or the refugees or either.
There are some other aspects to note. Unfortunately, the main terrorist gets much more background then the more interesting villain, the Laughing Man from season one. Some individual episodes that are not related to either plot are done especially well. There is an episode dedicated to how a Saito became a member of Section 9 working under the Major. Another focuses on a pilot in which his actions could single handily start a war. One more focuses on the Major encountering a refugee child and the relationship built. There are more, but the point is that these episodes are the best the series has to offer. They give so much character development to what was missed in the previous season, and are simply interesting.
When it came to the music of 2-nd GIG, it is simply captivating. That mix of electronic and rock captivates the environment of the anime. Along with superior voice acting such as the robot Tachikomas are on par with all previous GitS. However, the 3D animation and cell shading typical of Production I.G. fails to improve upon the spectacular first season. It is still good of a high budget anime, but with below average character designs and nothing truly original for this series, it is definitely a low.
Without a solid plot and the inability to distinguish what is and is not important during dialogue scenes, GitS S.A.C 2-nd GIG falls into mediocrity. As much action as there was in the beginning, the action became scarce and replaced with trivial moments of ideal spouting. 2-nd GIG lacks what is important in a GitS. It lacks the focus, an interesting villain with strong characters, and a pace that was all over the place. A fan of Ghost in the Shell will find ways to naturally enjoy this, but it could be hard for a non-fan to grasp what is happening throughout this season.
TL;DR: This particular Ghost in the Shell started off strong with great spec-op action. The greatness of the Major is everlasting despite the series being all over the place at times. The individual episodes could be taken as filler, but they are truly the best of this season. Despite the plot being weak, there still is that allure of the built universe to see where it ends up. Other than that, it is an average Ghost in the Shell at best.
Recommended Audience: Fans of GitS will enjoy this season as what it is. Just don’t have high hopes of the series being overwhelmingly different than any other iteration.
Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG cyber hacks a way to a 2.5/5