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 is a 26 episode Japanesemarker animated television series produced by Production I.G and based on Masamune Shirow's manga Ghost in the Shell. It was written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, with original character design by Hajime Shimomura, a screenplay written by Hiroshi Satô, and a soundtrack by Yoko Kanno. It aired on Animax from 1 October 2002 to 25 March 2003, and was positively received by critics.


The series takes place in Japan during the year 2030, and revolves around the activities of Public Security Section 9, a fictional intelligence department under the Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs. The series' main storyline focuses on Section 9's independent investigation of the Laughing Man incident after Togusa, a member of Section 9, receives information from an old friend concerning possible government interference in the official police investigation of the incident. As the series unfolds, Section 9 uncovers government and corporate involvement in the events which took place after the initial incident, and ascertains the identity of the Laughing Man himself. The series is split into two kinds of episodes: Complex episodes, which follow Section 9's investigation of the Laughing Man incident and represents the main storyline, and self-contained Stand Alone episodes, which follow Section 9 as they investigate other cases, serving as opportunities for character development and showcasing the futuristic Japan that Section 9 operates in.

A second Stand Alone Complex series called Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG ran on Animax from 1 January 2004 to 8 January 2005, and was followed by three movies: Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man, a compilation movie based the first Stand Alone Complex anime series and released in 2005, Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG: The Individual Eleven, a compilation movie based on the second Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG anime series and released in 2006, and Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, a new feature film set after the events of both anime series and also released in 2006. The anime series, their feature film counterparts, and Solid State Society are all set in a continuity different from Shirow's original Ghost in the Shell manga and Mamoru Oshii's 1995 film adaptation, Ghost in the Shell.

Plot

Stand Alone Complex takes place in the year 2030, in the fictional Japanese city of New Port. The series follows the exploits of Public Security Section 9, a special operations task-force made up of former military officers and police detectives.

The series is a "police action drama" that comprises individual cases and the underlying mystery of the Laughing Man.

Characters

: Motoko is a full-body cyborg working as a member of Public Security Section 9, a fictional intelligence department under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Frequently called "Major", a reference to her military rank in the JGSDF before joining Section 9, she is in charge as squad leader when field operations are carried out by the group. Motoko is highly skilled in a number of areas, including close quarters combat, use of lethal weaponry, and hacking. Her skills are augmented by the fact that she was cyberized at a very young age following a plane crash, forcing her to become adept at controlling her cyborg body and the greater abilities it confers. Motoko is voiced by Atsuko Tanaka in the Japanese version, and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn in the English version.


: Aramaki, often called simply "Chief", is head of Section 9 and directs the group's activities and focus. Aramaki deals with various branches of the government and military in his capacity as head of Section 9, and carries substantial political influence even with high officials. Aramaki is voiced by Osamu Saka in the Japanese version, and William Frederick Knight in the English version.


: Batou is a member of Section 9 recruited from the Rangers, and second in command under Major Motoko Kusanagi. He is voiced by Akio Ohtsuka in the Japanese version, and Richard Epcar in the English version.


: Togusa is a member of Section 9, recruited from Section 1 where he was working as a detective, making him the only member of Section 9 with no military background. Togusa is voiced by Kouichi Yamadera in the Japanese version, and Crispin Freeman in the English version.


: Ishikawa is the information warfare and technology specialist in Section 9, advising the group on related issues and often assisting Motoko in electronic infiltration and exploration. He is voiced by Yutaka Nakano in the Japanese version and Michael McCarty in the English version.


: Saito is Section 9's tactical sniper, a highly skilled marksman called in for field operations requiring precision shooting. He is voiced by Tōru Ōkawa in the Japanese version, and Dave Wittenberg in the English version.


: Pazu is a member of Section 9 who often operates in a support role, investigating leads or acting as backup to Motoko, Batou, or Togusa during field operations. He is voiced by Takashi Onozuka in the Japanese version, and Robert Buchholz in the English version.


: Boma is the munition and explosives expert of Section 9. He, like Pazu, is a member of Section 9 who supports Motoko, Batou, and Togusa during field operations, and often works with Pazu in investigating leads on cases that Section 9 is involved with. He is voiced by Taro Yamaguchi in the Japanese version, and Dean Wein in the English version.


: Kubota is a military intelligence officer in the JGSDF, and frequently provides Aramaki with inside information on the cases that Section 9 investigates. Kubota and Aramaki also appear to be old friends, although from where remains unclear. Kubota is voiced by Taimei Suzuki in the Japanese version, and Michael Forest in the English version.


Production

The production of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series was headed by Production I.G, and anime television network Animax, who broadcast the series across Japan, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Latin America and other regions, Bandai Entertainment, Dentsu Inc., Kodansha and Victor Entertainment.

The series is licensed for North American distribution by Bandai Entertainment, with the English dub produced by Animaze, which airs on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block in the United States, YTV's Bionix block in Canadamarker and AnimeCentral in the United Kingdommarker. The series is also licensed for distribution in the United Kingdommarker region by Manga Entertainment, and for distribution in Australia by Madman Entertainment.

Music

The music for the series was composed by Yoko Kanno and produced by Victor Entertainment. The opening theme for each episode was "Inner universe" (lyrics: Origa, Shanti Snyder; music: Yoko Kanno; vocals: Origa). The ending theme for each episode was "Lithium Flower" (lyrics: Tim Jensen; music: Yoko Kanno; vocals: Scott Matthew).

The original soundtrack for the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series, composed by Yoko Kanno, has been released over six albums and one single:



Also released was a Limited Edition box set containing all soundtracks (except for the GET9 single) and a fourth previously unreleased soundtrack called O.S.T. 4 – Smooth in the Shell. Included with this Limited Edition box set was a USB flash memory stick in a tachikoma design.

Writing

Literary references within the series include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Flowers for Algernon, and several J. D. Salinger works, "The Laughing Man" and "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" from Nine Stories and The Catcher in the Rye.

Technology

Stand Alone Complex tries to depict the near future convincingly, extending trends from the current day into the future. Often a viewer can even speculate which current-day factory or design firm would be responsible for the future machines and buildings .

Cyberbrains
Of the many futuristic technologies, the cyberbrain or neural computer augmentation technology is discussed and convincingly portrayed. This is the implantation of powerful computers directly into the brain, greatly increasing certain mental capacities such as memory. Coupled with ubiquitous access to the informational net, this is shown as a fundamental technology integral to the future Japanese society. Applications include wireless communication just by "thinking" it, massive informational recall capabilities, and digitization of printed media and the encryption thereof. The series is notable for portraying a comprehensive and believable user interface to this technology. At the same time, drawbacks are revealed in the form of "Closed Shell Syndrome" or cyberbrain autism and "Cyberbrain Sclerosis". This technology is in many ways the crux of the series.

Microelectromechanical systems and the medical and less benign applications also figure heavily within the futurescape depicted within the show. In the fictional future year of 2030, this technology and its applications are still considered to be experimental, only reaching the first stages of practical usage.

An important technology used in the series is active camouflage. Members of Section 9 as well as their Tachikoma tanks have the ability to activate a special camouflage technology which enables them to blend in with the environment, making them near-invisible to the naked eye. It is an active stealth system which projects ambient conditions of the opposing side, and thus rendering the masked object transparent by transmission. The system is not shown to be perfect, as it seems unable to compensate for sudden changes and physical impacts nor impervious to close observation. A faint translucent distortion is shown as the limitations of the technology. In the legal landscape of the series, usage of the technology without a warrant is heavily restricted. The use of this technology by Section 9 is the exception, and not the norm - further highlighting their extraordinary legal standing.Surprisingly, there is present day research into the active optic camouflage inspired by the fictional portrayal of it by the University of Tokyomarker [51536].

The use of Light Autonomous Tanks (in this case Fuchikomas, left out of the 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie by time constraints or copyright issues), are used extensively in Stand Alone Complex. Called Tachikoma (also known as "think tanks"), they are four-legged light tanks with two forearms and adhesive wire shooters. Armed with a small caliber machine gun in their right arm and an interchangeable weapons mount at their "mouth", they provide Section Nine with a quick and highly mobile weapons platform. The weapons mount is often equipped with a grenade launcher or a Gatling gun. The body design and movement of the Tachikoma appear to be modeled after jumping spiders.

Their AI simulates the endlessly curious and innocent behavior of small children, which both logically encourages fast learning and enables them to act as the comic relief of Section 9. As such they provide a counterpoint to the cynical and hardened humans of the force. Two episodes are dedicated to their exploits; episode 12, "ESCAPE FROM", and episode 15, "MACHINES DÉSIRANTES". In the latter episode, the curious nature of the Tachikoma result in instabilities in their artificial intelligence fatal to operation as weapons, leading to their disarmament and decommission from service with Section 9.

Tachikoma
Another technology that is noticeable in the series that was also not included in the 1995 film is the use of Arm Suits, bipedal powered armor exoskeletons. They resemble Shirow's Landmate armor from another of his works, Appleseed, which in turn were inspired by the Hardiman exoskeleton concept developed by General Electric. The first Arm Suit, a JMSDF 'Type 303' uses a small set of inner "master" arms to control the larger, more-powerful, "slave" arms and is featured in SAC. The second Arm Suit encountered is a JGSDF model and features a hanging turret similar to those on the Jigabachi helicopters and is seen in 2nd GIG.

The series features Section 9 using a tiltwing aircraft very similar to the American-designed V-22 Osprey tiltrotor. The aircraft depicted within the show has the capacity to carry six Tachikoma and a complement of personnel, allowing Section Nine to rapidly deploy a highly mobile and well-armored force anywhere in Japan. A large tiltwing aircraft is also shown in use for a commercial passenger flight at the beginning of episode 14, "¥€$", proceeding to land on what appears to be a large, building-top helipad.

The ECHELON wiretap system makes an appearance in a later episode. While under the command of the American Empire's CIA, the system is borrowed by Section 9 for a short time. The system depicted within is a more powerful and more pervasive communications monitoring system capable of real-time interception of all phone, internet, cyberbrain communication of Japan. The limitation of this system was shown to be the computational power to process the flow of information.

The subtitle "Stand Alone Complex" refers to the phenomena of emergent behavior catalyzed by parallelization of the human psyche through the cyberbrain networks on a societal level. There is no original, there is no leader. What ties together the disparate and unrelated individuals into the event called the "Laughing Man" case is the systematic motive encoded into the basic informational flow itself. This concept of an ever normalized ego into the fabric of society recalls the writings of Philip K. Dick, among others.

Reception

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex received a generally good reception from reviewers, who praised the series' high quality of animation and the musical score by Yoko Kanno. In particular, reviewers reacted positively to the high tech setting that Stand Alone Complex takes place in, described by one reviewer as "believably futuristic". Reviewer Lawrence Person from Locus Online noted that "the world of GitS:SAC is recognizably our own, or rather, one recognizably extrapolated from modern Japan. While parts of the technology seem unlikely in the timeframe allotted, none seems impossible." Several reviews mentioned what they perceived to be overarching themes explored in the series as a result of the setting; specifically, the meaning of humanity in a world where the lines between man and machine were becoming increasingly blurred, as well as various societal issues that might emerge as a result of advances in technology.

Reviewers were divided in opinion when discussing the overall plot structure of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, as the episodes are split into two categories, Stand Alone and Complex. The Stand Alone episodes do not focus on the main plot, instead following Section 9 as they investigate various cases. The Complex episodes focus on the main plot, which deals with Section 9's investigations into the "Laughing Man" incident. Reviewers agreed that the main "Laughing Man" plot line was satisfying, characterizing it variously as "interesting", "complex", and "engaging". There were mixed reviews, however, when it came to the Stand Alone episodes. For example, reviewer Derrick Tucker of T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews remarked that he did not "much care for the vast multitude of one-shot storylines that are strewn haphazardly throughout the series ... some of these self-contained episodes are really freakin boring ... they foul-up the pacing of the main arc of SAC." Person called the Stand Alone category episodes a "mixed bag ... [that] include some of the worst episodes." In contrast, reviewer Chris Beveridge, an AnimeOnDVD reviewer, contended that "it's through the self-contained stories that we see how this government works, the kinds of connections the head of Section 9 has and just various bits of background on the characters." John Sinnott of DVDtalk agreed, noting that "each little mystery reaches a conclusion, though some are more tightly wrapped up than others ... the stories are very creative and entertaining, and they are not predictable". Dani Moure, another AnimeOnDVD reviewer/geek, echoes Beveridge's review, saying that "the stand alone and complex episode structure ... gives the creative team the opportunity to flesh out the characters, often by focusing an episode around them."

Because Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was produced after the critically acclaimed 1995 Ghost in the Shell film, directed by Mamoru Oshii and produced by Production I.G., some reviewers specifically commented on the series' success or failure in achieving the high standards set by the animated film. Beveridge viewed the anime series adaptation positively, noting that "while a lot of Shirow's more comical side and offbeat nature that fills the edges of his stories are absent, the hardcore material is here in what is the best adaptation of his work to animation yet." Person concurred, stating that in his opinion, "GitS:SAC is the most interesting, sustained postcyberpunk media work in existence, intellectually (if not visually) superior to the original movie." Tucker compared the film and the series to each other in depth, concluding that "the characterization in SAC is considerably improved over the GITS film" and that the series "embodies much of the intrigue and intelligence of its theatrical predecessor", but that it failed visually, stating that "the animation of GITS: SAC is fairly easily surpassed by its cinema antecedent ... it doesn't quite scale the bar set before it."

In addition to the generally positive reviews of the series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex won an Excellence Prize (Animation Division) at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival, a Notable Entry Award at the 2008 Tokyo International Anime Fair, and was featured in June 2004 by Newtype USA, with a double scoop cover story, and cover art drawn exclusively for the magazine. The Japan Media Arts Festival provided a brief summary of Stand Alone Complex, calling it a "completely original television series ... entertaining and easy to understand". Reviewers agreed in their summaries of the series, with Person declaring that it "plays like a cross between CSI, SWAT, and Neuromancer", Beveridge calling it a "solid action series that's filled with adult characters", Tucker describing it as "unusually intelligent and challenging, a treat for an adroit audience", and Tong from AniMetric concluding that the series "is truly one of the best ... anime series out there. Not only does it present us with a convincing view of what the near future could look like, it encourages us to think about some important philosophical as well as social and political issues."

See also



References

  1. Aramaki elicits gasps of surprise from police and military officials in the episode; he also is able to obtain jurisdiction without argument.
  2. From Bandai Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Limited Edition Pamphlet.
  3. Kubota lets Aramaki know about the existence of a military intelligence agent, as well as who the agent was investigating and why.
  4. Motoko asks Aramaki, "isn't he [Kubota] your friend?" to which Aramaki replies, "that's right."
  5. Shirow's Mecha


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