Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex — Solid State Society

Rating: 3.5

In the beginning, there was Koukaku Kidoutai (攻殻 機動隊), the Armored Riot Police, written between 1989 and 1990 by SHIROU Masamune (士郎 正宗). It depicted a cyberpunk future of cyborgs, body augmentations, brain-computer links; it extrapolated the political, military, judiciary, and diplomatic situation from present Japan to a not-so-far future. It touched upon issues of personal identity and boundaries, social integration, the nature of self-awareness, and the implication of technology in the social and legal definition of personhood. It did all this while following the policemen of Public Security Section 9 on their investigation of a criminal only known as The Puppeteer, in particular through the eyes of Major Motoko Kusanagi.

In 1995, OSHII Mamoru (押井 守, Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, both Patlabor movies, Jin Roh, Avalon) directed the film adaptation. Most of the world-building was removed from the story to make it fit into a movie, and the tone changed from often zany typical of Shirou to the more serious and introspective that was already a trademark of Oshii. Although mostly useless plot-wise, the best remembered scenes are near the beginning (Motoko throwing herself off a building and turning on her thermo-optical camouflage), and near the end (Motoko trying to force open the locked hatch of a tank). Oshii also directed a second movie, Innocence, in 2004.

Between 2002 and 2005, two TV series were produced and broadcast, called "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex", with KAMIYAMA Kenji (神山健治) as director (he'd go on to direct Eden of the East). These take place in a different timeline than the movies, although the setting is almost identical. The title of the series refers to the fact that some episodes are "stand alone", while others form a season-long story arc (a "complex" of episodes).

Finally, in 2006, the TV movie Solid State Society was released, set after the two TV series, in the same continuity, still with Kamiyama at the helm. Major Kusanagi left Section 9 at the end of the second series, but she's back on the scene, hunting a criminal only known as The Puppeteer. Sounds familiar? Probably because it is. The first movie, the first TV series, and Solid State Society all take the (rather obvious) idea of software-level manipulation of computer-connected minds; the attacker / manipulator may be a human, or an emergent sentience (I'm not telling you which, if any, applies to this movie!). This plot device does feel a bit overused the third time through, and the inclusion of scenes almost identical to the "best remembered" ones mentioned above does not really help this movie stand on its own merits.

Which is a bit of a shame, because the story is different enough to be interesting regardless of what you thought of the previous works in the franchise, and reflects on different themes: the role of a welfare state, the fate of old childless people, the economic and social changes imposed by an aging population, in addition to the usual (identity and on the impact of mind-machine links).

Although I haven't tested this, I suspect that this movie would work better if the viewer did not know the 15 years' history of the franchise (good luck, though, finding someone interested in anime and cyberpunk who hasn't seen GITS). As it is, some of the "homages" to past works feel almost lazy, and the original aspects are not as prominent as they deserve.

Despite all this, the movie is a solid piece of work that can't be missed by any fan of the GITS franchise: Production IG's animation is at its usual very high standards, and is perfectly complemented by the music by KANNO Youko (菅野 よう子, Macross Plus, Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop).

DatesCreated: 2012-09-23 15:54:16 Last modification: 2023-02-10 12:45:24