Original Run: January 1, 2004 - January 8, 2005 Number of Episodes: 26 Genre: Action, Military, Science Fiction Based on the Series Created By: Masamune Shirow
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ghost in the Shell – Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG. Reader discretion is advised.***
Following the near disbandment of their squad, the members of Section 9 are soon called upon to safeguard their country.
As a consequence of the many wars fought at the start of the twenty-first century, people have garnered a deep distrust from everything and everyone who is not their own. With such fervent attitudes, acts of violence and terrorism soon become commonplace. However, society would be in utter chaos if not for the work of Major Motoko Kusanagi (voiced by Atsuko Tanaka) and her Section 9 comrades.
Worryingly, though, Section 9 is now under attack from the political establishment that often requires their services. Not only that, a new terrorist cell, the Individual Eleven, is threatening to turn Japan into a war zone.
Stopping the coming storm may be near impossible, but if there is one team that can pull it off, then it would be Section 9.
I don’t want it to sound like I am taking the easy way out, so I must ask you to bear with me for a moment.
When I began watching the Ghost in the Shell franchise, I thought I would have so much more to say about it. To take pride in what I have released up until now – reviews for Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Innocence), and the original Stand Alone Complex – I do believe I have said plenty already.
I will acknowledge that up to this point, things have been easy (from a reviewer’s perspective, that is). Or, at least, things have been easier, for I have had leeway to diversify my words since the tones of these productions have shifted around quite a bit. For those who aren’t aware, the two Ghost in the Shell films are significantly darker than their anime counterparts (as I have seen thus far).
Plus – again, looking at the movies – the disparities between Ghost in the Shell and Innocence were so great that I didn’t have any trouble coming up with things to say, which is the problem I am running into here. After reading that, if you’ve seen my Stand Alone Complex review, then you might already have an idea where this is going.
Both Stand Alone Complex and its sequel, Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG (2nd GIG), were utterly fantastic and so much fun to sit through. I have no reservations when I say the two anime are much better companion pieces to one another than the movies are to each other. What I am struggling with is the dilemma that often comes up between my reviewer-of-anime side and my fan-of-anime side. Concerning the latter, I will be giving 2nd GIG the credit of being the better series. As a reviewer, though, I keep concluding that Stand Alone Complex, even if only slightly, is the stronger of the two.
Just so we are clear, what I am, essentially, having trouble with is equivalent to deciding what I would rather have, a solid piece of gold or another solid piece of gold that also comes with an extra coin of silver. Oh, woe is me, I know.
What gave 2nd GIG the edge over its predecessor was the scope of its story. This series did what sequels are supposed to do; it took what the original did and made everything bigger and better.
Looking at the cores of the two series, Stand Alone Complex focused more on Section 9 exposing underlying corruption in the government. There was violence, sabotage, and underhandedness, so what Motoko and her team had to take on in the first season wasn’t small. However, compare what was on the line then to what was on the line in this installment.
If Section 9 were to fail this time around, the consequences would have been all-out war, genocide, and possible nuclear annihilation. Forgive me if I found the threat of countries dropping nukes on one another to be a touch more engaging than some old dog politician trying to maintain his power.
Along with that, 2nd GIG struck the right balance of embracing the grittier atmosphere of the films and retaining Stand Alone Complex’s comparative lightness. This season wasn’t as willing to go as silly as the first did, but the world of 2nd GIG wasn’t some godforsaken society as depicted in Innocence. Mainly, this was the anime I expected to get after watching the original Ghost in the Shell film.
Something else this season did that I, if nothing else, appreciated was that 2nd GIG tried to incorporate the members of Section 9 who weren’t Motoko, Batou, Togusa, and Director Aramaki. Of course, when I say try, I mean character such as Saito and Pazu (voiced respectively by Tooru Ookawa and Takashi Onozuka) got an entire episode dedicated to them. Unfortunately, Ishikawa (voiced by Yutaka Nakano) got nothing, and I still have no clear idea who Borma (voiced by Taro Yamaguchi) is.
Nevertheless, even with what little 2nd GIG did, it was worlds more than Stand Alone Complex.
Lastly, I feel I need to say this since I made a pretty big stink about it in my Stand Alone Complex review.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought Motoko, the super badass cyborg soldier, looked pretty damn silly walking around without pants the entire time. To my absolute non-surprise, Motoko didn’t need to have her ass hanging out for the whole show for her to be noticed. Her no-nonsense, battle-minded attitude and cool demeanor did that in spades. Although her form-fitting clothing wasn’t hard on the eyes, at least she wasn’t wearing whatever ridiculous get-up she had on last season.
So again, if we are looking at this series’ entertainment value alone, then 2nd GIG was the better of the two Stand Alone Complex installments.
The Tachikoma robots (voiced by Sakiko Tamagawa) were back, and I still found them annoying. To be fair, though, they were a lot less irritating this season, but overall, I would have preferred it had they just not been here.
Going back to what I said about the struggle between the reviewer and the fan inside me, this section will focus more on the former for one reason.
Stand Alone Complex wasn’t the most straightforward story to follow, but it never got too insane until the ending. 2nd GIG, on the other hand, was an entirely different beast. Fortunately, this plot wasn’t the jumbled mess Innocence was. However, there was a ton of political speak, names of people, names of organizations, and three-decades worth of lore to keep track of on top of all the philosophy of human nature.
Throughout the series, it was hard to nail down the goals of the forces Section 9 was up against. Sometimes it appeared the team was being attacked from different sides from different players. Sometimes it felt as though the antagonists were against one another as well as working together simultaneously.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that every shady-looking person in this series had some ulterior motive of some kind. The problem was, though, there were so many shady-looking people that unless there was a distinct physical feature to their face, like Gouda Kazundo (voiced by Ken Nishida), most merely faded into the background.
What saved this series from being too much was that every now and then, the objectives remained simple: Do A to stop B from happening, and sometimes B was a nuclear bomb. 2nd GIG had enough of these types of moments to counterbalance its more complicated instances. And yet, when compared to its predecessor, there remained plenty of question marks.
Therefore, if we are looking at 2nd GIG in terms of its structure, then I would have to say it was Stand Alone Complex that was the stronger.
Before I end this review, I want to say that this was actually not my first time with this series. Although I never had a chance to finish it, I do remember watching this one back when it first aired on Adult Swim way back when. So, it was nice to get around to this one finally.
My official stance on this series is that it is better than the original. The animation was smoother, the story was more interesting, the characters were better utilized, and when you get right down to it, this was just way more fun.
And seeing how I full-heartedly recommended the original, then that should be saying a lot.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG is absolutely worth checking out.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
If you liked what you have read, be sure to follow Anime Hajime on our social media sights so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.
For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and be sure to come back December 16th as Ghost in the Shell Month continues with Anime Eiga Review: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society.