***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Pain. Reader discretion is advised.***
The year is 2027, and the world only has just begun to recover from the aftermath of the last war. Every now and then, violence breaks out, and many times, the people in power will go to great lengths to cover-up the crimes they committed during the conflict.
Returning to this landscape is a young but highly skilled soldier named Motoko Kusanagi (voiced by Maaya Sakamoto). Recently, her commanding officer, who she highly respected, was killed in a mysterious attack. Motoko vows to discover the truth and refuses to let anyone get in her way.
However, Motoko will soon learn that to get the answers she seeks, she will have to challenge some of the most powerful organizations in existence. And yet, to stand a chance against the most formidable players out there, one simply needs to become the biggest player of them all.
I’m going to assume you are starting this five-part Ghost in the Shell Arise overlook with this post. With that in mind, I want to begin by saying:
This is not a review.
Instead, I want to take an opportunity to discuss this aspect of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, fan to fan. But if you want to know whether or not I think Ghost Pain is worth checking out, the answer is yes, and even more so if you have only known Ghost in the Shell through the Stand Alone Complex series. If this is your entry to the Ghost in the Shell universe, though, then you might miss out on Ghost Pain’s charm.
At this point in the Arise series, I am not convinced it is connected to the events of Stand Alone Complex aside from sharing the names of Section 9’s members. Nevertheless, what made this such a fascinating watch was the fact that it was a prequel. Section 9 and the ultra-elite soldiers we met in Stand Alone Complex (and even the movies) were just starting out their counter-terrorism careers.
If Stand Alone Complex was polished efficiency, Arise, and particularly Ghost Pain, was raw untapped talent.
Look no further than Motoko Kusanagi. Recalling how the Major has been portrayed throughout the Ghost in the Shell franchise thus far, she has been the definition of a hardened soldier. It has been difficult to shake her, she has always appeared to have the answers, and she’s had the utmost respect from those under her command. However, the Motoko in Ghost Pain didn’t have any of that.
No one is born a legend. Actions and efforts accomplished throughout a lifetime allow veterans the experience needed to stand at the top. But everyone at the top was once a rookie at some point. Ghost Pain marked the beginning of Motoko and Section 9’s story, and it will be fun if the rest of the Arise installments follow this same path.
Having said all that, I also want to mention that Ghost Pain was a bit trippy to watch.
Thinking of the transition from the original Ghost in the Shell film to Stand Alone Complex, there were some changes in visual styles, but the differences weren’t fantastically significant. Plus, many of the same voice actors reprised their roles when moving from film to anime. Jump to now, and I’ve already watched the first two Ghost in the Shell movies as well as the entire Stand Alone Complex series, and I just want you to imagine the shock it was to see and hear a different version of Motoko.
Now, Ms. Atsuko Tanaka, the original voice actress for the Major, has made the role hers. She is the person I hear whenever I picture Motoko. I knew going into Ghost Pain that both the art style and voices would change, but still, it was weird to watch a Ghost in the Shell story and not see and hear what I have grown accustomed to.
On the one hand, I’m not sure how I feel about the change in visuals. I certainly don’t hate them, and I don’t think I can sit here and say they were inferior to both the movies and the first anime.
On the other hand, though, Ms. Maaya Sakamoto, who took up the role of the Major, knocked it out of the park. She sounded like a greener version of Motoko. I have no issues with Ms. Sakamoto carrying on the legacy left by Ms. Tanaka.
So, what of Ghost Pain’s story. I’ve got to be honest, it wasn’t anything special. For an introduction of these characters, I don’t think you could have asked for more, but it definitely didn’t blow me away. I’ll hold off on saying which of the two anime is better, Stand Alone Complex or Arise, once I finished with this series’ fifth installment, Pyrophoric Cult, but I suspect I have a pretty good idea which one will come out ahead.
This is not Stand Alone Complex, that much is crystal clear.
However, just because this series chose to go in its own direction and have its own look, that doesn’t mean it is bad by default.
On the contrary, this is a decent successor.
I cannot wait to see where the rest of the Arise series will go, but if Ghost Pain is any indication, I think we are in for a treat.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Pain? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and be sure to come back December 20th as Ghost in the Shell Month continues with Anime Hajime Impressions: Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Whispers.