***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Whispers. Reader discretion is advised.***
Major Motoko Kusanagi (voiced by Maaya Sakamoto) has recently started working under Director Aramaki (voiced by Ikkyuu Juku). Although the Major has been given free rein to set up her own team, she is still unsure if the Director is someone she can trust.
Motoko and Aramaki’s working relationship is put to its first big test. An ex-commander from the last war has recently been convicted for crimes against humanity. However, the commander insists that he was set up and turned into a scapegoat. With little effort, the commander’s men take control of the city, and it is Motoko’s job to uncover what is going on before catastrophe can strike.
Still, Motoko is up against a team of highly trained warriors, and leading them is the infamous ranger Batou (voiced by Kenichirou Matsuda).
Welcome to the second entry in this five-part overlook of the Ghost in the Shell: Arise series. If you haven’t read my thoughts on the first installment, Ghost Pain, then I highly suggest you do so; otherwise, none of what is about to be said is going to make much sense.
Without question, Ghost Whispers was a lot more exciting, enjoyable, and fun than its predecessor. Although Ghost Pain had the novelty of introducing the idea of a Ghost in the Shell prequel, Ghost Whispers proved something that should have been obvious to me long ago.
Motoko Kusanagi may be one of the most badass protagonists in all anime, but she remains only a piece of the entire Ghost in the Shell puzzle. Yes, it is great that the Major is capable of carrying a mission by herself and that most opponents barely stand a chance against her. She is a one-person army who can take care of anything on her own. However, what makes her and this entire franchise so excellent is that Motoko doesn’t need to do everything by herself.
The Major has the other members of Section 9 to support her.
Thinking back, Ghost Pain was an introduction to this newer version of Motoko. Yeah, the last installment may have had appearances by both Batou and Togusa, but it really was the Major’s story. Additionally, Ghost Pain had the unfortunate – albeit, unavoidable – challenge of selling a new look for Ghost in the Shell. It may have been a job well done, sure, but it took getting used to.
Ghost Whispers didn’t have that problem, as much.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know when I’ll be able to listen to the voice cast of Arise and not have everything sound off. And to be even more honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do it. That isn’t a swipe at Arise’s cast, not in the slightest. Everyone – particularly Ms. Maaya Sakamoto, who voiced Motoko – has been doing an outstanding job. Before sitting through the whole franchise, I’ve only ever known Ghost in the Shell from Stand Alone Complex, and it’s sort of ingrained in my head at this point.
Putting that thought to the side burner (I probably won’t be touching it again), Ghost Whispers surpassed Ghost Pain because this installment focused more on the foundations of what would become Section 9.
From what I saw in Ghost Whispers, there are two possibilities concerning the personalities depicted in this story.
- Arise has no intention of tying itself to the events of Stand Alone Complex (which is fine).
- This is the younger, far less experienced version of Section 9 seen in Stand Alone Complex.
I find myself gravitating to the second possibility more because we need to remember that there is a significant time gap between the stories of Arise and Stand Alone Complex. Thinking about the original anime, there is a reason why Section 9 is such a well-oiled machine. They had been working together for a long time, and there was an unbreakable bond of respect connecting each of them. That simply couldn’t exist during the events of Arise.
Consider, for a minute, the sort of personality someone like Batou has. From what could be seen in previous installments of Ghost in the Shell, he was the one most likely to go lone-wolf on the team. The only person who was an efficient check on his temperament was Motoko. The two were the closest of partners, and when Motoko was out of the picture, as seen in both Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, Batou was far more unpredictable.
Therefore, is it that hard to imagine that when Motoko and Batou first met, they would actually be on opposing sides? In Ghost Whispers, the two weren’t enemies in the sense that they had a grudge against one another. They just happened to be opponents at that time, and the Major went on to thoroughly kick Batou’s ass (one of the few people capable of doing so).
In fact, that is the point I took from Ghost Whispers.
This story was about establishing why Motoko was the only person who could lead such an elite squad of highly trained supersoldiers. They all had egos, and each of them came from different experiences, so it makes sense why it would be difficult to convince any of them that they should join an untested, mostly theoretical team.
With this in mind, it only gets me more excited to think about what might happen in the next chapter, Ghost Tears. This should be the story of Section 9’s first, if not one of the first missions together.
Lastly, it was Ghost Whispers that finally retouched a subject brought up back in the original movie, to any real extent – the relationship people had with the mysterious concept of a Ghost. Perhaps, and this is a big perhaps, Arise will better explore the path opened up in the first film.
Having only watched two installments, take this next point with a grain of salt.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise is moving upward.
This story was much more fascinating and enjoyable than its predecessor. The action was cooler, the visuals were better, and the characters were a lot more fun all around.
I had a blast watching Ghost Whispers, and I can only hope that this rising trend continues with the next chapter.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Whispers? 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 23rd as Ghost in the Shell Month continues with Anime Hajime Impressions: Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Tears.