Ghost in the Shell Series Impressions

Anime Hajime Impressions: Ghost in the Shell Arise – Border: 5 Pyrophoric Cult

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Pyrophoric Cult. Reader discretion is advised.***

Brief Synopsis

Major Motoko Kusanagi (voiced by Maaya Sakamoto) and her Section 9 comrades have steadily been making a name for themselves. However, they still remain a relatively unknown player in the world of counter-terrorism. Suddenly, the team is thrown into the spotlight when a passenger plane is attacked and brought down.

Section 9 discovers the attacker goes by the name Pyromaniac and this enemy appears willing to throw the world’s entire digital system into chaos.

With this new antagonist an already challenging foe, Motoko and her teammates must also contend with foreign spies meddling in their affairs, as well as be on the watch for the mysterious Fire-Starter virus.

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And so it has come to this, the fifth and final entry in this Ghost in the Shell: Arise overlook. It is also time I come clean and explain how I’ve been viewing this series.

The first four installments – Ghost Pain, Ghost Whispers, Ghost Tears, and Ghost Stands Alone – were originally released as OVA specials. Later, they would be edited for television and become the first eight episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture. I watched the four in their OVA forms and I wouldn’t expect to ever see an Anime Hajime Review post about the show.

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However, the fifth chapter in the Arise storyline and the subject of this post, Pyrophoric Cult, consisted of episodes nine and ten of Alternative Architecture. Additionally, to my understanding, Pyrophoric Cult was a vehicle to lead this storyline into the events of Arise’s sequel film Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie.

Should that, indeed, be the case, then that does put a lot of pressure on the film. Pyrophoric Cult did not close the Arise narrative. Instead, it left open what could be the biggest threat this version of Section 9 has yet faced. Hopefully, the movie can deliver.

If it sounds like I’m being pessimistic, it’s probably because I might be a little. That is a shame since I actually liked Pyrophoric Cult quite a bit. This chapter was a lot of fun, and it was the closest the Arise series has gotten to being as good as Stand Alone Complex.

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On top of that, the antagonist and the obstacles Section 9 faced were much better defined. Everything clicked together much more during this installment than during the last two. The Major and her team were more efficient, and it was clear that they had some decent control over the situation. Granted, there wasn’t enough control for there to be no worry; there was just enough to illustrate that Section 9 was a force not to underestimate.

All throughout the Arise series, Motoko was built up to be this super-hacker. Although she has proven time and time again that she is someone who you shouldn’t mess with in the physical world (she is capable of beating the much larger Batou in a strength test), there has been little opportunity for her to show any of her skills in the digital one. Pyrophoric Cult was the first instance where I felt the Major was living up to her reputation.

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It was also during this chapter that I realized what has been bothering me so much about the Arise series. In every other iteration of Ghost in the Shell, the relationship between Motoko and Director Aramaki (voiced by Ikkyuu Juku in Arise) has always been solid. Yes, they’ve taken friendly jabs at each other, but there was an unquestionable trust between the two of them. That trust was simply never in Arise.

From what I can tell, it would appear it has been the Major who has complicated things. She is the one with the ego, she is the one having trouble with cooperation. There is a difference between disagreeing with someone and actively disregarding what another person is saying because you don’t like being a team player. What has always made Section 9 so enduring, in my mind anyway, has been the member’s unshakable faith that their teammates AND boss had their backs.

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With Motoko keeping Aramaki away as much as she could, this version of Section 9 has felt less reliable, and therefore, less entertaining to watch.

To give Pyrophoric Cult some credit, Section 9 was far more cohesive in this story than in any of the four before it. Thus, this was easily one of the stronger entries of the Arise series. In fact, if I were to rank them:

  1. Ghost Pain
  2. Ghost Whispers
  3. Pyrophoric Cult
  4. Ghost Stands Alone
  5. Ghost Tears

I think what allowed this installment to work as well as it did was that it felt like a Ghost in the Shell story.

All the pieces were finally in place, and though this series was nowhere near as memorable as Stand Alone Complex, it has its own unique qualities that make it worth watching.

Here’s hoping the movie, if it is, indeed, connected with the film, brings this story to a satisfying close.

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Final Thoughts

We have come to the end of the Arise series. To be honest with you, it was pretty much what I expected.

I never thought it would be able to truly match up with Stand Alone Complex, but I also never thought it would fall flat on its face. And wouldn’t you know it, it didn’t.

I’m not sure how well-known this part of the Ghost in the Shell franchise is. I feel that most people are, at least, aware of the original movie and the first anime, but this one might have slipped past people’s notice. That is a shame because it is worth checking out.

And as for Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Pyrophoric Cult, it too is worth a look.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Pyrophoric Cult? 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 27th as Ghost in the Shell Month continues with Anime Eiga Review: Ghost in the Shell – The New Movie.

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