Ghost in the Shell has come a long way in the last few years, with the original film and manga series bolstered by a manga sequel, a film sequel and two 26 episode TV series. Now comes the latest instalment in the complex saga of Section 9 - Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society.
Solid State Society is a feature length
outing set two years after the end of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone
Complex 2nd GIG TV series. Major Motoko Kusanagi has left Section 9 for
unknown reasons, and after Batou passed up the chance to lead the team Togusa
has taken the helm. At the start of the film Section 9 are investigating
the mysterious suicides of several members of the fallen Siak Republic, who had
been granted asylum in Japan prior to their deaths. The mystery deepens
when one kills himself in front of Togusa, after trying to flee the country
claiming he needs to escape from the 'Puppeteer'. Other members also
allude to this mysterious entity in their death throes, but there's more
worrying issues at hand. Section 9 find evidence that a terrorist attack
was planned if the Siak dictator Ka Ru-Ma died whilst under house arrest in
Japan. The attack intended to use a deadly micromachine virus delivered by
infecting a number of children with it and releasing them into the public.
Section 9 try to track down the children kidnapped for this purpose but find
evidence of an even bigger plot. It seems that 20,000 children had gone
missing, and it was impossible for the Siak group to abduct that number
unnoticed, so who was it? As they begin to delve deeper Motoko reappears
and warns Batou to stay away from an organisation known as the Solid State
Society, but that isn't the only mystery. Section 9 believe the Puppeteer
to be a hacker of the highest class, and they only know one person that good -
Motoko. Her movements have been mysterious since she left, is she
involved? And if so, what are her motives?
That synopsis doesn't cover half of it. As fans of the Stand Alone Complex TV series will know, the plot is incredibly dense throughout, with so much going on that you are sometimes in danger of being buried by it. In the series it takes 26 episodes to resolve the main plot, so how are the writers going to fare trying to wrap a story up in under two hours? Well, the answer to that is very well indeed. As you have come to expect from Ghost in the Shell in all its forms the story is superb and really keeps you guessing, throwing in a number of
really unexpected twists and turns and keeping many of the characters' motives unclear. It must be said that the story is pretty heavy, and requires some serious concentration at points to keep up with. It is as thought provoking as any previous Ghost in the Shell incarnation though, with concepts including collective intelligence and computer controlled artificial diseases providing plenty to occupy the grey matter. There is a lot going on and a lot to try and keep on top of, but it does successfully get the story across in the film's runtime without ever feeling rushed or stretched. It keeps you guessing throughout as the original mystery deepens and new plot elements come into play, and draws you in and keeps you hooked.
In a similar way to Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Motoko Kusanagi is
absent for the majority of the film leaving the rest of the cast to sort out the
problems without her. It is especially great to see Togusa's role greatly
expanded, for once he's not the junior member, he's in charge and he's doing a
pretty good job of it. The absence of Motoko allows the other characters
to grow and the writers take advantage of this, focusing on Batou
and Togusa but still retaining the Stand Alone Complex
identity. It would have been easy for the film to end up
similar to the other film incarnations, but it doesn't. That's
not to say it's just a cheap TV spin off though.
The animation is absolutely stunning throughout, well above the high standard set by the TV series. There's a moody tone set by the use of dark and muted colours, and this suits the style of the film perfectly. As always the music from Yoko Kanno is absolutely brilliant and the voice acting is exemplary. Quality oozes from this production, it's not a cash in, and it's not a pointless extension of the TV series. It's a complex and in depth feature that compliments the series and stands on a par with the other two films, and I don't
say that lightly. Like the rest of the franchise it retains the ability to balance action and drama with really thought provoking ideas and lots of heavy dialogue without completely losing the viewer. It's only real problem is that you really have to have seen Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG to really get the most out of it, if you haven't there's still plenty to enjoy but it would be a lot harder to follow.
For me this was the highlight of the Anime Allnighter. I am a huge fan of Ghost in the Shell in all its anime incarnations, and this film still managed to exceed my high expectations. If you're new to the franchise this is not the best place to start as it has an established cast and doesn't really make any concessions to new viewers story-wise, but if you are familiar with the series then you'll really enjoy it. The story is dense and complex, but it rewards perseverance, and there are some simply stunning scenes - Saito's sniper battle and Togusa's terrible choice after being cyber-hacked are undoubted highlights. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society is another perfect reason to get into the Ghost in the Shell franchise, and if you haven't done so already YOU ARE REALLY MISSING OUT. Buy the series in the utterly bargainous 7 disc boxsets and get watching in time for the DVD release of this film. You will not be disappointed.