TL;DR – This is an ambitious return into the world of Ghost in the Shell that exceeds expectation in some areas but I am not sure the overarching story is going to work for everyone.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
There are a couple of shows that serve as a gateway into the world of anime. One of the greats is Ghost in the Shell a grand cyber-punk post-human jaunt into the future. For a lot of people, it was the movie that was their first contact, but for me, it was the Ghost in the Shell SAC. It was this, bright bold explosion, exploring religion, philosophy, what it meant to be alive. Since then I have wondered if anyone could capture that again, and the less said about that movie the better. Well, today we get a chance to see as we dive back into the world of Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka/Mary Elizabeth McGlynn).
In the time since the show and movie, the world has become a very different place. The G4, that is America, China, Russia, and the European Union, moved the world into an economical system called Sustainable War, which sounds about as bad as it. This is escalated by the Global Simultaneous Default when all the world’s financial system collapsed at the same time. Since Section 9 had been disbanded, most of the team joined in on the sustainable war effort as a mercenary team called Ghost. They worked their way up from South America and at the start of the series they are travelling through the ruins of Palm Springs. They are there to stop a raid on the gated section of Los Angeles but there is more going on than they first thought. Now we will be looking at the series as a whole and as such there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
The first thing you will notice when you start is how different the animation is then the past. Instead of a more hand-drawn style of animation, there is a more computer-generated almost cell-shaded style of animation. I thought this would be a big stumbling block for me because when you open it up the individual stills do not look good. However, this is a style that shines not in stillness but movement. Once you see it in action, it has a rhythm and flow to it that works. At the time of writing, there was only the Japanese language option available, so I cannot tell you how well the dub is but on the whole I found the voice acting to be good, bar maybe one or two exceptions like the character Purin Esaki that I found frustrating most of the time she was in the show. Overall, I did like most of the aspects of the presentation including the music that had hints of Terminator and Fifth Element at times.
One thing I think maybe a barrier for people is that there is an overarching plotline for the series because it takes a long time for it to get going. Indeed, the first half of the season is sort of one long set up to the big reveal. It is also bogged down in a lot of weird interplay between Japan and America in this setting that at least in the first season feels more padding than anything. This leaves everything up to the big reveal feeling like it full of interesting set pieces but not much else. When it does reveal its hand, the second half of the season is all about following that thread, interspersed with odd one-off episodes. This normally would not be as big of an issue, but it feels like the season is only just started when it comes to a halt. Which means I think a lot of people will find it a bit frustrating. Almost like a promise of something more but not quite.
I understand there is going to be a second season, as such they will probably have that whole season to explore the nature and origin of the post-humans. Indeed, the final episode does close of a cliffhanger of some note to propel the next season further. For those in the future that can watch both seasons back to back, I don’t think this will be as big of an issue but at the moment it feels like we didn’t accomplish a whole lot in these twelve episodes, even though they were well written with some good action set pieces.
While overall I did enjoy the show, there were these odd moments that stuck out, that made it feel like there was a gap between what the creators wanted to do and what they could get away with. Throughout the show it always felt like they were holding back which leads to this episode where you can help but notice a character that is fighting in a bathrobe and quote ‘freeballing it’ but they added a very notable blur patch. Only then to explode his head like a cantaloupe, so I am not sure what happened, however, there are moments like this throughout which leads to an odd dichotomy where extreme almost cartoonish violence is fine but other aspects are not.
In the end, do we recommend Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045: Season 1? Yes, yes I would, but maybe with some caveats. This is a well-constructed show, in regards to the animation and production. It was good to see some of those notable characters back, even though we did only focus on a couple of them this time around. However, I am not sure the overarching story was paced well across the season as a whole and it did feel more like we spent twelve episodes just setting everything up for what is to come than a proper season in its own right. If you liked Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, we might also recommend to you Altered Carbon.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045
Directed by – Kenji Kamiyama & Shinji Aramaki
Written by – Kenji Kamiyama
Based on – Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune, Young Magazine & Kodansha
Production/Distribution Companies – Production IG, SOLA Digital Arts & Netflix
Japanese Voice Cast – Atsuko Tanaka, Osamu Saka, Akio Otsuka, Kōichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tōru Ōkawa, Takashi Onozuka, Taro Yamaguchi, Sakiko Tamagawa, Megumi Han, Kenjiro Tsuda, Kaiji Soze, Shigeo Kiyama & Megumi Hayashibara
English Voice Cast – Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, William Knight, Richard Epcar, Crispin Freeman, Michael McCarty, Dave Wittenberg, Bob Buchholz, Dein Wein, Melissa Fahn, Cherami Leigh, Keith Silverstein, Roger Craig Smith & Armen Taylor
Episodes Covered – NO NOISE NO LIFE – Sustainable War, AT YOUR OWN RISK – Divided by a Wall, MAVERICK – MIA, SACRIFICIAL PAWN – Emissary from the Divide, PATRICK HUGE – Gift from God, DISCLOSURE – Quantized Gospel, PIE IN THE SKY – First Bank Robbery, ASSEMBLE – What Came About as a Result of Togusa’s Death, IDENTITY THEFT – The Lonely Struggle, NET PEOPLE – Reasons Leading to Flameout, EDGELORD – The Revolution of the 14-year-olds & NOSTALGIA – All Will Become N