"Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" Season 1 - TV Review

2002-2003
26 episodes of ~24 minutes each

"Ghost in the Shell" is one of the best known and most highly regarded of all science fiction anime movies. It's intensely cerebral (to the point that some people find it too concentrated on ideas and boring or hard to follow ... or both), but it was a property that I absolutely loved. The movie has stood up to multiple viewings, and always leaves me wondering how many of the ideas represented are going to be in our future.

The movie and manga were very popular, and led to a spin-off TV series called "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex." As Major Motoko Kusanagi was both the star of the show and the most popular character, they chose to completely ignore what happened in the movie (Kusanagi joining with the Puppet Master and leaving Section 9) to focus on Section 9 with the set of characters they wanted, centring around Kusanagi, Batou (or "Bateau" or "Bato" depending on your translation), Aramaki, Togusa, and Ishikawa. New members of Section 9 are added in the the form of Paz, Borma, and Saito - although none of these play a large part in the first season.

The season splits its time between Section 9's pursuit of the Laughing Man (a hacker with an incredible skill for avoiding appearing on screens, taking over people's ghosts, and even hacking people's eyes so they see what he wants them to see) and stand-alone - often comedic - episodes. Much of the comedy (such as it is) comes in the form of the Tachikomas, seven or eight AI-equipped tanks that support Section 9. They have annoying voices and no faces, so the animators compensate by having the Tachikomas wave their arms and move wildly when they're talking - I found it quite off-putting. Some episodes were quite political and/or philosophical, and for the last eight or so episodes they retired the Tachikomas and concentrated intensely on the Laughing Man story line. That stretch was definitely better than the very uneven stuff that proceeded it, but overall wasn't all that great.