Before we get into this, I want to address a few jarring things that stuck out in the first couple episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (SAC). First and foremost, the intro animation style is god-awful and thankfully looks nothing like the show does. Secondly, Major Motoko Kusanagi’s English voice actress has fortunately been changed from Mimi Rogers to Mary McGlynn. Third, after watching the original movie four times, it was weird to see characters smile and joke around. It was such a dramatic tonal shift that it put me off for a few episodes.
And fourth, blue spider robots named Tachikoma have been added to Section 9, and they are an assault on nearly every sense. The voice used for these devices is excruciatingly grating and shrill—they annoyed me every time they appeared. To my astonishment, they sound that way in every Dub. Episode 16 nearly destroyed this show for me, and that is saying a ton because SAC is an incredible anime.
It really had one hell of a tough act to follow. The original movie was a dark, introspective and philosophical think piece on what it was to be alive. SAC is a political corruption thriller wrapped around an investigative police show. SAC begins in the year 2030, one year after the original movie. In the series, we follow Section 9 as they hunt down “The Laughing Man”—an expert hacker who’s resurfaced after nearly executing the CEO of a micromachines manufacturer on live TV six years prior.
Quick tangent—Only 12 episodes are dedicated to the Laughing Man plot. The other 14 are stand-alones and character driven. To its credit, the character episodes are knockouts. The Major, Batou, Tagusa, and Chief Aramaki are so well fleshed out, SAC makes it impossible for you to not be invested in these characters.
The Laughing Man is an untouchable foe. He’s able to hack people’s cybernetic eyes in real time—displaying his logo over his face to protect his identity or to become completely invisible. He can also completely alter memories. It’s really no surprise he was able to stay hidden for six years.
I feel I can’t go any further into the show without spoiling something, so I’ll stop there.
The voice acting, thanks to the Major’s change, is exceptional. And the master, Yoko Kanno, created an auditory masterpiece. What really stands out about SAC are the graphics and world building. You really believe and feel engrossed in every part of this post-cyberpunk world. The show is chock full of tremendous, fluid action sequences, and the most creative body modifications you’ll ever see.
SAC is a fine follow-up to the original Ghost in the Shell, and definitely, deserves a watch before the live-action debut on March 30.
You can stream all 26 episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex here on Viewster.