“Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” opening, song by Yoko Kanno
I’ve finally finished watching the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The first season, at least. I watched a few subtitled episodes of the show around the time when it was released in Japan in 2002, but at the time it wasn’t something that could hold my interest. At that time, I was deeply enamored with the colorful ninjas of the Hidden Valley of the Leaf in the show Naruto, which was just starting to take the world by storm. To its merit, Ghost in the Shell: SAC had exciting robots and futuristic weaponry, but it functioned as almost a backdrop to a detective story of political corruption and turmoil. A lot less sexy than the mastering of jutsu’s and fighting tournaments of the early episodes of Naruto.
Scene from the Ghost in the Shell film (1995)
In the 90’s, Mamoru Oshii’s animated film Ghost in the Shell was one of the most popular vectors for anime discovery before shows like Dragonball Z and Pokemon brought anime to the mainstream in the United States. I remember anime as an underground culture back then – you kinda had to know somebody that knew about it. I remember glimpses of anime in the back of gaming magazines or a few tapes in the back of a video store. I probably ended up first watching the Ghost in the Shell film after a friend let me borrow a VHS tape of it. Even finding it hard to follow the plot, it’s always been a favorite film to watch simply because of the visual detail.
Jumping back into Ghost in the Shell: SAC show, I quickly discovered why I lost interest in it in the first place. It’s a great looking show, but a lot less flashier than the film. Sure it has some robots and shooting and explosions, but it also has a slow methodical pace. Most episodes have a whole lot of talking about things you know little about, with only a few scenes of action if you’re lucky. GitS: SAC must be watched intently as every line of dialog seems like its there for a reason. From the first episode, you’re dropped into the situation and there’s not a lot of scenes with overt exposition explaining the situations. This is a good thing because if you’re engaged, everything you need to know will be eventually spoon-fed to you over the course of its 26 episodes. It’ll make good sense in the end. Most of it, anyway.