I’m really inspired to write about this show because it is one of my all time favorites and this weekend I am going to share it with a friend. She said she would like to get into anime but she can’t find any she is into. But she loves procedural crime dramas so that gave me a hint. Ghost in The Shell is perfect for her, it is one part Law & Order and one part West Wing that’s been doused in a shitload of cyber punk. It’s one wild ride and a look at the future which would give anybody mixed feelings and trepidation.
It is a time when, even if nets were to guide all consciousness that had been converted to photons and electrons toward coalescing, standalone individuals have not yet been converted into data to the extent that they can form unique components of a larger complex. – Explination of the Stand Alone Complex from Ghost in The Shell SAC EP1
In the near future cyberization, the practice of replacing components of the human body with electronic components has changed the way society functions. Now with the ability to surf the web with one’s own brain, everything from business to shopping to paying bills is done differently, including crime. Cyber crimes such as body hacking and the influencing of cyber brains are on the rise, prompting the Japanese government to establish an armed anti-terror unit to combat these crimes. Enter Public Security Section 9, an elite commando team on record as an international rescue squad, in reality, they investigate and respond to incidents of cyber crime and cyber terrorism. Organized and commanded by Daisuke Aramaki, the team is lead into battle by Major Motoko Kusanagi as they quickly dispatch dangerous cyber criminals with their various sets of skills.
Their next case, however, isn’t going to be as simple as hacked robot geisha’s or out of control AI Tanks. When the case of the Laughing Man Terrorist incident comes across the desk of Cheif Aramaki everything changes for Section 9. What begins as a reopened investigation into the kidnapping of the CEO of a Micro machines company quickly turns into a tangled web of government conspiracy and corruption that goes all the way to the top and threatens to tear apart the squad. Will they solve the laughing man incident, or is someone trying to stop them from getting to the bottom of everything. And if they do get to the bottom of it all, will they themselves survive?
One of the most appealing things about this anime phenomena according to fans is the astonishing quality of the animation and the amazing musical score. I can certainly agree with the latter statement, any score composed by Yoko Kanno is amazing. I, however, am the biggest fan of the writing which introduces smaller cases with no relation to the ongoing Laughing Man case to the main story line. This allows for the show to keep its integrity as a procedural crime drama while unraveling the components of a much larger mystery which the show is geared toward. And the levels of the writing go still deeper.
The show has a few references to J.D. Salinger‘s “The Catcher in The Rye” which should greatly entertain literary buffs, but the philosophy in the show goes deeper than just exploring some of the themes from that novel. While the main story line brings up themes about the malicious farcical nature of the political world and derides the phonies therein, I find more meaning in the development of things like the AI units. Indeed the best philosophical dive, in my opinion, is the exploration of what it means to be human in a world where the borderline between man and machine has been blurred so much. The development of the Tachikoma AI’s various individual personalities brings up excellent points on the ethics of AI’s and the episode about the Gerry Androids explored not only the idea of human sexuality when an android can fill our ideal expectations of a mate, but as to whether those lifeless automatons can possess a will or a soul of their own. Most important though is the idea of the Stand Alone Complex, the idea that even in a networked society where opinions easily become more uniform, that some individuals will cling to their individuality and in doing so become the most valuable component of a larger social machine.
Now I would be remiss if I did this piece without talking about the technology that exists in the world of Ghost in The Shell. 13 years ago many people commented that the time frame for this was not the best as many of the technologies showcased were not implausible but indeed highly improbable. With 13 more years to go until 2030 (the date the show takes place), we are seeing many of these technologies become a reality. While we are nowhere mind diving into the internet with cyber brains, VR Headsets are allowing gamers to experience their games in a more immersive environment. And although they are not quite as useful yet, cybernetic implants and prosthetics are now becoming a reality and are changing the way some people live.
So if you are a fan of police dramas or are looking forward to a future of cybernetic enhancement this is the show for you. It’s fast paced action and dives into the headiest philosophy make it a show any fan can enjoy. It’s an anime legend of the mid-2000’s that can hardly be topped by anything else in its genre. You can purchase it for yourself here. Enjoy!!