Before I begin this review, I have a confession to make. I hope all you fine folks out there in internet land won’t think I’m a blasphemer for saying this but…I’ve never really enjoyed Ghost In the Shell.
Yes, I know the original Ghost in the Shell Movie was one of the quintessential crossover anime that gained attention with mainstream American film critics and helped bring Japanese animation to the attention of western audiences. Yes, I know the visuals are amazing. Yes, I know Shirow Masamune’s original Ghost in the Shell Story is unbelievably clever, intricate, detailed, and well-researched. And yes, I know the series’ protagonist, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is one of the most famous and most respected cyberpunk characters of all time.
But despite all this, I’ve never really…connected with the G.I.T.S. franchise the way other fans have. I acknowledge that Major Motoko Kusanagi and her co-workers in Section 9 Public Security are perfectly suited to their jobs of defending their futuristic city from high-end cyber crimes. But in a strange way, that’s kind of the problem I have with the series. Because the Major and her co-workers are so perfect at their jobs, so clinical, so methodical, so cold and calculating, so ruthlessly efficient and pragmatic, and so far above and beyond their enemies that they can handle any situation without breaking a sweat (which means they handle situations without building any real sense of suspense or jeopardy, two big no-no’s when writing an action/adventure crime-fighting series, in my humble opinion) it’s always been difficult for me to relate to the characters of Ghost in the Shell. In short: They’re emotionless, overpowered and they accomplish their goals effortlessly 9 times out of 10. And I find that boring.
That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised when I sat down to watch the Ghost in the Shell Prequel series, (Ghost in the Shell: Arise, which tells the story of how the Major first came to meet and befriend the other members of Section 9) and I discovered that, in addition to the usual slick visuals and detailed sci-fi storytelling audiences have come to expect from G.I.T.S., Ghost in the Shell: Arise also showcases the characters acting (and reacting, and interacting) based on real human emotions.
The series begins with a young Motoko Kusanagi eagerly plunging into the fray to try and solve the murder of a military officer who was once highly respected, but who is now believed to have been killed because he was secretly corrupt and involved in scandalous criminal activities. Motoko desperately wants to solve this case, not merely because it’s her job, but because the man who was killed was her friend, mentor, and father-figure.
As Motoko follows a deadly trail of clues that lead her to the heart of this mystery, she meets other characters (whom fans of the franchise know will become her future comrades in Section 9) who also have an emotional connection to the man, and who want to help clear his name. The adventure they have over the course of their quest takes them through bullets, bombs, bloodshed, danger intrigue, and concludes in what may be one of the most…emotionally gratifying endings I’ve ever seen in an episode of G.I.T.S.
(True, given my feelings on the rest of the franchise, that’s not exactly the highest bar in the world, but still…)
It’s too early to tell if the rest of this prequel series will continue in the same fashion as its first episode. What I can tell you is that based on what I’ve seen so far, they’ve piqued my interest, captured my attention, and I’ll certainly be watching more episodes in the hope that they keep up the good work.
Kaita Mpambara works every day to try and create shows, stories, and characters that are as exciting, energizing, and entertaining as the very best works that have been given to the world by both the western and eastern animation industries. Keep up with his musings on life, the universe and everything by following him on Facebook.