We’re at the point now where Stand Alone Complex would have to do a hell of a lot wrong to destroy my devoted love for this show. And at the risk of sounding like a complete fanboy, this is a damn near perfect science fiction anime series. Taking out my checklist of “important qualities for great science fiction”, we have an amazing soundtrack courtesy of offensively talented Yoko Kanno, some beautiful animation by Production I.G and to top it all off, a thought provoking and endlessly entertaining story. Suffice to say, only three volumes in and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has stolen my heart.
So if you hadn’t guessed it already, this third instalment of Stand Alone Complex is as great as the last two. With it being structured similarly as previous volumes, we are treated to two “stand alone” episodes and two episodes that tie-in with the “complex” Laughing Man case. This format is turning out to be a fine balance of story and character development, both engrossing us in a larger story-arc while also taking time to further develop the enthusiastic individuals that dominate Public Peace Section 9. Several of these episodes focus on the likes of Batou and Togusa, giving us glimpses into their respective pasts as well as their little personality quirks and the ways in which they interact with each other. Batou’s “revenge” episode is especially interesting (and chilling); giving us a much more driven, sombre character than the jolly muscle man we had grown used to.
The Laughing Man saga remains as confusing as ever, leading us down a road strewn with technical jargon and futuristic philosophy. But at the risk of becoming boring, the sharp metallic atmosphere and wonderfully realized modern setting refuses to let slip of our attention. Like-wise, the Tachikoma tanks wouldn’t be as interesting or fun without their gleeful, child-like voices. And indeed, it would be easy to write them off as pure comic devices designed to lighten the mood of an otherwise pretty dark volume, but even they are forcing the viewer to raise questions about the value (and moral stance) of artificial intelligence.
When Stand Alone Complex #3 isn’t being as clever, it’s an exciting, adrenaline filled rush of combat and style. Ably assisted by a superb musical score, it’s easy to get caught up in the action as Batou dodges bullets and jumps around the rat infested sewers of neo-Japan, hunting down a twisted serial killer with a unwanted connection to his past.
It’s not often that a series as good as Stand Alone Complex appears. It’s an enthralling combination of music, action and philosophy, set in a neon-tinted cyber punk future and populated by a group of interesting, nigh-on compelling characters. Without wanting to hyper-bole this show to death, it’s quite frankly a pleasure to watch an anime series as well rounded as this and if you aren’t watching Stand Alone Complex already, why “the hell” not?