For a series as revered in the science fiction genre as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, I feel somewhat unsettled to suggest that what pushes my enthusiasm for this show beyond anime of a similar ilk is the characters.
But it’s true though, the hard-as-nails personalities of Section 9 prove that Stand Alone Complex is far more than the Major Kusanagi show. Batou, Togusa and Aramaki are all just as watchable as our famous silicon heroine; each of their well-rounded personalities adding their own unique flavours to every passing episode. Imagine them in any scenario, in any time, and they would still be worth following.
Of course, it helps when you inhabit a world as outrageously modern as that imagined by Ghost in the Shell. In this fifth volume Kusanagi and Aramaki visit London and as expected; the authentic background art and building architecture (red buses and all) is a rare and lush treat to behold; but then, simply seeing an English city visualized in anime is a pleasure in and of itself!
Two of the episodes on this volume provide a welcome focus on Section 9’s experienced mastermind Aramaki; being a refreshing glimpse at the inner workings of this renowned tactical genius, it quickly becomes apparent that beneath his professional, quick thinking tone is an honourable and sensitive man. For all of the explosive action already seen in this series, the subtle noir machinations of Aramaki are just as engrossing.
It’s a relief that Section 9 is filled with such rich personalities because the episodic “stand alone” nature of this series is starting to wear a little thin. Whether or not Kusanagi is chasing a disturbed teenage assassin or an 80 year old Russian organ splicer, the inevitable outcome is rarely in doubt and this often leads to the climax of many straight forward “action” episodes falling painfully flat.
However just as the stand alone content was really starting to become a distraction, the “Laughing Man” story arc makes a naturally befuddling return. Amongst the myriads of confusing tech jargon and hypothetical government conspiracies, Togusa manages to find himself in mortal danger and it’s in these kinds of unpredictable situations that Stand Alone Complex revels in.
We leave the volume on a painful cliff hanger and despite all the outstanding technical merits of this series, the next volume of Stand Alone Complex is one of the recent few that I am reassuringly desperate to see!
Much of what you have come to expect from Stand Alone Complex is present on this fifth volume without ever moving beyond the tried and tested formula of quick fire action and bizarre futuristic technology. In short, it’s predictable crime fighting fun right up until we rejoin the labyrinthine Laughing Man case and all I have left to say is what a cliff hanging note to leave us on!