I think it would be fair to say that so far, Stand Alone Complex has been a great series; although on occasion it has dabbled in too much techno-babble for even my liking, the series has remained true to its roots as a hard boiled cop thriller based in a very “sensible” vision of our future. Stand Alone Complex shows us a world dominated by fascinating cybernetic technology but dogged with the same old human flaws of greed, lust and desire; and with the Laughing Man arc reaching critical point, I can hardly wait to get to bottom of this complex story. Forget energy drinks, this volume was a short, sharp burst of adrenaline wired straight to the brain; three more episodes that inject enough hard hitting action, political conspiracy and futuristic terrorism to infect even that “bloke down the street who doesn’t like anime”.
So we left off the last volume on a massive cliff-hanger; having uncovered a massive political scandal, Togusa was shot and looked to be on the brink of death. We rejoin the story with Section 9 sitting around Togusa (fighting for his life) in hospital- they all know he must have uncovered something big and to catch a break, the Major reluctantly orders the removal of his most recent memories.
At almost the blink of an eye, Section 9 are fast picking up the threads of Togusa’s discovery and rush to secure an important witness; a man with the knowledge to bring down Serano and their shady dealings with members of the Japanese government. Section 9 aren’t the only people after the witness though; powerful figures must suppress his knowledge and they aren’t afraid to use heavy weaponry (read: mobile suits) to prevent their man falling into the wrong hands.
This volume was brilliant. Over the last few discs, I had become somewhat jaded with Stand Alone Complex- the series didn’t seem to be going anywhere with a near constant stream of stand alone episodes and there was a real lack of narrative tension; aside from a few interesting futuristic concepts, we always knew that the likes of Major Kusanagi was going to come out on top and I suppose I was a little bored by it all. I now feel differently- this volume only contains three episodes but what a striking three they are; all are related to the over-arcing story line of the Laughing Man and suddenly the series has again attained a real sense of freight-train momentum. The action has suddenly transformed into brutal explosion of emotion and excitement (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one on the edge of my seat as the Major takes on a hulking Mobile Suit, looses an arm in the process and basically goes berserk).
I could sit here and write more about the story, but this would amount to little more than a walk through of the volume. I’m not here to explain to you what this series is all about, but instead to tell you how Stand Alone Complex makes me feel and honestly, this volume showcases what is a brilliant and sophisticated work of science fiction.
I often find myself following Stand Alone Complex rather than anticipating it; I’m interested by it all, but honestly have no idea where it will go next- of course I’m intrigued and anxious as hell to finally see it to its end and grasp some meaning from it all but generally speaking, Stand Alone Complex is a telling experience rather than a memorable story. It hits you from all angles with its vivid presentation of human cybernetic implants and sharp action. And this is all complimented by Yoko Kanno’s heart pounding musical score; a composer who at her best can alone compel us into a story with little more than a few minutes of well placed tunes.
From the off, Stand Alone Complex #6 was a nail biting return to top form. There is an immediate sense of momentum from the first few minutes and as the story establishes government conspiracies, brutal and exciting action and a tense political climate, the minutes will roll past. It’s hard to speculate about where Stand Alone Complex will go next, but I can hardly wait to take in the final few instalments and finally get some closure.