Cyborgs, philosophy, politics and beauty; science fiction fans were spoilt rotten by Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It was an engrossing, complicated and exciting series that had just about everything going for it and here we have it’s 2nd GIG- a new batch of 26 episodes that magically unites the same creative staff of the first season with the world famous Ghost in the Shell movie director Mamoru Oshii.
Being an artist known for his use of complex visual philosophy and stylish political undercurrent, Oshii’s input into this 2nd GIG could be seen as a contentious point for many of the fans who preferred the no holds barred pure action of Stand Alone Complex- but rest assured, 2nd GIG has married both of these styles with surprising results; essentially creating another unmissable and unique take on politically charged science fiction.
This is the Stand Alone Complex we know and love, but still- something is different, there is a confident swagger about this show now, the stories, the characters and politics seem much more connected than ever before- the first season perhaps exhausted us with completely unrelated stand alone tales of futuristic technology, but with 2nd GIG, each episode feels more like a story within a story.
These days Section 9 is being kept busy by foreign refugees who are becoming increasingly marginalised by the native Japanese society. A few years back, after what is said to have been a world war between Europe and Asia, throngs of homeless people were allowed into Japan to help rebuild its devastated cities. They aren’t needed anymore though, so as the unemployment rate sky rockets, Japan is left with thousands of foreigners they simply can’t support.
So while the public grows increasingly restless and the refugees continue to demand respect and fair opportunities, extremist groups are formed with heavy opinions that swing either way- and for many, resorting to terrorism is the only option.
This first volume of 2nd GIG unsurprisingly looks fantastic but it’s the setting and new sense of direction that really stands out in comparison with the first season. Without the burden of having to introduce the characters and “the physical rules” of Ghost in the Shell, director Kenji Kamiyama and his talented writers have been able to approach 2nd GIG with a clean slate and by taking advantage of the added input of (the similarly political) Patlabour veteran Mamoru Oshii, they have crafted an uneasy Japanese society dogged with political and personal dissatisfaction. It’s a great foundation from which to build and as the diversity of these four episodes attests (jarring from a tidy terrorist heist to a surreal slice of futuristic psychology), Stand Alone Complex is on top form as experimental, politically conscious and action packed science fiction.
Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG delivers break neck action at least up to the standard of the first series but some fluid improvements in animation along with a more confident (less restrictive) style of story telling shows that the series won’t be falling into the trap of retracing old ground. This is a science fiction series with marvellous potential.