D-Mail Anime Review: Ghost in the Shell - Arise

In this part of his ongoing review series on Ghost in the Shell, Kerberos tackles the series of OVAs that were released periodically from 2013 to...
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    Original text: may 2015
    Editing and rewrites: June 2017

    Genre: Crime, Drama, Cyberpunk

    Studio: Production I.G

    Original year of release: 2013 - 2015

    Director: Kazuchika Kise

    Writer: Tow Ubakata

    Number of episodes: 4

    Runtime per episode: 59 mins


    I've always been a very big fan of the Ghost in the Shell franchise. The original movie still stands as my all-time favorite anime film and was the very reason I got into anime in the first place. I wasn't too fond of the first season of Stand Alone Complex, but the second season and the Solid State Society movie definitely made up for it.

    This brings us to the latest iteration of the franchise: Arise. A series written by Tow Ubakata, the writer of Mardock Scramble, and as always, animated by Production I.G. The series is also yet another complete reboot of the franchise and has no connection to any other iteration. Set before any other part of the franchise, Arise sees the formation of Section 9 as they investigate four different cases with political and ethical implications. Arise, to me, feels like far less of a cyberpunk series than other installments in the franchise. It places less focus on its setting and more on the characters. Similar to the original film, there are whole segments dedicated to Motoko pondering about her own identity and place in the world.


    The first thing that immediately grabs your attention when watching Arise is how different the character designs are in comparison to both the film and Stand Alone Complex tv-series. Personally, I have mixed feelings about the character designs of Arise. On one hand, I actually quite like the new designs for the main characters who all look a bit fresher and greener, in accordance with the show's chronologically earlier setting. However, the designs for the secondary characters, I feel, are ridiculously over the top and don't blend at all with the realistic setting and tone of the series itself.

    The animation is still fantastic though, especially in its action sequences, which are incidental, but still pretty awesome.


    The music for the show was composed by a rather unknown composer with the pseudonym "Cornelius". This marks a considerable step down from the movie that had music by the amazing Kenji Kawaii and SAC that had as its composer the equally amazing Yoko Kanno. This downgrade is instantly noticeable in the music quality itself. Cornelius's understated - almost meditative - music works great for the quieter more contemplative moments in the series. However, when the tension rises and the action ramps up, it falls woefully short with some pretty awful techno.

    I'm still not sure what to think of the opening. After all this is Ghost in the Shell, a franchise that has always been known for high tension and explosive action, so I was expecting something a bit grungier than the very calm and serene opening that Arise has. However, the opening does fit very well with the more contemplative tone of the series itself. Another feature of the opening that stands out is that its visuals change with every episode. While the opening for the first episode is very bland, the other three do a far better job and make for pretty cool looking intros.


    All in all, Arise is a solid new addition to the Ghost in the Shell franchise. It's not perfect, but then nothing ever is. My advice for this would be to go into it with as little expectation as possible. Forget the movie and forget Stand Alone Complex. Arise is its own thing, while still being fundamentally Ghost in the Shell in all the ways that matter. In fact, it could be argued that the best way to watch Arise is to watch it before any other part of the franchise. Although I should lynch myself for saying so, as I will vehemently defend till my last dying breath that the only good place to start the franchise is the 1995 movie. Regardless of all that, the bottom line is: Arise is good and you should watch it.




    Ghost in the Shell: Arise has been licensed by Funimation Entertainment and can be streamed legally on their website provided you live in North America. If not, the show has also been released on DVD and Blu-Ray by both Funimation itself in the US and Manga Entertainment in the UK.

    Special thanks to @Shannon Apple and @Tonto-banchou for editing and providing useful feedback
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  1. Kuze
    The music direction was a real surprise. It's got this really unique sound and feel to it. Cornelius aka Keigo Oyamada deserves love for this.
    1. Kerberos
      Yeah, I'd never heard of the guy before but apparently he's very popular amongst the more artistically inclined music crowd. A friend of mine turned out to be a big fan of his and he's not even into anime.