D-MAIL ANIME REVIEW:
GHOST IN THE SHELL - STAND ALONE COMPLEX 2nd GIG
Original text: November 2014Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller, Cyberpunk
Editing and rerites: June 2017
Studio: Production I.G.
Original year of release: 2004 – 2005
Director: Kenji Kamiyama
Writer: Mamoru Oshii (original storyline) Kenji Kamiyama (series composition and principal scriptwriting)
Number of episodes: 26
Runtime per episode: 25 mins
As you might recall from my review of season one of this show, one of my principal issues was that it spent far too much time on its lackluster standalone episodes, causing the much more interesting main story to not come to the fore until the very end of the show. Season two switches this around by having the bulk of the season taken up by the ongoing storyline interspersed by a handful of standalone episodes. The season 2 arc is also a lot more original and complicated. Involving many different story strands all coming together to form the complex web of intrigue and deception - that is the main arc of 2nd GIG. To start off, there’s a right-wing terrorist group known as The Individual Eleven, and an ongoing internal investigation into the shady practices of a high placed government official named Kazunda Goda and his Cabinet Intelligence Service. To make matters worse, Japan also happens to be in a political crisis as the result of a massive influx of refugees, while in the background, the threat of civil war looms ever closer.
In all honesty, the main arc of 2nd GIG is absolutely phenomenal. Offering a biting critique on right wing nationalism and tackling topics that are relevant now even more than they were back when the show came out. This terrific storyline is only undercut in some places by the existence of the standalone episodes which aren’t bland like in season 1 but just plain god-awful. Cliché, at times nonsensical and even worse…pretentious as hell. Thankfully there are only half a dozen of them in the entire show so you can easily skip them without feeling like you wasted your money on the box-set. Though doing so isn’t quite as easy as it sounds.
The first season of Standalone Complex very handily divided up its episodes between “standalone” and “complex” episodes. Season 2 muddies things a bit by splitting up its episodes between “dividual”, “individual” and “dual” episodes. The idea here is that the “dividual” episodes are standalone stories, the “individual” ones are those dealing with the Individual Eleven group and the “dual” episodes all have to do with Goda and his merry gang. Except a lot of the dividual episodes also deal with the Individual Eleven, Goda and the political crisis, thus making them far from standalone. In fact, the only standalone episodes in the entire series are episodes two, three, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and eighteen. The last one of these actually being a fairly decent episode, at least as far as standalone episodes for this series go. Though I won’t resent you for skipping it as honestly the main story for this season blows anything they could attempt to do in terms of standalone stories clean out of the water.
ANIMATION & SOUNDAnother complaint I had with season 1 was the completely awful CG opening. Thankfully Production IG must have realized that this was a big mistake and replaced it with a great looking 2D opening that is once again accompanied by an Origa song . While I can’t say I like the new song, called “Rise”, as much as Inner Universe, it is still a terrific song and an awesome accompaniment for awesome looking visuals making for an all-round fantastic opening that got me pumped to watch the show every time.
As mentioned, I really didn’t like the first season of Stand Alone Complex very much. But almost all the issues I had with it were fixed with this second season and as such I am happy to say that this is in my opinion a brilliant show that’s very much worth watching. It’s smart, topical and entertaining as all hell and if you like action thrillers then this is something I highly recommend checking out.
Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex 2nd GiG has been licensed by Bandai Entertainment in the US and Manga Entertainment in the UK and has been released on DVD in both areas. No legal streaming is at this point available for the show, but since I recommend buying it up anyway I'm not too bothered by that.
Special thanks to @Kuze and @Tonto-banchou for editing and providing useful feeback