Fargo's Japanimation Fun Time! Ghost in the Shell: 2nd GiG

You know, being a Fanboy of Many Things can be hard. When something comes along in my favourite series and turns out to be simply not very good, it can be hard to defend it. While I love the original Ghost in the Shell, I found the sequel, Innocence, to be lacking more than slightly. It was beautifully animated and drawn, but the narrative was weak and the lack of series heroine Major Kusanagi was a huge drawback. When I discovered the television series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Not as much as the original film, but it was a great series. Then the second series, titled 2nd GiG came along. Was it a reply of history, the lacking sequel to a great prequel? Well, let's find out as we dive into..

Ghost in the Shell:2nd GiG


image

Released a year after the original series, 2nd GiG continues the exploits of Major Kusanagi and Section 9, a special police force working in Port City, Japan in the year 2032. Two years after the incident with The Laughing Man, chronicled in the first season, Section 9 is now faced with a new government, who finds the team almost redundant, and they are placed under the control of a shady figure known as Kazundo Gouda. Section 9 struggles under the pressure of the overbearing government weight holding them down, which is made far worse when they discover that there may be a connection between Gouda and recent terrorist attacks against Japan that are being made by the growing refugee population, led by philosophical revolutionist Hideo Kuze.

He may very well be evil.
He may very well be evil.

The story in 2nd GiG is definitely far stronger than the first season, when it is concentrating on the primary narrative that is. Just like the first season, 2nd GiG has three types of episode: Individual, which focus on stories contained throughout the entire season, Dividual, which focus on a single story in a single episode, with a tangible conclusion in that episode, and Dual, which is a combination of both, a primary story with references made to the storyline contained within the Individual episodes. In theory it sounds fairly complex, but in practice it turns out just fine. However, the Individual episodes are the strongest, simply because they focus on the stronger story. The Dividual episodes are generally well-told, but the stories they tell and the narrative within them are weaker. They tend to focus more on character development, but they do not always pull this off well. The episodes that choose to flesh out a specific character normally do so by showing a flashback and some personal history. The problem with this is that while they tell us of the characters past, they don't flesh them out; it's simply something that has happened to them.

The only characters that are fully fleshed out are Major Kusanagi, fellow Section 9 officers Batou and Togusa and the antagonists, along with some other secondary characters. Major Kusanagi in particular gets more characterization than she received in either the film or the first season. As the series draws to a close, and elements of her past start to entwine with the here and now, the aspect of humanity, and specifically what it means to be human, are woven through her with precision. Out of all the aspects of the Ghost in the Shell universe, 2nd GiG is the most successful in making Major Kusanagi human, and it does it so incredibly well. The rest of Section 9 certainly have personalities to differentiate them, but they don't have much depth to them. They're likeable enough though, so there is still some emotional weight when someone gets badly injured or killed.

Still the most awesome character in anime history.
Still the most awesome character in anime history.

Narrative wise, 2nd GiG isn't overly successful in presenting its story, although it's functional. The motivations of the two antagonists are generally unclear, especially when it comes to Huze. As the series draws to a close, the writers seem to want us to feel sympathy, and even empathy, towards him. This is clumsily handled, with connections brought up between him and Major Kusanagi feeling far too contrived and implausible to have much emotional weight. Also, the story just gets plain confusing at times. It's coherent if you pay it enough attention, but when events start to amount the series takes its time in explaining the various motivations and chains leading to the conclusions made.

At least the production values hold your attention. The large amounts of talking scenes are still presented with some repeated and stock animation, but given the low budget anime television series have to work with this can be forgiven, especially because the action scenes are incredible; whatever money they saved from the dialogue driven moments, went straight into making sure 2nd GiG topped its predecessor in pure tension and elaborate action. Gunfights are more bloody and dramatic, while close-combat fights are more brutal, yet also more smooth. Along with some nice CG animation used for the vehicles, 2nd GiG is probably the definitive action sci-fi anime from a visual perspective.

While the animators and artists clearly put a great amount of effort into the visuals, Yoko Kanno gives even more to the soundtrack. With her eclectic mix of pieces, from synth pop to beautiful strings, she manages to outdo her previous work, which includes the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Darker than Black and even Cowboy Bebop. Her music is the driving point to the series, with even the most played down of exposition scenes having great music playing in the background. The emotional moments are also given real weight due to her score, normally complimented with nice strings and piano, and a scene at the end of the final episode had me in tears due to it's imagery and song choice.

You can never have too much Major Kusanagi in a review.
You can never have too much Major Kusanagi in a review.

Voice acting is also of considerable quality. Stand Alone Complex is one of the few shows I watch in the English dub, simply because it is superior to the Japanese original in my opinion. All the actors from the first season return, with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn suiting Major Kusanagi perfectly. Her job is made even harder by the far more conflicted personality her character exhibits this time round, but she pulls off every emotional peak excellently. Other strong performances come from Richard Epcar as Batou and John Synder as the polite but deeply sinister Gouda. The original Japanese language is still great though, so if you're a purist there's no need to worry.

With a stronger story and better production values, does 2nd GiG exceed its predecessor? Well, it does, but only just. The reason 2nd GiG doesn't leave Stand Alone Complex completely in the dirt is because the first half of the series simply isn't very good. There is too little focus on characters and the narrative is flimsily constructed. It is only when the series finds its feet in the second half that it really takes off. Once it leaves behind the pointlessness of the Dividual episodes, which rarely amount to anything with the exception of one involving a mission in Berlin, the series really shines, and the final three episodes being the perfect counterbalance to the end of the first season, with the stakes even higher but with more decisive action taken by the characters.

If you're a fan of Ghost in the Shell, you'll be pleased to hear then that 2nd GiG is a great series. While it doesn't push the philosophical boundaries the original film and manga achieved, it is certainly a well-constructed, well-made and finely polished action series, with surprising emotional depth and even a few tearjerker moments. For those wanting to take another dive into the net, and anime fans in general, 2nd GiG is definitely something you should check out.

One thing I liked was how well founded the story was with the technology (assuming we have two more world wars within the next 25 years).

The only thing that pisses me off about this series is that they quit making it.

Stryc9:
The only thing that pisses me off about this series is that they quit making it.

They announced they are in fact making a third season, although I'm unsure if they're going to set it before or after the TV movie they made, Solid State Society.

I liked this new format. One thing I could suggest you change about you reviews is putting the title of the work in italics. It makes it stand out, and means it won't just blend in with the rest of the work.

Plus... "Japanimation": I thought this term was abandoned 10+ years ago in favor of calling it what its called in Japan, "Anime"?

Lovelocke:
Plus... "Japanimation": I thought this term was abandoned 10+ years ago in favor of calling it what its called in Japan, "Anime"?

Yeah, it is called anime now, and that's what I always call it. I just use Japanimation as a more ironic term for my review series.

Marter:
I liked this new format. One thing I could suggest you change about you reviews is putting the title of the work in italics. It makes it stand out, and means it won't just blend in with the rest of the work.

Maybe. I'm not quite sure to be honest if that would work. I quite like just the more simple font.

Would you Suggest the original movie? I'm trying to get back into anime after a long break and i need something awesome.

icame:
Would you Suggest the original movie? I'm trying to get back into anime after a long break and i need something awesome.

Certainly. It's definitely a masterpiece, but you might want to do some research on the universe and stuff beforehand, as the film doesn't take the liberty to explain the setting or characters at all, and just kind of throws you into the story. I would watch the first season of Stand Alone Complex before the movie, just to familiarise yourself.

"and the final three episodes being the perfect counterbalance to the end of the first season, with the stakes even higher but with more decisive action taken by the characters."

Darn, this means I should watch them. For some odd reason I watched 23 of the episodes about a month ago then I stopped. :/
I loved it, I just get distracted easily.
And I still need to watch the movie. Ugh.

But anyway another good review. ;)

FargoDog:

Stryc9:
The only thing that pisses me off about this series is that they quit making it.

They announced they are in fact making a third season, although I'm unsure if they're going to set it before or after the TV movie they made, Solid State Society.

Source?

dommyuk:

FargoDog:

Stryc9:
The only thing that pisses me off about this series is that they quit making it.

They announced they are in fact making a third season, although I'm unsure if they're going to set it before or after the TV movie they made, Solid State Society.

Source?

Here.

FargoDog:

dommyuk:

FargoDog:

Stryc9:
The only thing that pisses me off about this series is that they quit making it.

They announced they are in fact making a third season, although I'm unsure if they're going to set it before or after the TV movie they made, Solid State Society.

Source?

Nice, I did find this though, which doesn't bode well: http://www.blogomatic3000.com/2010/06/19/exclusive-kenji-kamiyama%E2%80%99s-comments-on-ghost-in-the-shell-3rd-gig-production-ig-and-a-new-project/

Here.

dommyuk:

FargoDog:

dommyuk:

FargoDog:

Stryc9:
The only thing that pisses me off about this series is that they quit making it.

They announced they are in fact making a third season, although I'm unsure if they're going to set it before or after the TV movie they made, Solid State Society.

Source?

Nice, I did find this though, which doesn't bode well: http://www.blogomatic3000.com/2010/06/19/exclusive-kenji-kamiyama%E2%80%99s-comments-on-ghost-in-the-shell-3rd-gig-production-ig-and-a-new-project/

Here.

Well, there's certainly fan demand for it. I really doubt Ghost in the Shell is going to go away in anime form. Hopefully in the next few years we'll see something. Maybe even another movie!

My thoughts are largely that to really appreciate the second season and "understand" it you need to be fairly patriotic towards Japan. As ties in with the theme song, both of the major factions going at it are soldiers, who are ultimatly acting for the same thing and out of a degree of patriotic duty as they see it. Neither side is entirely "wrong" is the message your supposed to get.

The problem with this of course is that the bad guys your supposed to have a nostalgic empathy for, represent a sort of militant pro-Japanese attitude, that is an Anathema to anyone who isn't Japanese. A sort of "return to empire, and putting the world back in it's proper order with us as it's masters". Where that kind of attitude would be portrayed as a flat out psychotic villain. Or at least that is how I remember receiving it.

This is a similar theme to some other Anime like "Blue Seed" (very old now), or say "Gasaraki". Both involve points of view about Japan's role in the world, and how they
are better dead than in their current defeated position. "Gasaraki" being the most over the top featuring a character who literally blinded himself because he could not bear to see Japan in it's current state.

I think in a lot of cases you need to remember that for all the similarities, and their love of the same kinds of fantasy and science fiction, Japan hasn't changed/civilized quite as much as we'd like to think, nor can we really consider them actual friends/allies given that we still keep their nation under what amounts to a military occupation (it's pretty much our major foothold into the East, with massive naval bases stationed there and so on. The Japanese SSDF is nothing when you look at what we base there).

Now yes, I do understand that Ghost In The Shell, takes place in a Japanese dreamworld where somehow the "American Empire" has more or less fallen, or is not what it once was, and Japan has somehow managed to not only avoid to manage being massacred by all the people in the region who hate them and have grudges (Koreans, Chinese, etc...) and actually rise as a global power. The central theme however still seems to be about imperialism, and how even with that somewhat idealistic resolution it logically shouldn't be enough. The attidues of the bad guy being just as valid as the more moderate attitude being represented by the hero. As I took things it's sort of portrayed in a way where the viewer is supposed to consider a victory by the good guys a hollow one because of what it costs Japan.

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked