Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Series Review

Length: 26 Episodes Studio: Production I.G
Availability: Series dubbed and subbed on DVD from Manga Video.
General Notes: This is the second season of the excellent Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex tv show.

I am a soldier...

(Note: It may help to read my review of the first season before reading this one!) A year after the events of the first season of Stand Alone Complex (SAC), things are looking grim for the Major and her elite unit of counter-terrorism specialists known as Section 9. The team was forcibly disbanded by the Japanese government, and is now keeping a low profile and biding their time until their talents are needed again. They get their opportunity when a group of terrorists calling themselves the "Individual 11" take hostages at the Chinese embassy. The new Prime Minister calls upon Section Chief Aramaki to resolve the situation quickly and painlessly. When Section 9 succeeds, the Prime Minister puts them back in business. Thus launches the next case taken on by the unit.

The story of this follow-on series focuses on the tensions that have been created by a large influx of refuges into Japan from mainland Asia. Millions of people displaced by war have been welcomed into Japan as a cheap labor force for rebuilding. But, now that the country is back on its feet, many are agitating for these refuges to be deported. Behind the scenes, a shadowy figure known as Gouda within Japan's government seems to be pushing for agitation of the refugees, making the situation even worse. This plot is interesting because of the many parallels it draws with the modern day world. Of course, terrorism has been on the forefront for the last several years. And, the issues revolving around the Asian refugee problem have uncanny echoes here in America with the debates on how to deal with the illegal immigrants here.

SAC 2nd Gig's plot is thus interesting and pertinent to modern day events, but I found it less engaging that that of the first season's. Part of this may be attributable to the fact that the pace and writing of 2nd Gig didn't seem as tight as the first. For example, there seemed to be a number of filler episodes in the later half that seemed to take away from the ultimate conclusion of the story arc. On the other hand, these filler episodes were reasonably done in their own right, and they did really help to flesh out the back stories of the characters to a greater extent that has yet been seen on film, so they detract very little from the overall series.

Ghost in the Shell has always been about intrigue and mystery interspersed with high technology and amazing action sequences. 2nd Gig uses that formula to good effect, and some of the action sequences are quite novel. All of them are very will animated, with CG being relied on to animate most of the Mecha seen in the show. This has resulted in 2nd Gig having a very polished and smooth look that improves on the first season, which was already a high water mark for graphical quality, in my opinion. Quite simply, this is a beautiful looking piece of animation. Backing up the gorgeous visuals are a solid soundtrack and excellent voice acting. The dub, in particular, maintains the high standard set by the first season of the series. A show like Ghost in the Shell features a lot of dialog and fairly advanced conversation, so it is quite a feat for it to have been dubbed in a way that not only makes sense, but sounds good too!

Just like the first season, the second season DVD release has an odd distribution of 26 episodes on 7 discs. The extras also consist almost entirely of interviews with the staff of the show. These were somewhat uneven; I found a few to be quite interesting, others I found quite skip-worthy. Still, the DVD release is a solid package and worthy addition to any anime collection.

Overall, SAC 2nd Gig is a very well-done show. While I don't think it quite surpasses the first season, it only just misses the mark. Given the high bar set by the first season, that is saying a lot. Highly recomended!

By Andy Rucker