After nuclear World War III and non-nuclear World War IV (the so-called Second Vietnam War), the world is a very different place. Japan has since risen as a major superpower once more, despite Article IX of their Constitution, which prevents them from taking part in actual combat. Instead, using nanotechnology, the country turns the tide with microscopic machines that scrub the environment clean of radiation, thus making nuclear weapons less of an advantage. The wars end and the geopolitical climate shifts considerably, most notably, the splitting of America into three separate nations – the American Empire, the Russo-American Alliance and the United States of America.
Meanwhile, Japan has flourished. It’s home to amazing technological achievements including full-body prosthetics and intelligence-enhancing brain implants, making total recall and vast information storage possible. Cyberbrains and cyborgs are commonplace. Androids and artificial intelligence are advancing exponentially. Robotics like mechanized armor and multi-pedal tanks ensure some country or privatized military are heavily armed. The Internet has evolved into a single global ether that any individual with a cyberbrain can tap into in real-time. Cyberspace is as real as you make it.
Japan also flounders. The country has no idea what to do with the three million war refugees it gives ill-equipped shelter to. The shadow of the ultra-nationalist American Empire looms over the mostly-ineffective Japanese government while big companies and manufacturers secretly hold the reins. The proliferation of advanced technology brings a dark side as well – cybercrime, a new brand of terrorism. Boundaries are blurred; man and machine are almost the same and reality itself is in question. Espionage and subterfuge is at an all-time high.
This is the backdrop of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, perhaps the greatest work of cyberpunk science fiction put to screen.
Most of that isn’t even revealed until the second season – 2nd Gig – but much of it is alluded to in the first season of Stand Alone Complex, which, as a title by the way, has dual meanings. The episodes are divided into “stand alone” and “complex” stories. “Complex” episodes deal with the overall, long-running arc of the plot – the Laughing Man Case in the first season, and The Individual 11 Case in 2nd Gig – while “stand alone” episodes offer bite-sized stories that may or may not figure into the whole scheme of things. But more often than not, “stand alone” episodes shouldn’t be skipped because they reveal more about the world and the characters.
Stand Alone Complex also refers to a social phenomenon that deals with individuals committing the same act without the need of central leadership or teamwork. The only thing they share is the same information or ideology. What makes the stand alone complex fascinating is the lack of a leader, or rather, the presence of an imaginary leader or the catalyst of information that never actually existed to begin with – copies without an original. This extends to information control, and in the world of Ghost in the Shell, where everyone and everything is connected via a worldwide Net, this is easy to pull off. The media, advertising, the gatekeepers in our world, they do this, too. Gamers should remember the case with Hideo Kojima hiding the existence of Raiden and the Plant Chapter in Metal Gear Solid 2. (Another series obsessed with genes, memes and copies of copies of copies…)
But one can write books on Ghost in the Shell and its philosophical and social theories (and some have). Let’s get to the nitty gritty. Part Blade Runner, part Battlestar Galactica (the contemporary remake), part Miami Vice, Stand Alone Complex is a cybercop procedural that shares several commonalities with lots of literary and cinematic sources including authors J.D. Salinger and Haruki Murakami, theorists Fredric Jameson and Donna Haraway, filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard, Dziga Vertov and the Wachowski Brothers (coming full circle – Ghost in the Shell heavily inspired The Matrix), and naturally, Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell movies. Canonically, the movies and the TV series are completely independent of each other though they share several of the same situations and characters. Whereas Oshii’s movies are much more methodical, concentrated works the series (hereby abbreviated as SAC), given its generous 52-episode runtime, is a much closer adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s detailed manga, from which all this cyber-business originates.
The SAC headmaster is Kenji Kamiyama, who worked with Oshii on the Patlabor series. Kamiyama directs and writes, along with a stable of capable writers including Dai Sato. Sato has a nice resume including Wolf’s Rain, Eureka Seven and another anime you may have heard about called Cowboy Bebop, where he penned an episode called “Brain Scratch.” Almost a precursor to SAC, the episode deals with an expert hacker who masquerades as a Heaven’s Gate type of cultist in Bebop‘s version of cyberspace. The hacker, who pontificates the non-existence of God and the mediation of reality through television and advertisting, (SPOILER ALERT!) turns out to be a kid in a coma, living out his remaining time as a digital prophet. SAC takes everything in “Brain Scratch” – the ethereal music of Yoko Kanno, the spirituality-meets-technology themes – and multiplies it tenfold.
Instead of a ragtag group of bounty hunters, the adventurers in SAC are a private group of ex-soldiers in the employ of Japan’s Public Security Bureau. Dubbed Section 9, the organization is led by Daisuke Aramaki, whose small, weathered stature hides a genius strategist. He gets a lot of time in the spotlight, barking orders and stymieing bureaucrats left and right, and he harbors a special care for his team. It’s not hard to imagine he looks upon them as his children, with The Major as his daughter, and Batou and Togusa his sons.
Togusa, the only one of the group without a military background, is the newest member of Section 9, recruited out of the local police force by the Major herself. He’s also the only one besides Aramaki without any prosthetics, making him mostly original flesh and blood. This would normally make Togusa the weakest link in the chain but what he lacks in brute force and superhuman flexibility he more than makes up for in good old-fashioned detective work. He often gets cases rolling, picking up on clues overlooked by his teammates. Togusa, a family man with a cute wife and two kids, could be the audience’s entryway into the Ghost in the Shell world, akin to the rookie in the Hellboy movie or the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings. Although his goofy haircut and his naivety also leads to slip-ups and outright failure, making him more like Butters from South Park. Besides, who could relate to a perfect Amazon like the Major or a hulk like Batou anyway?
Well, Batou just puts on airs of being a hulk. He’s really a big softie, a sucker for nostalgic past times, notably weight lifting, even though he doesn’t have to, his body’s completely synthetic. But he holds onto the old exercise anyway, a reminder of his days as a full-blown organic person. He also smokes, drinks and is prone to temper problems – blame it on his sentimental side. A futuristic Solid Snake – his Japanese voice actor Akio Otsuka seals the similarities – Batou can wax philosophical, but he’s also proficient, even cold-blooded killer when he has to be.
The supporting characters get by on superficial visuals with occasional dollops of insight. Ishikawa gets by on being the main backup, often providing information and plot details, and sporting an incredible beard. He’s also a Yankees fan. Paz, a squinty mobster-looking guy, and Borma, a big lug with prosthetic eyes like Batou, get the short end of the stick though Paz does get his own little adventure, insignificant as it is. Saito, the resident sniper, gets more time to shine because he’s a sniper and only has one eye, and snipers with only one eye are cool.
The Tachikomas, battle tanks with evolving A.I., serve as the show’s cute mascot even though they’re walking death machines. Because they have a conscience and a shared consciousness, they’re the main focus of the man-machine polemic, with a few episodes dedicated to them just discussing the intricacies of the super-cyber digital world they inhabit. Yes, cute blue killer robots tossing theories back and forth. Trust me, it works.
Anyone who’s seen the movies or knows an iota about GitS knows the pin-up protagonist, The Major. She’s the star, the main character, the core of the show and embodiment of the era she lives in, even if she is a bit too Mary Sue/Superman for some people’s tastes. The movie version of The Major is purely intellectual, an unblinking automaton. The manga version is inconsistent at best – at times an intellectual, scripture-quoting powerhouse; at others, a wacky sex-crazed clown. She’s still a superhuman perfectionist but her incarnation in SAC version is the best. Like the best heroes her strengths are paired with flaws. She’s fallible, and has a tragic background to tie her insecurities together. She wears a wristwatch to commemorate the final fitting of her prosthetic body. Despite her cyborg artificiality, she’s human, though she tries to hide with her stern, even callous, demeanor. Not that she’s a total stick in the mud – she shares a bottle of wine with her chief, Aramaki in one episode and relishes her vacation time, which she spends with two sexually suggestive pals, a throwback to the sometimes-raunchy manga. She’s at her most human in SAC, and the series chips away at her slowly, gradually revealing her inner workings, mainly through the relationships with her teammates, Batou and Togusa, and the extraordinary cases she finds herself in. The first and only time you see her cry for example, is in episode 10 of the first season, the stand-alone “Tachikoma Runs Away” episode.
A Tachikoma, the spider-like tank that can think and talk, escapes Section 9 HQ for a day in town. There he (it?) meets a little girl who lost her puppy. The Tachikoma looks threatening with its numerous appendages and is completely out of place in the street markets it visits, zooming around to touch and interact with everything to gain “experience”, as if it was playing an RPG. The girl even rides the tank, treating it like a substitute for her lost dog. Yeah, the episode’s pretty goofy at first. While searching for the puppy the Tachikoma picks up a stray dog and asks the girl if it’s the one she lost. Of course it isn’t so the Tachikoma tosses the dog away and the girl chides it for being mean. The Tachikoma responds “But it was simply unnecessary!” Then it talks in Aramaki’s gruff, old voice about how it’s a tank with the brain of an old war veteran inside of it to keep nosy cops away from the girl. As this part of the story closes, the Tachikoma learns in an Iron Giant type of way, about death, love and sadness. Touching stuff.
But then the Tachikoma finds a cyberbrain case (“I have a feeling it’s something amazing!”) and brings it back to Section 9. The forensics team – cyborgs in red coats – check it out. When one of the red coats don’t return from “diving” into it the Major herself goes in to find herself in a virtual movie theater. Lots of people are in there already, discussing the film they’ve just seen. The Major watches “the mind-blowing movie” and is shocked when she tears up. When asked her opinion on it the Major is a tough critic. Although the movie is wonderful, it traps its audiences with no beginning or end and she insists “dreams are meaningful when you work toward them in the real world. If you merely live in the dreams of other people it’s no different from being dead.” But another patron retorts: “If the reality you believe in ever comes about then give me a call.”
Back in the real world, The Major’s teammates, Ishikawa and Batou, give the Major some perspective. They’re astonished by the talent involved in such a situation – “It was the appeal of the film that kept the audience there. There was no trap and there was no hacking.” – and reveal the patron the Major gave her strong opinion to was in fact the director of the movie, who sacrificed his body to ensure the creation of this perfect movie. The Major is brought down a few pegs but immediately puts her shell back up and gives her terse, final order on the case.
The episode ends with the Major and Batou talking. Out of nowhere, The Major asks him if a movie has ever made him cry before. Batou’s taken aback. The Major? Opening up?! He hesitates, then lets her know a Marx Brothers film made him laugh so hard he cried. Then, the big doof invites her to see a movie with him some time, but the Major, the cold bitch, says she only sees movies alone. “Makes sense,” Batou says.
The episode, though it’s not a “complex” one, is a benchmark for several reasons. It lays the groundwork for various relationships and plots that pay off in the end, and are developed further in 2nd Gig. Batou loves the Tachikomas, and dotes on them as if they were pets, as the little girl does. He, and the girl, are ultimately the ones responsible for their emotional growth. Through them the Tachikomas grow closer to humanity, making their later selfless actions possible. The episode also reveals the Major’s feelings for the tanks. She detests the Tachikomas possibly because they’re even more emotional than her and when she does feel something – crying at the movie – she’s afraid of it. So she opens up to Batou, who totally wants her buxom attention, and closes back up again. Their conversation, as well as the memory of the girl’s dog, and the escape from reality into the movie, underscores the prevailing aching nostalgia that permeates the show. This is a sad show, and nostalgia, a subject near and dear to Dai Sato stemming from his Bebop days, is a key motif.
And that’s just one episode. The rest of the time SAC is a violent futuristic cop show, exploring a plethora of possibilities and situations in a hyper-digital society, including the “stand alone complex” phenomenon. The first season’s major thread involves the Laughing Man, a marvelous and demanding story about a genius hacker’s war against corporate injustice. Inspired by Japan’s real-life mysterious Glico-Morinaga kidnapping and ensuing crime spree, the case starts off small and escalates into a fight that threatens the lives of Section 9, and anyone with a cyberbrain. Sacrifices are made and conspiracies are unearthed, but the coolest thing about it is the charming Laughing Man himself and his J.D.Salinger-inspired M.O. He hacks people’s senses and memory in real-time using a catchy logo and text from that author’s most famous work: “What I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes.” And like Salinger, the Laughing Man vanishes into obscurity, literally. The soldiers of Section 9 use therm-optic camouflage suits like the Predator’s cloak to stay invisible – the Laughing Man doesn’t have to. He can just erase himself from your vision and memory. And the appearance of his logo, which he plants on people’s faces in real-time, heralds the arrival of the first stand alone complex. Truly one of the best and most chilling moments in the entire series.
In 2nd Gig, The Individual Eleven Case is superlative. Though I sometimes prefer the first season’s Laughing Man case for its blue-hued battle against corrupt authority and its charming antagonist, the second season is undeniably a genius balancing act. At once it’s more epic, more political and more personal – the Major and other major characters have their histories revealed, all on the stage of a mass refugee uprising. It’s also much more Japanese, with Buddhist symbolism, an abundance of paper cranes and what they stand for (fragility? purity? immortality?), ruminations on Article IX, and the introduction of a recurring new character, Prime Minister Kayabuki, standing in for the post-war feminized Japan. 2nd Gig‘s setting has more in common with Oshii’s movies – fitting since he decided to get involved with SAC‘s second season as the “story planner.” Green-hued, East Asian aesthetics are much more prominent than the first season’s decidedly Manhattan-esque visuals. There’s nary a Starbucks parody to be found this time around, the city is a lot more like L.A. 2019 in Blade Runner – noodle shops and slums abound. Kayabuki, bullied by imperialist American forces and hawkish, ultra-conservative Japanese forces alike, stands for a Japan in search of a strong identity.
The other new character is Hideo Kuze, a revolutionary so stoic he doesn’t even move his mouth to talk. He can’t; his cyborg body is outdated. Yet he’s captivating, an otherworldly silver-haired savior with a war history and a massive Marxist leaning. Seemingly a run-of-the-mill katana-wielding badass at first, he arises out of a stand alone complex to lead Japan’s three million refugees to salvation. 2nd Gig‘s story is, ultimately, about him but it also intertwines with the Major’s. Theirs is a love story, much to Batou’s pouty-faced dismay, although he does occupy a corner of the triangle.
Not that it’s a full-blown kissy-huggy romance – these characters are way too business-like for that nonsense. The cyborg romance is akin to the subtle gestures and gazes of William Adama and Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica. There’s frustration and tension but there’s a job to do first. There’s still time for heroic displays of affection, particularly in each season’s final episodes where Batou, recklessly (and thanklessly) risks his life.
But the big lug shouldn’t be too jealous of Kuze, since his interaction with the Major just amplifies Batou’s role. In the show’s last episode, “Infinite Gig”, Batou and Kuze do doubletime as dual Christ figures. Batou, literally carrying a cross, suffers for the Major, while Kuze has a last supper, er, tea speech that is both confounding and incredible – if just for Yoko Kanno’s magnificent music – and his final plan is apocalyptic and heartbreaking.
The show also gets a new villain, Kazundo Gohda, who has got to be one of the all-time best. He’s sick, twisted and brilliant. Born from a Batman or Bond-esque tragedy (take your pick), he’s a tall guy with a super-scarred face who never lays a hand on anybody. Instead he uses his intellect to manipulate entire nations to build his new world order. He claims to love Japan and wants to restore it to its pre-WWII glory, which could be a major reason he’s so effective – he’s a hideous portrait of patriotism gone haywire. A manipulative sonuvabitch, considering he’s responsible for all the exciting stuff that happens in 2nd Gig – an invigorating helicopter vs. Tachikoma chase, a mass beheading, the onset of nuclear civil war – it’s sad to see this guy go the way he does.
Simply, 2nd Gig is tough to top. Escalation at its finest, it amplifies everything the first season has done. The action is bloodier and far more frequent, some light is shed on the Major’s past and Section 9′s less active agents get to star in their own episodes, with the sniper Saito’s story “Poker Face” a highlight. A flashback to the war days (Batou gets similar treatment in “Jungle Cruise”), it shows how a younger Major met and took the sniper’s eye in a bloody Saving Private Ryan-esque standoff. The frame story has Saito in the present, eye-patched and sullen, telling the story over a game of cards with Section 9 rookies. The episode’s prominent feature is a song that bookends Saito’s war story called “Somewhere in the Silence,” a techno-rock ballad that complements and contrasts the wartorn visuals with gossamer lyrics like “motion with no sound, ice inside the fire.”
The rest of Yoko Kanno’s music is just as good, maybe even better. Another Cowboy Bebop alum, Kanno’s music in SAC is truly that of a global society and her range is colossal. Mixing Russian, Japanese, English, Italian, metal, hip-hop, hard rock, powerful pop anthems, jazz, techno, classical-sounding pieces, Gregorian chants, American rap, Japanese rap, devastating piano pieces … there’s even a track made completely with kazoos. And some of the lyrics – “She’s incredible math! Just incredible math!” – are so batty they’re impossible not to love and quote. It’s also ridiculous how much music there is in the show – there are four (six if you count be Human and Solid State Society CDs) soundtracks available to date, and there’s still music unavailable commercially. That there’s a track of music in every episode that isn’t released on CD is criminal. That’s at least two more CDs right there.
Admittedly, the show wouldn’t be the same without Yoko Kanno’s score. No other soundtrack would do! It’s an intrinsic part of the show’s DNA, used so efficiently and perfectly, it’s as recognizable as the characters – dire-sounding “Silent Cruise” plays when the crew’s in a climactic, life-threatening situation, rock anthem “Run Rabbit Junk” or techno-pop mash-up “Torkia” for when Section 9 kicks ass, and “Smile” is the perfect, playful theme for the Laughing Man. During a long interlude of illuminating exposition and action a sad vocal song, “Beauty is Within Us”, builds up to the climax. The composition would make Michael Mann proud. No other song exemplifies Stand Alone Complex like the first season opening song, “Inner Universe.” Arguably Kanno’s finest composition, it’s a powerful multi-layered masterpiece of electronica and old-school twittering strings. It sounds like the music for digital bits rushing through the Net. Russian singer ORIGA, who sings all the main themes, doesn’t just sing it – “Calling, calling, in the depths of longing” – she immortalizes it. Every listen is a nigh religious event. It’s a shame the opening 3D animation doesn’t match the music.
Otherwise, the animation is mostly fantastic. Done by Production I.G., the studio responsible for Oshii’s original movies and End of Evangelion, the visual quality is often at cinematic levels. The widescreen aspect ratio greatly helps in that regard, too. Each season has its own color scheme as well – the colors of the first season are pastel/pale with many variations of blue and purple. The city itself radiates and pulses in blue like a vast electric ocean. The color palette noticeably switches in 2nd Gig to a more Matrix-y green glow, especially in interior scenes.
The depiction of cyberspace varies but it’s mostly done in expensive-looking CGI, and it’s realized beautifully – blips of white and other splashes of color travel through a universe of gold, green and blue. “Chat! Chat! Chat!”, Dai Sato’s personal favorite episode from the first season, takes place entirely in an Internet chatroom, with futuristic avatars sitting around an actual forum in cyberspace, discussing the details of the Laughing Man case (“Is everybody here a hardcore Laughing Man freak?”). The episode – people just talking in Net jargon – could have been a frustrating bore, but it’s brilliantly executed. The show’s vision of a futuristic virtual chat room is attractive, colored in the first season’s trademark blues and everyone’s discussion is transposed in front of them in text hanging in mid-air. It’s one of the most utopian aspects of SAC, as everyone is surprisingly civil. The Major, disguised in her own slinky avatar, merely watches on as the Laughing Man freaks bounce off one another with the latest rumors and theories. One of the chatters demands sources or “sauces” for new information.
All the vehicles in the show, including the Tachikomas, are animated in 3D but they mesh with the rest of the fluid 2D animation seamlessly. What doesn’t mesh well are episode-to-episode character model inconsistencies. Every character looks different from episode to episode. It’s not noticeable at first but upon multiple viewings it’s plain as day. Is it distracting? Truthfully, yeah. Aramaki sometimes has bigger hair, sometimes he has shorter hair. Togusa can have a larger nose, with larger eyes. The Major’s hair goes all over the place and her eyes are either huge saucers or narrow and focused. Batou’s face, unfortunately, takes the biggest beating. Sometimes he’s made of beef, sometimes he’s quite streamlined. It would’ve been nice if everyone was on-model all the time but with a production this elaborate it’s probably inevitable different animators will give different interpretations of the characters. None of this detracts from the overall proceedings, it’s actually kind of fun to point out.
The action scenes are thankfully void of typical anime bullshit shortcuts like quick cuts and “flash cuts” where the show flashes to white each time a character lands a punch or shot and the viewer is robbed of the impact. It’s also void of cameras panning over production stills or sketches, the most infurating anime fight scene shortcut of all. No, the characters actually fight each other in this show, without cheapo frame loops or fast-forward, slow-motion or motion blur gimmicks – and it’s possible to see it all because the editing and camerawork is flawless. The choreography is quick and creative, and despite being cyborgs in the future the action is fairly realistic. Yes, the Major can leap off buildings and Batou can take a hit and even a stab or two, but nothing happens that can’t be done in, say, the Terminator movies.
The voice acting is A’s across the board. The Japanese actors have been with these characters since 1995 so Atsuko Tanaka and Akio Otsuka can voice the Major and Batou, respectively, in their sleep at this point. Accolades must go to newcomer Ken Nishida as Gohda, who is pitch-perfect as the sly villain. It’s rare the English cast is equally impressive. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who goes under the name Melissa Williamson when she sings all the Silent Hill songs, is exactly how the Major should sound in English. Richard Epcar’s Batou is extremely affecting and Crispin Freeman can do no wrong, this time as Togusa. Oddly, they replace the English dub actors in the Laughing Man and Individual Eleven compilations – movies that condense each season into a singular two-and-a-half hour tale. They’re not meant to replace the show – the edits, though creative, are extreme and drastically change the original circumstances of many events – but they’re decent experiments. Anyway, due to the massive amount of information and dialogue reading subtitles may be the best option for first-timers.
Reading up on the plethora of intertextual references couldn’t do any harm either. More often than not the show will steamroll by without a care for the viewer’s understanding of terms and names. A remarkable amount of knowledge went into this production so why not brush up? Wikipedia actually isn’t a bad stop for the majority of ideas, including the stand alone complex phenom, as well as the “vanishing mediator” theory. Marxism, the May 15th Revolution of Japan, the Glico-Morinaga Case of the 80s, and general Japanese history and cultural know-how helps too. JunkerHQ’s analysis of the Metal Gear Solid 2 ending also ties in greatly with Ghost in the Shell’s similar gene/meme/copy themes.
For a ton of in-depth reading on 2nd Gig and what it all means, and a handy episode guide, Wakaranai has a lot of in-depth discussion in its comments section.
For some free reading, the Hideo Kuze-Major relationship draws aching parallels to Haruki Murakami’s “On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April Morning.” It’s short, so that’s the whole story right there. Weepy types, be warned: keep tissues at hand.
There are also numerous references to popular movies including Ocean’s Eleven, Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (a one-time-only character looks suspiciously like Nurse Ratched), Blade Runner and many other Philip K. Dick-inspired works, as well as anime/manga classics like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Akira, and video games like Dig Dug and Street Fighter.
Many of these pop culture jokes show up in Tachikomatic Days, wacky little mini-episodes starring the Tachikomas. They box each other, play soccer and baseball and poke fun at the main storyline. Sometimes they even explain the issues and ideas raised in preceding episodes much as Shirow Masamune does in the original manga, only he scribbled notes in the margins and spaces between panels to help fill readers in on certain details. The real reason to watch these goofy little shorts, however, is for the appearance of CEO Jameson, a silent box-like cyborg that fucks with the Tachikomas every chance he gets. I love that bastard.
But then I love everything about this show. The first soundtrack, SAC OST+, is probably my all-time favorite album. If not, it’s the one I listen to the most. It’s mad, really, how often SAC is on my mind, in my earphones, on my screen – I’ve been following the series for five years now. With a new movie out this past year, Solid State Society, and rumblings of a 3rd Gig (unless SSS counts as the 3rd, would it be the 4th?), there’s no sign of my admiration slowing down. Why should it? Ghost in the Shell cannily reflects our own society, so much so I can’t help but be reminded of it in the chaotic flow of information on the airwaves and the Internet, the hypersurveillance, the Laughing Man-like memes on 4Chan, YTMND, YouTube, the rapid advancements in military and computer technology, the day-by-day achievements of biotechnology – our world is inching closer and closer to the universe Shirow, Oshii and Kamiyama cooked up. They are the true digital prophets. Let’s hope our future is this cool … and without hypersurveillance.
Even without the link to our reality, SAC is one of the smartest pieces of animated entertainment, and one of the finest pieces of cyberpunk fiction, ever produced. I joke how it’s ruined all other anime for me but, well, it’s kind of true. It’s up there with FLCL, Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion as the best of its kind. It’s so well-produced I forget its being part of the same medium as Naruto or Dragonball. Fantastic animation, impeccable music, thought-provoking and painstakingly detailed writing, as well as the captivating characters, help Stand Alone Complex stand alone from the rest.