Ghost In The Shell: Arise (GITS:A) is the new instalment in the Ghost in the Shell franchise, a prequel to the original Stand Alone Complex series. It is comprised of four episodes known as ‘borders’, with the first instalment released on DVD and Blu-ray featuring the first two episodes, Ghost Pain and Ghost Whisperers, and joins Daisuke Aramaki in the initial building of Section 9.
In the first episode of GITS:A Motoko Kusanagi is part of the 501 Organization. She is obligated to work for them as her cyborg body is in constant need of upkeep, which she cannot afford without their sponsorship. However, when her superior is involved in a serious crime she takes it upon herself to solve the crime and clear his name. The only problem for Kusanagi, renowned for being a world-class hacker, is that her memories seem misplaced.
In the second instalment Kusanagi has become a mercenary and leaves her position in the 501 Organization. Persuaded by Aramaki to create a team for Section 9, she initially refuses. However, when he offers her a crime to solve she relishes the chance to get stuck in. This story starts to encapsulate the obscure underlying meanings and double entendres known to be prevalent in the original series. It touches on class difference between robots, cyborgs and humans, and how the borders can be blurred as one robot utters the infamous line “I can hear my ghost whispering”.
Comparing this new instalment to Stand Alone Complex, GITS:A is less mentally taxing. In the first series it would take more than one sitting to understand all of the complicated themes. The Laughing Man is the most prevalent underlying theme of the first series, tying all the episodes from the first season of the original series together, which showed corruption within the government, businesses and medical care. In GITS:A the only underlying intriguing plot is sadly revealed and concluded within the first episode, leaving no cliffhanger or provocative storylines. It seems that this new series appears to be more of a stand alone than the original Stand Alone Complex. However, it does have its saving graces that make you want to watch more. This is seen in the relationships being formed between the characters, all of who are currently on different life paths and it is interesting to see how they all end up working on the same case but from different angles. Seeing the Major and Batou fighting as opponents trying to solve the same case rather than working together is an absorbing plot development.
Also another interesting comparison with GITS:A and the original series and GITS: Individual Eleven is the concept of the stand alone complex – an individual who undertakes similar actions to others but having no connection, other than seeing the actions of the original (in Individual Eleven, the eleven members are all playing their roles but have no connection to each other than the original essays). Although it is good that GITS:A is not regurgitating the familiar concept, I believe that this concept has an established role within the society created in the GITS universe, where identity and conforming play major roles in the establishment. It also breaks down what is seemingly a perfectly working society to show the unrest felt by the few shown by the masses.
One major issue with the new series was the voice casting. Previously, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn has always undertaken the role of Motoko Kusanagi for the English dub. Although I can understand that they have changed the voice actresses to give Motoko a more youthful tone (voiced here by Elizabeth Maxwell), it was unusual to hear Mary Elizabeth McGlynn voicing Motoko’s superior Kurtz. I can only guess that this is significant in future episodes. If it is not, then it seems a very odd choice to make.
Each disc comes with a multitude of bonus features. These include Logicoma Beat and Logicoma Court; which are mini episodes similar to the Tachikoma mini series found within the Stand Alone Complex series. These stories anthropomorphise the Logicomas to show their increased awareness. Another very out of place and unnecessary extra is News Flash. This I can only sum up as a glorified advertisement for Microsoft. One of the must watch extras is the Decode 501file (Borders 2), which explains the purpose of the 501 Organization. Also included is the theatrical trailer, promotional videos and interviews with the creators and a U.S. cast and crew audio commentary.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise is a series worth having on Blu-ray to really bring the visual elements alive and to show off Production I.G’s style; it should definitely be in everyone’s anime collection. It is a must have for avid Ghost in the Shell fans, and for new fans it opens up a futuristic world. Also, with the future of Ghost In the Shell franchise set to branch into American culture through a live-action adaptation, it seems that we will be seeing a lot more from Section 9 in the future.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise is avaiable now from Manga UK priced at £22.49.