It’s odd that as our eyes linger longer at bright screens and as the online social worlds eclipse our own in size and prominence, the sci-fi anime behemoth once considered the definition of cult, Ghost in the Shell, has faded further into irrelevance. Despite influencing modern greats no lesser than The Matrix, since 2006 the franchise has ceased its assault on the popular culture, and aside from hopeful discussions of a live action take propping up now and again additions to its canon have come only in the form of unnecessary DVD bundles and re-releases. Such is the case now for this last slice of postcyberpunk, Solid State Society, the OVA sequel to the immensely successful two-part series Stand Alone Complex, which gets its inevitable Blu-Ray revival.
Two years after one of anime’s most iconic females, Major Motoko Kusanagi, left her post at the expert counter-terrorism group Section 9, her command has fallen to former rookie Togusa, with the team’s ever faithful second-in-command Batou retaining his wise-cracking position. As a string of suicides by refugees begins to culminate in missing children, government corruption and a hacker called the ‘Puppeteer’ (not to be confused with the ‘Puppet Master’ of the 1995 film) their paths cross once more to solve the case.
I don’t think it’s a score against the film that watching the previous series is a necessity, that’s the definition of OVA, however it fails to give any conclusion to its predecessor, nor grace it with anything unique. The plot is as politically charged and complex as ever, building an action conflict that can have serious ramifications if the proper paper work isn’t completed, but it lacks a lot of what made Stand Alone Complex so engaging. The characters don’t feel furthered or as individual as before and there’s not enough action punctuating the planning, and when it comes along it doesn’t really do anything we haven’t seen before.
With its sizeable budget increase this non-theatrical film does look brilliant however, not only with its well integrated CG effects in 2-D animation but with superbly detailed backgrounds. In this regard the Blu-Ray polish has some merit, but if the wealth of interviews and extras focusing solely on animation and design tell us anything it’s that this was where the bulk of Production I.G.’s focus went, and not so much the writing.
But what makes Solid State Society only a decent watch is the lack of what allowed GitS to redefine anime in the West and draw new audiences: philosophy and ethics of its futuristic setting. Whilst Stand Alone Complex wasn’t as concerned with thematics as its cinema counterparts, even the child-like ‘Think Tanks’ The Tachikoma still discussed literature on occasion. In this story the implications of a world dominated by the internet and cyberization are only addressed briefly in the last act, and the use of the now legendary closing line “the net is vast and infinite” feels shoehorned in.
Not quite the great end to the series when it originally came out six years ago, Solid State Society at least looks the part in this Blu-Ray release. Fans who never saw it the first time will appreciate seeing these characters one more time, but those touched by the older feature length adaptations won’t be as impressed by the story, action, depth or lack thereof. Those new to the franchise will be confused by the mere phrase “whisper in my ghost”.
Word > Graham Ashton