Ghost in the Shell is one of the most renowned properties in the world of anime. The G.I.T.S 1995 movie, based on Masamune Shirow’s manga, is often cited as being one of the contributing factors in getting Western audiences hooked on Japanese animation (along with Akira and um… the demonic porn Legend of the Overfiend.) Following on from the movie’s success a sequel titled Innocence was released along with the Stand Alone Complex TV series, which is my favourite rendition of the franchise. Moving ahead to 2014 and Ghost in the Shell is back courtesy of a four part OVA christened Ghost in the Shell: Arise. Manga Entertainment is presently selling a DVD containing the first two instalments for around £20. In this age of nickel and diming customers I’m relieved to see that they aren’t selling each episode as a full priced “stand alone” release.
Arise is a prequel/reboot penned by sci-fi author Tow Ubukata, whose impressive cyberpunk credentials include Mardock Scramble and Psycho Pass season 2. The two tales contained in this set chronicle how cyborg beauty Motoko Kusanagi established the elite law enforcement team that would later be known as Public Security Section 9. Things open up with the OVA titled Ghost Pain, which has “The Major” using her impressive hacking skills to investigate the murder of her mentor – a military commander who has been posthumously indicted for fraud after perishing under suspicious circumstances. The case pits Kusanagi against her army colleagues in a story were technological wizardry results in a number of surprising twists.
Next up is Ghost Whisperers, which deals with a war criminal named Kazuya Soga who is still managing to cause mischief despite being incarcerated. Using the computational power of Japan’s traffic network, Soga plans to hack into the Pandora database that houses the nation’s dirty little secrets. Gripes it’s just like North Korea assaulting Sony with a mix of traffic congestion that almost rivals the London rush hour. The highlight of this action packed adventure is that Soga’s subordinates include several familiar faces from the Ghost in the Shell franchise. Although they will eventually become comrades, for the duration of this mission Kusanagi is forced to square off against man mountain Batou, computer wiz Ishikawa and Saito a treacherous sniper who amusingly switches sides whenever someone offers him a better pay cheque.
I am happy to report that Ghost in the Shell: Arise is excellent. As a staunch fan of Stand Alone Complex I was disappointed when I originally heard that the franchise was getting a reboot. Thankfully that discontent has since been quelled by what I have seen thus far. Ubukata’s intelligent scripts are on par with Stand Alone Complex’s offerings and with Production I.G in charge of animation the whole thing looks gorgeous. Arise is one of those shows that successfully meshes CG effects with two dimensional designs and the action sequences are always spectacular. I just hope that Kusanagi hurries up in assembling a team to assist her in battle. She could use an extra “hand” as she has a habit of losing her arms during combat.
My final score has to be five stars, as I cannot find any major faults with either OVA. Perhaps a feature length running time would have been beneficial to flesh things out more. Each episode is just under an hour long, which is more than the twenty minutes most animes get, but even that isn’t sufficient to fully explore subplots such as Kusanagi being treated like property due to her synthetic body. Speaking of Kusanagi, I liked Arise’s slightly more emotional take on the character (ironic given that in this version she has been a cyborg since birth) but I can’t say that I approve of her horrendous new haircut. Yeah, that’s a petty complaint to have. Given that I am follically challenged I really shouldn’t split “hairs” about the appearance of anime characters.