The Japanese have a real love/hate relationship with technology. Although they’re world leaders in making computers, televisions, hi-fis and virtual pets (apparently, one well-known company is working on one you can flush down the toilet after you’ve gotten bored with it), when they take a look into the future, they’re running from giant, nuclear powered monsters and hiding from bikini-clad cyborgs with a sex-drive bigger than Tokyo.
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a spin off from the hugely popular GITS (Oi! Watch your language, there’s ladies about! (Oh, shut the fuck up you miserable old twat!)) manga and movie. The first episode, Section 9, introduces us to that eponymous government agency. And what an introduction! The first thing we see is the gorgeous Major Kusanagi beating the hell out of some gun-totin’ mullet-man before Section 9 move in and shoot up a whorehouse. Already our appetites are craving more, but sadly, from hereon in, they’re not wholly satisfied. It transpires that a foreign dignitary rescued in the raid has had his brain switched, and is under the control of a foreign agent who is using him to gather sensitive information. Serious James Bond stuff indeed, and S9 race down to the airport to stop him leaving the country. The tension is practically at breaking point as they finally corner him as he’s about to board his plane, and there he faces the most terrifying weapon Section 9 have at their disposal… a piece of paper that says he cannot go. Jesus…
Episode 2 is easily the best on this disc; a huge – monstrous, in fact – four-legged tank simply gets up and walks away of its own accord, wreaking havoc as it goes. The tank’s designer, now “deceased” has had, as a last request, his brain hooked up to this beast and is now embarking upon a final quest to destroy his zealot Jehovah’s Witness parents! Now that’s more like it! Section 9 pursue this grumbling rumbler as he heads down the highway, ineffectively firing bullets at him all the way – of course he doesn’t stop, not until he’s caked in a sort of gooey, sticky substance anyway. It’s a real “Bubblegum Crisis” (from my new book, 1001 Tenuous Manga-Related Jokes For Losers)
Episode 3 (Android And I) begins with a series of extremely creepy suicides, ominous, silent images of young women taking their lives. Turns out though, these babes are actually androids (whew! That’s alright then!), an obsolete model known as Jerry with a huge, loyal fanbase (i.e. nerds). One of these geeks, a Canadian (I should’ve known) called Marshall MacLachlan has fallen in love with his model. She’s very waif-like, very pretty… looks a bit like a junkie…. a posh, sexy junkie… you know, the ones whose habits you can use to “control” them… you mean you’ve never DONE it? No, of course I’VE not! Whaddaya take me for, some kinda PERVERT? Young Marshall goes totally nuts after finding the Jerry model is to be discontinued (so no more spare parts – he’ll have to resort to fixing her with sellotape etc) but s fairly restrained about it, creating a computer virus that caused the other models to pop their corks. Why? Well, his motives aren’t exactly clear – whilst psychopaths are relatively easy to understand, nerds, with their completely irrational minds, are more difficult to figure out. Whatever they are, they can’t be too serious – he gives up without much of a fight.
And to round off we have Intercepter (sic). When a copper working on the Laughing Man industrial espionage case gets toasted in a mysterious car accident, his good friend and Section 9 stalwart Togusa decides to investigate. He is given a set of photographs, seemingly trite, mediocre images that all have one thing missing. After much poring over these pictures, Togs suddenly hits the jackpot: Where’s the friggin’ camera? His investigations lead him to discover that the cops covertly have been using “interceptors”, devices implanted in the subjects’ eyes, recording everything they see. When cornered with these revelations, the top-cop takes the easy way out. He resigns. Yup, shades of episode 1 here folks!
Right, let’s get down to business. The animation here is top notch, of course, but more striking is the opening credits sequences created with CGI imagery. I’m not normally a fan of CGI, but this is certainly impressive, and quite ironic in that it is better than much of that used in live-action movies today. More impressive is the Major herself. Not conforming to usual army big-wig standards – she doesn’t have a big, round, red face or a huge handlebar moustache – she instead wears a black leather jacket over her bra and nothing over her stockings and G-string. Fantastic! And, after many hours making good use of my DVD zoom-facility, I can honestly tell you now that the Major has a perfect bikini-line.
One thing I really hate about this though is Section 9’s cute-little-bastard “mini-tanks”. Seriously, I fucking hate ‘em! These Care-Bears-for-the-war-machine can talk, they like listening to stories, they enjoy organic oil as a little treat (ho-ho-fucking-ho, I laughed so fucking much I almost fucking shat myself with mirth!) and have their own little piece at the end of every show where they talk absolute bollocks to each other. It appears to be an effort to show their drive towards humanity although I can’t really tell as their imbecilic voices are so goddam high-pitched my ears kept bleeding! On a more positive note, when they meet that REAL tank in episode two, it blasts one of them to pieces. Hooray! Hopefully its AI is developed sufficiently for it to feel pain…
One thing that does concern me is the way in which GITS will undoubtedly be perceived as an action-packed cartoon series – it’s not. Despite brief moments of fighting and shooting, much of the show is concerned with, at least in my mind, anyway, philosophising over issues concerning technological development as we enter a new era of evolution. In my mind that’s not a problem, but I’m just worried about mindless comic-nerd kids purchasing this expecting some sort of shoot-‘em-up – see, I actually CARE about you guys (yes, we all like Marilyn Manson sonny-jim, now why don’t you go to bed and leave mummy and daddy in peace)! But I digress. GITS hangs in the balance between the world’s slobbering mass of increasingly greedy technophiles and terrified, but angry Luddites. It explores relevant issues about big-brother, prosthetics and man/machine love, as well as the idea that people are themselves machines. It’s not as good as AD Police, true, but is definitely recommended for those who enjoy thinking.