Ghost In The Shell: Arise 4 (Japan 2014)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 12/7/14

Following the events in Arise 3, tensions continue to mount between differing political factions and Kusanagi needs to find a super hacker known as "Fire Starter" before all-out war breaks out. Unfortunately, her team is duped and she is hacked to assassinate a high profile political figure. Although Aramaki officially chews her out, he likes her results and the Major has no problem throwing his hypocrisy back in his face. It turns out that Fire Starter is actually a military project designed to infiltrate ghosts and implant false memories in order to commit criminal acts, and it has somehow gotten loose. Kusanagi and her team have to catch Fire Starter before the Army does, or else they'll lose their chance at becoming an independent special ops team. And really, that's all that the Major cares about. Things get really weird towards the end, but they crack the case and Aramaki makes Kusanagi's team an official part of Section 9.

This episode wraps things up nicely as a prelude to "Standalone Complex" (2003) and throws in some nice references to the original movie as well. Kusanagi's relationship with Batou continues to be antagonistic and adversarial, but they seem to have mutual respect and an understated fondness for each other. The series closes with the two of them sharing a drink and having a quiet moment aboard Batou's yacht, which elicits a rare and genuine smile from the normally rough and tough Major. While there's a lot of political, philosophical, and technical mumbo jumbo thrown about, the action is doled out at a steady pace and the Major gets into a couple of superbly realized firefights. As an added bonus, there's another cute Logicoma animated short where a group of Logicomas assume the identities of Kusanagi, Batou, and Paz to form an elite fighting squad called "The Q-Team." It's very silly and includes a wonderful line where the Major says that she used her good looks to charm some intel out of a hexagonal wrench. Now that "Arise" is concluded, I wonder what's next for the "Ghost In The Shell" gang? I hope they don't stop here, when there's still plenty of great material to explore.