Review Date: 11/15/15
Picking up immediately after the events in "Pyrophoric Cult," the Japanese Prime Minister finally authorizes Major Kusanagi's team and gives them a budget. The PM is assassinated a short time later, and the prime suspect is a super hacker who just happens to look exactly like Kusanagi. Once again, the Fire-Starter virus is involved and Kusanagi is determined to find the virus broker and shut him down for good. She eventually uncovers a vital clue that forces her to disband her team and go solo, but her teammates refuse to stand down and they continue the investigation on their own. This leads to a final desperate showdown with the Army 501st before the real mastermind is exposed. In an odd piece of revisionist history, the film ends with a recreation of the opening scene in the original "Ghost In The Shell" movie (1995). Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work and there's no way to reconcile this new piece of continuity across the entire series.
At first blush, the animation quality appears to be the same as the "Arise" series, but as the film progresses you start to notice more details in the characters and effects shots. The characters are wonderful and it's great to see them all come together as a team. Kusanagi is delightful throughout, and it becomes clear that her hostility and bad temper are merely a form of tough love for her teammates. Not surprisingly, the story is extremely confusing and convoluted, and I eventually stopped trying to follow what was going on. Unfortunately, the film is heavy on exposition and light on action, so I found myself both confused and bored for the majority of it. The series has always struggled to find a good balance between politics, philosophy, and action, and this time it favors talking over fighting. Thankfully, the action sequences that it does have are nicely executed and very exciting. The film looks and sounds great, but the audio mix is extremely uneven, making the dialog nearly inaudible and the action scenes unbearably loud. While this might be fine in a theater setting, it's completely inappropriate for viewing at home (especially if you have neighbors in close proximity). Overall, the film does a good job of wrapping up the loose ends in "Arise" and the brief action sequences are brutal and hard-hitting, but the epilogue leaves a bad taste.