Ghost In The Shell: Standalone Complex (Japan 2003)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/7/04

Divided into 26 installments.

Taking place several years before the events in Mamoru Oshii's philosophical "Ghost In The Shell" (1995), the "Standalone Complex" TV series follows Masamune Shirow's original manga much closer in terms of style and content. Section 9 is a secret branch of the government that deals with hardcore cyber crime, espionage, assassination, and messy political situations that the other branches would rather avoid. The main characters in Section 9 are Major Motoko Kusanagi (a female cyborg), Batou (a male cyborg), Togusa, and Ishikawa. With their talents in espionage and hacking, they tackle the toughest crimes in cyberspace in an episodic manner.

More than anything, this series is the true successor to Kenichi Sonoda's excellent "Bubblegum Crisis" (1987). (let's just forget that "Bubblegum Crisis 2040" (1998) ever existed) The stories are very similar in structure and execution to BGC, and the focus tends to be on high tech urban and cyber warfare. The animation is very good, but naturally not the same quality as the theatrical film. The animation also utilizes a noticeably jarring combination of computer and traditional techniques which gives it a bit of a rough edge, but overall it looks nice. The character designs are much closer to Shirow's original designs, meaning that Major Kusanagi actually LOOKS like a woman, with softer features, a smoother nose, and brighter eyes. She also wears an embarrassingly sexy uniform that exposes a lot of skin. That CAN'T be regulation... She's still the tough as nails Major that we've come to love and respect though, and the majority of the action rests on her capable shoulders. Good stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing the later episodes.