Anime Reviews: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex [Solid State Society]
While Solid State Society packs the usual pretty visuals and smart writing, its dialogue-heavy, action-light story feels underwhelming in a film format.
Title: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex [Solid State Society] a.k.a. Koukaku Kidoutai STAND ALONE COMPLEX Solid State Society
Production: Production I.G.
Film Length: 108 minutes
Air Dates: 9/1/2006
Age Rating: 13+ (brief strong violence, mild language)
Summary: After the affair with Kuze and the refugees, Motoko "The Major" Kusanagi has resigned from Public Security Section 9 for reasons unknown. In her wake, the leadership role has been passed down to Togusa, who takes to it with fervor, and Section 9's numbers have been bolstered with several new members. Now, two years later, a string of bizarre suicides prompts Section 9 to investigate, but when an arrest of a potential suicide victim goes wrong, the crew latches onto his final words--someone he refers to as The Puppeteer seems to be pulling the strings. Even worse, their investigation into the matter turns up records of 20,000 abducted children whose files have been tampered with. Who is this Puppeteer, and what is he after? Why force these people to commit suicide? Why abduct so many children? Whatever the reasons may be, Section 9 is on the hunt for answers.
The Good: It's like a prettier two-hour episode of the TV show...
The Bad: ...and that's about it, it's a two-hour episode of the TV show
The Ugly: The whole "Noble Rot" thing is just gross, man
I'm not gonna lie, I have no idea how I'm going to stretch this review out to my normal lengths. I've seen this movie twice, now, and yeah, it's good, but my review is gonna need to be just a little more substantive than that! Short Version: If you like the Stand Alone Complex TV series and/or its sequel, 2nd GIG, then this movie is right up your alley. And now I'm going to ramble on to deliver the Long Version, I guess.
One important note about this film is that it's very pretty. While both seasons of the TV series were lookers themselves, it's obvious Production I.G. knows how to spend a movie budget to make a visual treat of a film. The animation is smooth, the artwork is crisp and detailed, and the CGI on the mechs looks better than ever. I suppose it should be obvious by now that this leg of the franchise is always going to have high-quality visuals, but in case anyone out there was ever in doubt, don't be. Solid State Society was always going to be pretty. As for the audio side of things, the voice acting in both the English and Japanese versions are as stellar as always, so no worries there, and Yoko Kanno's soundtrack keeps it very subtle and unobtrusive, but always setting the proper mood--not one of her finest works, but far from being a disappointment like the TV series' first season's background music. We're also treated to another wonderful opening theme by her and Origa, "Player," which only appears on YouTube as an ancient, super low-quality video, so that's a shame. Trust me when I say it looks and sounds way better in the actual film.
Now then, since I've equated this film to being essentially a two-hour episode of the show in my summary up above, that naturally implies that the story will be smart and well-written. That implication is correct. The plot leads us on a crazy, crazy ride through mysterious suicides, mass kidnappings, data manipulation involving thousands of elderly people being kept alive on Life Support, intense life-or-death gambits, and sniper duels! There is a LOT of ground covered in the story, and it's all very well-paced so as to not fly over your head (though I make no promises about the ending not doing so). To hint at a spoiler, the franchise does come full-circle as the film ends on a very similar, philosophical note to the original 1995 Ghost in the Shell film, so if you feel a little bit of deja vu there, it's likely intentional.
Unfortunately, the downside of being a two-hour episode of the TV series is that there's the very real missed opportunity of seeing an incredibly high-stakes high-octane Ghost in the Shell plot that makes huge, sweeping changes with big risks and bigger set pieces in addition to its political intrigues and subversive philosophies. Compared to the TV series, Solid State Society actually has very little action, and when you're watching a big-budget film release for a franchise that has built itself on both philosophy AND action, it's a bit of a disappointment. Just reign in your expectations and you'll be fine.
And, shockingly (or not), that's all I have to say about Solid State Society. It's perfectly fine. It's a fun little movie. I'd place it about on the same level of overall quality as the original 1995 film, but honestly, I don't see this one sticking around as a cinematic classic. It's certainly more well-made than the original film, but it lacks that bleak atmosphere and its philosophy isn't as deep or as subversive as the original's. All in all, it's a step down from 2nd GIG, but if you've come this far and want to see how the Stand Alone Complex series comes to an end, it's fair to say that your time won't have been wasted if you decide to check it out.
Final Score: 7 out of 10. Solid State Society's relatively bloodless plotline would have been more suited to being another arc in the TV series, but nevertheless, its high-quality production values and intriguing story make it a worthwhile watch for Ghost in the Shell fans who want to take one last ride with the crew.