First formulated in concept by Masamune Shirow, it has been Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (1995) film and Kenji Kamiyama’s Standalone Complex series that have amassed wide and overwhelmingly positive reception. Ghost in the Shell: Arise will be a four-part OVA/theatrical run series with the first 50-minute episode, “Ghost Pain”. Animation was absolutely astonishing, and I came to appreciate the changes to certain characters. I loved the story line with the major because of the internal struggle she has to deal with and because I liked seeing this side of her personality. In SAC we got to see glimpses of the majors more human side, but most of the time it was all business. In this ep we see the major as more of a human and how she reacts to personal issues or her coping mechanisms with personal dilemmas. I really connected with the major on a more personal level than a sexy, gun-toting, ass kicking, cybernetic bad ass that we all know and love from SAC.
At the top of the cyberpunk hill stands the Ghost in the Shell franchise. This leaves a lurking, uneasy feeling about the work’s direction; many of the sci-fi themes prevalent in previous titles are also non-existent here. I don’t want to elaborate much on the plot, because that’s something you should know the least possible going in, especially in this franchise, but I can say that Arise works as a prequel to everything we’ve seen so far of the franchise, both in TV and film. The Major meets her future boss, Aramaki, for the first time while making an investigation of her own and we get to see the seeds of what will eventually become Section 9 being sown. As for the tone of the story of the chapter itself, it dwells on corruption and espionage, much like fans of the show are already accustomed to. I liked it for the most part, I think it was pretty solid, but it started a thrist that only more chapters will quench.
One thing I’d like to point out, again, as a long time fan of everything that is Ghost in the Shell, are the numerous homages to the 1995 film. Despite my GitS fanboy radar having been dormant for many years, I immediately caught the handful of nods to certain set pieces from the original. These ranged from Arise’s opening seconds showing helicopters flashing across the screen before fading off into the nighttime horizon of a neon lit city… to the soft, blue glow of a background aquarium… to the physical struggle the Major has while battling an opponent. There are other examples (in addition to the obscure gestures I inevitably missed) but the last one I mentioned literally filled me with glee. The moment I saw that mechanical arm clamp onto Motoko’s (redesigned) face, I knew what was going to happen… or more appropriately, I anticipated what would happen. And not only did it happen, but as Motoko was being lifted off the ground, they literally mimicked the exact motions, the exact animation, from the gutwrenching scene in the original film. I fully expected Batou’s follow up, but, of course, I was not watching the 1995 film. Any long time GitS fan will appreciate the fanservice.
If I were to fault “Ghost in the Shell Arise”, it would be for its animation style and quality, considering the character’s facial animation is shockingly simple, even mediocre. Where Production IG has in years past brought terrific animation in the various “Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex” series and OVA, “Ghost in the Shell Arise” falls visibly short of that level. Luckily, Sakamoto Maaya delivers a terrific performance as Motoko Kusanagi, she does a perfect job at voicing the major and sounds very much like Tanaka Atsuko’s original voice work as Motoko. Count on it, we are looking forward to the next movie, “Border: 2 Ghost Whispers”.