After the successful first season, more Ghost in the Shell was put into production. Thankfully, they abbreviated the overly long Stand Alone Complex, but added the 2nd Gig notation. Regardless, I was excited for more. Seeing Kusanagi and the rest of Section 9 back in action in this digital dependent world was thrilling by itself. Adding in another score from Yoko Kanno was an amazing bonus.
This season progressed much like the first, with one overall plot line and few one off episodes. The major themes of human rights, government control, and ethics were still prevalent. Picking up two years after the first season, 2nd Gig deals with refugees that came to Japan as cheap labor during the 3rd and 4th World War. After the war, these 3 million refugees became unemployed and disregarded. Civil unrest became frequent. A terrorist organization sprung up, the Individual Eleven, modeling themselves after a failed coup d’état that took place in Japan by eleven officers in 1932. Get all that? I didn’t. Not on my first viewing at least.
Ghost in the Shell is incredibly dense. I knew that with the first season, but the second was worse. I think much of it was due to it’s heavy reliance on Japanese history and names. For me, there’s always a bit of a lag in grasping stories with characters that possess foreign or obtuse names. In books it’s easy to recognize word patterns, but with audio, it usually takes some time for me to catch on. This was compounded by the addition of some Japanese history. Now, both of these aren’t strikes against the show in my book, just warnings as they increase the barrier to entry. Then again, watching in bulk might also alleviate some of these issues (my first viewing was as the DVDs released, months apart).
The voice over cast returned, once again delivering top notch performances. However, there were some problems with animation, maybe. There were some interlacing issues on the DVDs, with lines and screen tearing when characters moved quickly. This was distracting and broke my immersion. I haven’t seen the show anywhere else (missed the Adult Swim airings), so I’m not sure if it’s a fault of the DVDs or animation.
While the animation may have suffered, the score certainly didn’t. Yoko Kanno returned as the composure, delivering so amazing numbers. There’s no wonder why so many iterations of the soundtrack have been released. Though I loved the opening from the first season, “Inner Universe,” “Rise” easily surpasses it. I immediately restarted the opening when I first watched it. Something about the mix of soft, upbeat vocals while delivering a rallying cry motivates me. This along with the somber “Living in a Shell” over the end credits perfectly bookends the show.
Like the first S.A.C., Adult Swim funded the production, giving them the rights to air the show in perpetuity. While it hasn’t been on the block for a while, they’ve been very good about cycling their shows in and out, I’m sure it will pop up again.
I usually multitask while I watch a show (i.e. listen to it while playing a video game). Few shows are so deep and involving that they demand my full attention. This is one of them. If you are going to dive into the world of Section 9, be all in. You won’t be disappointed.
Laughing Man or Individual Eleven? “Inner Universe” or “Rise?” Comment below!