Ghost In the Shell: SAC_2045

Dept. of Cyberbrain Defence


One of the biggest questions going into Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 was whether or not this was going to be an official sequel to the 2002-2005 anime series Stand Alone Complex and its 2006 feature length spin off  Solid State Society, or if it was going to be a soft reboot for the franchise. As the series progresses it becomes clear, that while not hinging on too many of the elements of Production I.G’s previous work on the series, it is very much of a piece with them.

Set 15 or so years after the events of the original cyber-cop procedural, SAC_2045 finds Major and some of the more prominent former members of Japan’s Public Security Section 9 (Batou, Ishikawa, Saito, and three of the Tachikomas) working as a private military force in the U.S., their efforts there, a part of what the series calls “Sustainable War”.

Avengers Assemble?

While stopping an assault on a “One-Percenter” enclave, the team gets swept up in a do-or-die operation for the U.S.’s NSA. On the mission the team come face-to-face with what their handler calls a “post-human”.  With vastly greater cyberbrain processing available to them than even the Major and her team, these “post-humans” are capable of breaking down complex systems like the “barriers” that protect people’s cyberbrains from being hacked in mere moments. Outclassing even the skills of Section 9, the post-humans seemingly pose an existential threat to this future society; broken as it may be.  

Thanks to Chief Aramaki, Togusa, and the U.S. born, Japanese Prime Minister Chris Tate, it’s not long (well about 8 of the 12 episodes actually) before Section 9 is reinstated and Major and the team are hunting down the post-humans on Japanese soil.

Reboot or Nah?

While the premise and location of the early episodes feel like a set up for an entirely new take on Ghost In the Shell, as the series progresses it settles back into that SAC groove of bloody action, political intrigue, and corruption.

Initial attacks by the post-humans seem to concentrate on all out elimination of  the normal (if cybernetically enhanced) humans, but later suspects focus more on weeding out corruption and wrongdoing in Japanese society.

With the Japanese voice cast and tone from SAC returning, the biggest difference from previous incarnations of the series is the “look” of SAC_2045. Gone is the hand drawn animation supplemented by 3DCG for elements like tech and the A.I. Tachikoma Think-Tanks. It has since been replaced with fully 3DCG characters and environments.

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

With characters designed by Ilya Kuvshinov, it’s a look that never quite gels for the series. Coming off like early attempts at cel-shading, the opening episode’s harsh daylight setting do the style no favours. Some of the early episodes also suffer from quite stiff animation, with the Majors’s bullet dodging acrobatics coming off far more robotlike than I’m sure the show’s creators intended. 

Whether due to lessons learned during production, or the change of setting back to Japan, the action and style does improve over the series, even if the look of the characters doesn’t change.

This could also be partly due to the storytelling as it becomes far more engrossing. Later episodes play around with the perceived format, such as spending a day off with Batou, or bouncing back and forth in time as the team investigate a possible post-human teenager. The series also seems to learn to play with its style later in the series. The hacker who appears as a giant fish in a cloak and crown, and the realisation of a former boxer who punches people so hard they explode, really stand out.

I’m Afraid of Americans

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 also explores an intriguing new world, one that is quite suspicious of the U.S. The “simultaneous global deal of the G4“, the Japan reconstruction project, and the “Sustainable War” concept are all referred to by the characters and make for fascinating background as they are slowly explored.

By the end of this “season” the show feels much more like the SAC of old, although it does feel truncated at only twelve, 24 minute episodes. A few too many are spent on the team’s first mission, and the season ends on an intriguing cliffhanger.

Currently there is no release date for Season 2 of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, or Part 2 of Season 1, or 2nd Gig, or whatever they want to call it, but considering that even the English dub for this season is not available as Netflix are “prioritising the safety of our voice actors”, it could well be some time off.

Despite my initial misgivings, however, Season 2 is one that I will be eagerly looking forward to.

Oh, and the Tachikomas still rule.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2045 is now streaming on Netflix

Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2045
Netflix, Season 1, 12 Episodes
Directors: Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki
Cast:  Atsuko Tanaka, Osamu Saka, Akio Otsuka, Kōichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tōru Ōkawa, and Sakiko Tamagawa

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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