|Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society
It’s been appreciably easy to praise the two seasons of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and for many a good reason. From the story and character development to its aesthetic decisions and production, both seasons of Stand Alone Complex shined in most every aspect. And with a foundation laid from its developed characters, its detailed, intricate cyberized backdrop, and with the talent of its story writers, I imagine the creators could have told so many more stories while further intriguing and immersing us in the vivid Stand Alone Complex universe. However, the decision was made to forgo the production of any additional anime seasons and instead for Stand Alone Complex to conclude with the film, Solid State Society. Loosely based on the main storyline from the original manga, the task of the creators became one in which they would need to translate those elements that made the anime such a success into a film worthy of concluding such an amazing series.
Set two years after the events of 2nd GIG, Public Security Section 9, now led by Togusa, investigates a number of supposed suicides, all of which have occurred by a particular group of refugees. This link, which suggests a conspiracy, leads to the discovery of a virus which was used to hack the refugees and force their actions. The hacker behind the virus is dubbed the Puppeteer, who is using a vast number of kidnapped children to distribute the virus. As Section 9 investigates, Batou is reunited with Kusanagi, who is conducting her own investigation into the Puppeteer and the virus. Having her own knowledge of events and the hacker, she warns Batou not to approach the Solid State Society before continuing with her own investigation. Left on their own again, Section 9 learns of the possibility that the Puppeteer is a mechanism within this Solid State, and Batou suggests to Togusa and Section 9 an unsettling theory that Kusanagi herself may be the Puppeteer. And so, with questions regarding who or what is the Puppeteer, Section 9 must contend with this enigmatic entity whose origins and ultimate motives allude them.
Solid State Society features a mostly entertaining story effort, recapturing much of the intrigue and energy of the two anime seasons. Though with some borrowing from the manga, the writers manage a notable degree of originality and complexity with its plot, and include a few good doses of action too. Also, the conflicts and questions surrounding the Solid State and the Puppeteer, as well as watching the cast work through them, have their moments of pure mystery and immersion. Lastly, serving as both a revisit and a farewell to such amazing characters, I feel the film does an excellent job of letting us see where everyone is, how they are, and leaving us with a sense that these characters will continue being the same incredible individuals well into their futures. As it indeed feels like a final chapter to this amazing series, Solid State Society does plenty right, adapting many of the strengths of the anime to deliver one last story and gifting us a last expedition alongside these outstanding characters.
However, there are a number of issues, many of which stem from the constraints of film. As I said, the story has complexity to it, yet needed to be condensed to fit the film’s length, and so the film has moments in which plot development and details feel as if they’re unloaded on you. These moments can feel a bit overwhelming and the more subtle details presented may be missed or forgotten as the film progresses. Another issue, much of this unloading is done through straight dialogue and the result, I feel, only hobbles immersion. Yes, there are moments of raw emotion, self-reflection, pure energy, and excellent use of visual presentation, and they are each fantastic and reminiscent of the brilliance of the two seasons’ storytelling. But if the film just had more of it, and more variety to break those dialogue heavy scenes, I believe the story would have reached the anime’s level. Lastly, and more an understandable observation, there are no side stories or any world building. Again, I get it, it’s a film, yet they’re definitely missed due to how much of a noteworthy mainstay they are to the anime. Overall, although the story has its flaws due to time restraints and decisions in its presentation, the story is nevertheless engaging throughout and possesses familiar depth through its complexity.
Regarding its characters, Solid State Society focuses on the main three; Kusanagi, Batou, and Togusa, presenting them in a way that mostly maintains their personalities and growth from the anime. Especially Kusanagi and Batou, they very much feel like the same characters, with all of their previous depth and individuality on full display here. We also get those moments of particular humor and snark during calmer scenes that allow for it, and we also see their raw emotions and intensity when called for. One observation, and again due to film constraints, is that there isn’t much room for further character development. We do see some change regarding Togusa through his handling of his new leadership role, however, he is shown as less of the detective he was and has less of his personality shine through. Instead, he is curt, annoyed, and while he does demonstrate emotion, with displays of stress, frustration, and fear, I struggle to call it genuine development. And, all of this is ultimately moved on from once Kusanagi retakes the central role in the film. Similarly, another observation concerns the supporting cast, for although present and several are given some screen time, it feels as if their roles and presences are relegated to the background. Yet, I’m just glad they’re all included in some way and not completely forgotten about. Overall, the main characters remain the personable individuals we have come to know and love, and I appreciate this opportunity to see them all once more.
Along with its notable story effort, Solid State Society features as impressive an aesthetics effort as the two anime seasons, which means strong visuals and fantastic audio. Starting with the audio, Solid State Society sounds every bit as amazing as the anime, from its soundtrack and sound effects to its voicing in both Japanese and English. The soundtrack is fitting, bringing additional energy to action scenes, and instilling the proper moods for the more moderate scenes. It was nice to hear familiar songs from the anime, as this soundtrack borrows several pieces, and these tracks sound just as amazing while feeling every bit as fitting here, too. The new tracks are equally praiseworthy, as Yoko Kanno delivers at the same high level she’s known for. My one comment would be that I would have loved more new music, as I am thoroughly impressed by Stand Alone Complex’s music every time I hear it. Regarding the voicing, since they are the same actors as the anime, both the Japanese and English voicing remains stellar. As I’ve said in my reviews of the anime, this is how these characters sound when I think of them.
Concerning its visuals, Solid State Society keeps with the styles and quality of the anime seasons, making for a familiar, excellent presentation. The characters continue to look great and the backdrops convincingly channel the feel of this cyberized world. The animations are impressive, conveying mood and tone through subtlety in the slower scenes, offering pure energy during combat, and depicting those few, yet powerful emotional moments with impressive authenticity. The overall effect of the visuals are remarkable, as they noticeably emphasize story elements and add to the overall immersion of the experience. Together, the audio and visual aesthetics are incredible, making it clear to me and to any viewer that this is a production made with the highest of care and worthy of the highest praise I can give.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society is praiseworthy, serving as a revisit to such an outstanding cast and to a deep, detailed world, as well as a poignant conclusion to this absolutely awesome series. Although its story isn’t quite as exemplary as the two anime seasons, the film manages an engaging, entertaining story nonetheless, and maintains and expresses the brilliance of the characters so profoundly developed previously. The voice acting is as stellar as it always is, the soundtrack is full of feeling, the art style remains bold and distinct, and the animations are smooth and never fail to add tone or energy. As a whole, Solid State Society provides that familiar degree of imagination, emotion, and immersion as the anime, reminding us why Stand Alone Complex persists as one of the best animation efforts ever.