Ghost In The Shell : Stand Alone Complex is a spinoff anime series based on Masamune Shirow’s manga “Ghost In The Shell”. Although the anime movie which came out in 1995 is still the most popular anime adaptation of the manga’s futuristic plot and setting, Stand Alone Complex, or SAC for short maintains a cult status of its own for exploring, sometimes with devilish accuracy, the socio-cultural and political aspects of a tech utopia where human beings have all embraced cybernetic integration.
The 2nd Gig, or the second season, begins where the first left off as the central character of General Motoko Kusunagi is brought back to fight with her Section 9 comrades against various terrorist plots which, as the season progresses, seem to be not so unrelated after all. Motoko and her group, consisting of burly killers, seasoned sharpshooters and emotive think”tanks”, form the Japanese government’s elite security force, taking on the most dangerous threats to the nation’s security. In this season, the core theme is that of immigration of refugees to the island nation who are cordoned off in a squalid district known as Dejima. The unrestricted arrival of refugees leads to a crisis among the refugees themselves and the country at large. This situation triggers the formation of a terrorist group and the suspicious rise of a government hawk called Gohda who together threaten the nation’s security.
While the first season focused more on life in general in the tech utopia, the 2nd Gig shifts its onus onto a specific socio-cultural problem- that of immigration. Although it has been stated ad nauseam with reference to every movie and TV show to come out since 2016 that the program or film under discussion is about today’s political zeitgeist, GITS: 2nd Gig seems to have flown completely under the radar. Admittedly it came out in 2006 and was not received with the same enthusiasm as the first season, but it is surprising that an anime series exists which has quite openly dealt with the hot topics of today like xenophobia, American interventionism, terrorist cults among others and yet remains relatively unknown.
It is not surprising that GITS: 2nd Gig received lukewarm response since it follows its core theme to maddeningly drab ends. There is an abundance of bureaucratic procedure and exposition which may turn off most viewers. The season fails to deliver on the potential of the early episodes and peters out into a procedural drama. However, even in such dull circumstances, the show still presents ideas that very few live action shows have dealt with, masterfully. Away from the plot proceedings, the show also throws some light on the backgrouds of the lesser known members of Section 9 like Paz and Saito.
Considering that this is the final season of SAC, it is frustrating that there wasn’t more to it. The world of GITS is perhaps closest to reality in the sense of how it would pan out with cyberpunk characteristics. At one point in the show, the CIA covertly co-opts a terrorist plan to strong-arm the Japanese government into joining forces with them. Such blasé portrayal is what catapults GITS into the category of a cult show. It never loses track of what is truly appealing about the world around us and it is not always voluptuous androids or lethally advanced technology.
Netflix is bringing out its own adaptation of GITS in 2020 and although that series retains one of the directors from the 2004 show, it remains to be seen how the animation will match up since Netflix anime have a tendency to follow the western idea of stripped-down animation, and if the characters themselves will still possess their charm.