Reminiscing About a First Love
by Bolt Vanderhuge
You only get to experience having a first love once, and for me, the first anime I loved was Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I had seen other anime first, but I still consider this series to be my gateway anime, because it is the one that really made me take anime seriously as a storytelling medium. The first time I saw it was in the last part of its second season airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, way back in the spring of 2006, and even though I had no idea of what was going on, I was instantly drawn in by the drama and intrigue I saw and hooked. Thankfully, the series was re-run a short time later, and I was finally able to watch the entire series, and I soon found myself enthralled with it. Not long afterwards, I was invited to join my local university’s anime club by some friends, and I had begun my journey to become a Maximum Weeaboo. But while I have watched many animes since then, including some very good ones, this series still remains my favorite.
Based on a manga by Masamune Shirow and produced by Production I.G, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex follows the secretive and elite Section 9 of Japan’s Public Security, made up entirely of former members of the military and police and tasked with solving and preventing cybercrime. All of its members are cyborgs, running the spectrum of Togisa, the rookie of the group who only has an implant which allows him to interface electronically as well as to communicate using a kind of cybernetic telepathy with his teammates, to the mysterious and aloof leader of the group, known mainly as “The Major,” whose entire body is prosthetic.
While they run into a number of interesting cases that make the series semi-episodic in nature, they soon stumble upon a conspiracy that involves a major corporation and the government which begins to move into the forefront. One of the things I liked about this was that the main story arc started out as just another investigation into something kind of weird that was going on, in this case involving a super-hacker known as “The Laughing Man,” and slowly evolved into the main plot of the show.
While hackers can already be a headache thanks to utilities and infrastructure being connected to the internet, this series expands on that through the premise that advancing technology has allowed people to become cyborgs, and even become commonplace, such that most people can connect their brains to the internet, which in turn allows them to be “ghost-hacked.” This allows a hacker to do everything from altering a person’s perceptions, to remotely controlling their body. This is just one of the themes explored by this show which asks exactly what makes a human, since literally every part of a person can be replaced but their brain, and leaves them vulnerable to having their memories altered or erased, the way they sense the world around them being corrupted, or even having their minds and bodies taken over completely, and used like a puppet. There’s also a question of trans-humanism hanging there, with the possibility that humans might be able to live as a consciousness on “the net,” entirely free of a body. At the same time, AI has advanced to the point that it might be argued they actually do represent a form of life themselves.
As a sci-fi fan, this kind of stuff really appealed to me, and I can’t help but feel completely in love with this show in spite of its flaws, like how it takes a bit of time to randomly bash the United States because someone at Production I.G apparently has an axe to grind. But this aside, the series has an interesting premise and plot, with characters I can care about and root for, as well as a beautiful semi-realistic visual design. While I know some people might complain about fan service (check out the original manga sometime), it’s clear that the story is first and foremost, unlike so many shows that have come out since this one.