"Ghost in the Shell" The Individual Eleven Can't Even Make One Good Movie
After the successful, if highly flawed, Laughing Man movie, based upon the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, it is of no surprise to see a second movie based on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG. Now, thanks to Bandai and Manga Entertainment, the latest Ghost in the Shell release hits home in the form of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG: Individual Eleven.
Previously, Public Security Section 9 had launched an investigation into the Laughing Man, a super class-A hacker who had once kidnapped the CEO of Serano Genomics and then committed all sorts of corporate blackmail. In the end, Motoko “Major” Kusanagi and her teammates successfully solved the case, but as a result Section 9 had to be broken apart. A few months later, the new Prime Minister Kayabuki has given the former members a new mission: liberate the Chinese Embassy, which has become overrun with terrorists calling themselves the Individual Eleven, and Section 9 will be restored. Obviously, the Major and her team do the job exceptionally well, but trouble is afoot. The refugees holed up in Japan are starting to become a hot-button political issue and if they get frightened enough, the powder-keg will explode and Japan will be drawn into a civil war. It’s not helping matters that a member of the Cabinet Intelligence Service, one Kazunda Gohda, is pushing for this so that the current Japan can be torn down and a Socialist Japan erected from the ashes. Further complicating matters is Hideo Kuze, a one-of-a-kind man who gathers the refugees together in order to liberate them and make Dejima its own independent nation, by force if need be.
As almost any fan of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex will tell you, the 2nd GIG season blows the first one out of the water easily. The story is more epic, the action greater than before, and the development of the characters is amazing. Unfortunately, much like the previous movie, this compilation movie strips away the finer details of the series and leaves us with yet another Cliff’s Notes anime movie. One would think this would be a harder task since there are more episodes dealing with the Individual Eleven and Gohda than there were Laughing Man episodes last season, but many of the episodes were simply spliced together in various montages, which is better, I guess, than simply shoehorning the episodes into the movie and then blow through them like the last movie did. And make no mistake: This movie works a whole lot better than the last movie did. In fact, this release sometimes actually feels like a real movie instead of a lot of spliced-together episodes like the last movie did. In that way, I guess this release succeeds.
But just like last time, we end up losing some of the more memorable episodes from the series. Kuze’s assassination attempt on Kayabuki is relegated to an “Individual Eleven Trouble” montage Aramaki shows off mid-film while other stand-alone episodes are nixed entirely. In terms of the movie, this is a good thing, as it allows the story to flow without getting sidetracked by all these little mini-missions like the previous movie did. As a result, however, Kuze himself is given a really, really crappy introduction. His two shining moments during the first half of the series, his aforementioned assassination attempt and his participation in the big mass suicide, are relegated to video shot by a third party and viewed by the Major and the others. We never actually get to see Kuze in person until much later on when he’s buying plutonium and fighting with Batou. From then on the story shifts to Kuze so we get all we can get from the mysterious man, but the way it’s spread out it feels like Gohda’s the main villain for the first half of the movie and Kuze’s the bad guy in the second half. Yeah, I guess you could see it that way in the series, but it seems much more obvious here.
Another tragic loss is the stand-alone episodes, many of which did end up tying into Gohda or Kuze into the plot. One episode dealt with homeless refugees becoming suicide bombers, another dealt with Togusa being on trial for a hate crime, while another memorable episode dealt with Motoko traveling to Taiwan and helping out a street-smart kid along the way. On the whole, these episodes really don’t affect the main plot, and the ties to it are mere window-dressing so that the episodes don’t feel too random. However, these episodes actually packed quite a punch and were a great deal of fun to watch, so losing them is quite a shame. They also helped develop the actual Individual Eleven, whose role is greatly diminished from the series. The only episode that actually deals with them directly and actually makes it through is the first episode when Section 9 is reformed. With the majority of their episodes either turned into video montages by Aramaki or completely scrapped altogether, one wonders why “Individual Eleven” was even chosen to name this movie. I guess it’s because it’s a catchier name than “Gohda and Kuze Start [Stuff]” or “Electric Boogaloo,” but it still feels misnamed while watching the feature.
Anyone who watched the last movie had to notice the lack of focus given to everybody’s favorite think tanks: the Tachikomas. One would think that since they were given a much bigger role in the series, they would keep the same role in the movie. Nope. The movie makes its first blunder early on when it scraps the Tachis’ entire re-introduction scene from the end of Episode 1. As a result, they just appear out of nowhere when the Jigabachis go wild later on. The fun conversations they have with the various Section 9 members are also excised, as is the obligatory “Tachikomas talking about philosophy” episode. Hell, through the first two-thirds of the movie, the Tachikomas either get shot up by Jigabachis or assist the Major in Internet hacking for about 15 seconds. The Tachis’ development from simple weapons into actual characters and their use as real members is almost completely left out, so that when the Tachikomas perform their final act of the movie, all the impact and sadness of the event is completely lost. During the series, this moment was met by sadness that these lovable characters were taken away yet again, but in the movie, it feels like “Oh, they blew up again. Time to rebuild, I guess.” That just isn’t right.
What is right is the animation. Now, the first season had some great animation, but the color palette seemed a little bright and the models had too few details. Well, Production I.G. solved that problem quickly, and the results are marvelous. Awesome designs, breathtaking movements, a richer palette: the animation is leaps and bounds better than the first season and is arguably the best animation in any television show yet (Futurama included). Plus, it gets the Major out of that awful bikini/leather jacket combo she wore through most of Season 1. Sadly, many of the utterly amazing Internet scenes are scrapped, meaning that Production I.G.’s breathtaking CG gets less time to shine, but what remains is still glorious to behold. Not only did the animation get a facelift, but the staging did as well. This is particularly noticeable during the Chinese Embassy hostage crisis and then later on during the various missile strikes, but the storyboarding and staging are simply perfect. It makes the entire area look huge while giving performances that are so realistic it actually looks rather mundane, which is a good thing. Really, the second season may have had some problems, but the visuals wasn’t one of them.
Too bad the music can’t enhance them too well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a Yoko Kanno score and therefore immune to suckiness, but the mix for the movie has a lot less impact than the series did. In the show, several high-impact scenes (such as the mass suicide or the destruction of the Tilt Rotor) were enhanced greatly by a sweeping score that kept tensions high and butts on the edge of the seat, but that score was nixed for a more subdued score that just lacks all the impact the original had, making these highly punchy scenes seem run-of-the-mill. As for the voice cast, Ocean Group once again returns to voice the English dub and once again it dreadfully lacks the personality the original Los Angeles dub had. I’m sorry, but at this point, I can’t hear anybody but Mary McGlynn, Richard Epcar, and Crispin Freeman as the Major, Batou, and Togusa. Likewise, Kirk Thornton and John Snyder were absolutely perfect as Kuze and Gohda, and their replacements are annoying at best. The Japanese cast remains the same as it usually does, which is a good thing, as that cast excels.
Once again, all the extras are on Disc 2. The biggest feature is the “2nd GIG: Individual Eleven Archive,” in which Atsuko Tanaka (who voices the Major) interviews director Kenji Kamiyama. Unlike the previous featurette, this interview is solely about transitioning from the series to the movie and doesn’t have any breaks mid-way to look behind the scenes for the actual episodes. Regardless, it’s still highly informative and it’s nice to know he’s learned his lessons from the previous attempt, taking greater care to move things around so that they flow better. The other big extras is yet another “Tachikomatic Days” short. This time, one of the Tachis plays the role of Jimmy/Shinichi Kudo from Case Closed in trying to find out which Tachi ended up killing their long-time rival Jameson. While short has a really hilarious ending, the disc still feels too empty with only one short on here. I wish we had gotten at least 3 or 4 shorts this time. Finally, we have the exact same four trailers that we had with the last release.
All in all, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG: Individual Eleven fares quite a bit better than its predecessor. However, it’s still a compilation movie and still doesn’t compare to well to its television counterpart.