Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Directed by Kenji Kamiyama is a masterpiece, or at least a classic. It has been called "the most interesting, sustained postcyberpunk media work in existence." but that is not all. It also retains many other genres. It is a work encompassing not only cyberpunk, but society, reality, itself.
It is based on the Ghost In The Shell manga by Masamune Shirow [Masanori Ota] [He also did Ghost Hound and Real Drive animes] however, the plots are completely different. The series is also different to the movies that have been produced for the franchise. There is a 'live-action' film of GitS, supposedly devoted to the original manga, being directed by Steven Spielberg with Jamie Moss creating the screenplay which is supposed to be coming out.
This is a excellently animated anime, it came out in 2002, yet it still can easily contend with series today. The style is very unique, being very devoted to realism, yet effectively in manga style. Viewers of the films often notice slight simplification of the characters for the animation. This is because it is a TV series, and in my honest opinion, has no adverse effect. Indeed in my opinion if you try too excessively to ingrain 2d manga style into 3d, there will be side effects, that people used to 3d will be thinking it is not good enough to be 3d, and people used to 2d will be slightly reticent when they see animation trying too hard to be 3d. There is not much deviation to the characters designs, and as many state, the Major is integrated so well that she almost becomes part of the setting. The setting itself is amazing, and animated brilliantly like I said. It is certainly a 10/10 if you were in 2002, however, it is probably a 9 now. Combining these scores, I give it a 9.5/10. I believe that simply because it is old does not mean it is bad animation, I believe it to be equal to many well animated shows still, so I personally rate it 10/10.
The Anime has a soundtrack that spans 4 cd's and has 7 cd's in total of offshoots of this series music, this in a 26 episode anime. Cowboy Bebop is about the same, and, it has the same music producer/director/composer, Yoko Kanno, a member of The Seatbelts, being contentiously the best composer/director/producer for anime music. The music for Cowboy Bebop was voted in 2006 by IGN as the best ever for anime, and while it has a different flavour from GitS:SAC, there is the same amount of mastering from Yoko, Cowboy Bebop having been made earlier than Ghost in the Shell. The OP/ED's are brilliant, [in animation and interest as well] as attested by nearly all, and the Seiyuu themselves while varying, are very good overall. The English Dubs of Ghost in the Shell is the best English Dub I've heard in my view, [For perspective I think the second best would be Hellsing Ultimate] because for once the spin of the anime is easily understandable in Western view, [Because not only are the same interests prevalent in Western Society, but the story is not about this world.] and also because the Voice Actor of the Major was actually a director of the Dub, and did a damn good job. Sound 10/10, Japanese Dub 9/10, English Dub 10/10, OP/ED 8.5/10 at start, then after some time it has grown on you, 10/10.
The main storylines antagonist, or rather, anti-hero, is probably the character that we can empathize with the most. If you want specific details on each character read spoilers on the web. I know I read spoilers even if there is warning, so I will not add spoilers as I think it may spoil the anime just a little for you. There is usually some to quite a bit of character development on the main characters, the members of Public Section 9. The focuses of the stand-alone episodes usually provide their backstory as well. All in all, the characters are shown, we get to know them, but not only is character progression/development exclusive to the main characters, it feels superficial. The characters personalities and behaviours are made to keep us from feeling this lack, but it does not stop there being that lack. The way Ghost in the Shell does make us overcome this is by placing them in this fantastical reality, whose depths are explored with the characters. Their attachment to their reality becomes more important than who they are, at least for most of the side characters. This ultimately is not a bad thing- because it is the aim of the anime. It tells us a story about this reality, society, and the characters are the interactions. Not the other way around. You could argue this point, but the only two characters that this is not true of in a number of specific scenes are the Major and The Laughing Man. So- this being a section about characters, it gets 8.5/10.
I mentioned Stand-Alone in the last section. Yes, that is what you think. Half of this series are episodes that do not relate to the main Arc/Storyline. They are divided into Stand-Alone episodes, and Complex episodes [These feature the main Storyline/Arc]. Think Darker than Black, Cowboy Bebop [Which is so extremely more guilty of this- my main irk with Cowboy Bebop being this quixotical nature.] and in some ways, Black Lagoon- which would be the more realistic comparison. Black Lagoon being the more realistic example because, like Black Lagoon, the Stand-Alone episodes really do relate and develop the main storyline. The main storyline needs to have context, to understand its depth and why it is happening. Many animes do not do this properly [I'm looking at you Neon Genesis Evangelion] and can suffer from it, but it depends on how the viewer feels about this process. As such, the main Arc itself, is there as a keystone to understanding the show- as there is a lot of depth, complexity, to the anime [The deepest anime I've seen by many miles]. Rewatching the series can really really help. There is just so much to this anime. I've rewatched it something like 8 times, and each time I see more to it. Now, as the main focus is the reality, society, itself within this anime, this could be BORING couldn't it? That is right, anime is a media created for ENTERTAINMENT. Do not forget that. It is not about art, documentaries etc. Now we compare the Stand Alone and Complex episodes in relation to entertainment. I relate it most to Darker Than Black, except remembering that GitS:SAC actually answers the questions. They are nearly the same on entertainment values. I would say DTB comes out better in Characterisation [And animation possibly?] but GitS:SAC wins in narrative [story] in both Stand-Alone and Complex structures. The Stand-Alone episodes depend on how you want a story to be told, it is utterly subjective- and all things are really. "Context is the most important thing" Is my life quote, and by this, I think GitS:SAC is the hottest narrative since sliced bread. Story 10/10, however I think if you detest the Stand-Alone episodes this can go down to even 6/10. As such, for this review, I will put story at 8/10.
I think I've summed up the anime and its appeals above. If you want me to go more into detail, which would possibly explain this sections rating more, I suggest looking at spoilers freely available everywhere.
Enjoyment 10/10 this is subjective however, so I will for this review, average enjoyment at 8/10.
My Personal Rating.