ANIME & MANGA - Review
17:00 - 17th January 2015, by David West

Ghost In The Shell: Arise

Ghost In The Shell is not just the flagship title for animation house Production I.G, it is one of the most iconic anime franchises of all time. Each new version of the concept has a lot to live up to, so the pressure is on GITS: Arise and chief director Kazuchika Kise to deliver another classic. But if anything distinguishes Arise from previous instalments, it is a lack of ambition.

These OVAs provide a prequel to the original feature film, detailing the formation of Public Security Section 9. For newcomers to the franchise, Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg, a highly skilled combatant and a cybercrime expert. In Border 1: Ghost Pain she’s still in the army and, against the wishes of her superior Kurutsu, she digs into the suspicious murder of Lt. Col. Mamuro, who was under investigation for corruption. Her investigation brings Kusanagi into contact with Aramaki, a former military intelligence officer in the process of starting a new department, the aforementioned Section 9. In Border 2: Ghost Whispers, decorated soldier Kazuya Soga is on trial for war crimes. Determined to prove his innocence, he coordinates a cyber takeover of the transport system to force the government to open up their secret database called Pandora (a terribly obvious choice of names).

Both OVAs are decent action thrillers with a generous dose of high tech, but given GITS lofty place in the pantheon of cyberpunk, Arise maintains some of the tropes and trappings of the genre but lacks the depth to explore the themes that made the original films so remarkable. The plotting is not always watertight – the location of a missing body in Ghost Pain is just silly (seriously, no one thought to check there?) but the biggest problem is the lack of any dramatic weight and personal investment for Kusanagi in these events. The subplot about her seeking independence from the military seems like so much bureaucratic box-ticking rather than an emotionally driven struggle for freedom. Kusanagi is too busy chasing plot points to reveal anything about her character beyond being a driving, shooting, fighting machine. The scripts devote more energy to the personality of the Logicoma robot that follows her around – and the Logicoma’s cutesy voice seems borrowed from some comedy anime. Similarly, the lack of compelling villains is problematic – there are two nameless goons in Ghost Pain who look like refugees from the Akatsuki in Naruto but have literally nothing to say for themselves.

Action scenes are slickly shot and edited, although Kusanagi’s unfortunate habit of losing an arm in every episode is repetitive. Episode directors Masahiko Murata and Atsuhsi Takeuchi haven’t done their military weapons homework – in Ghost Pain, Kusanagi aims her weapon at someone with her finger on the trigger when she has no intention of firing – something a trained soldier would never do – and in Ghost Whispers, she holds a handgun tilted sideways, making it impossible to aim down the sights on the barrel. She’s supposed to be an expert, not some amateur.

Arise is a good looking series, even if some character designs are pure otaku fanservice bait, notably the lolita design of the Mobile Landmines and Kurutsu’s outrageous plunge necklines. It’s intriguing to witness the birth of Section 9 and the first encounters between familiar characters, but Arise feels lightweight when measured against Mamoru Oshii’s thought-provoking, thematically rich feature films.
SCORE: 3/5
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