Ghost in the Shell ARISE – 02
OP2: 「GHOST IN THE SHELL ARISE」 by Cornelius
「Border:2 – Ghost Whispers」
As the second part of a quadrilogy, one of the vital things this episode needed to do was serve as a proper bridge between the introductory portions of the series and the overarching plot it wants to give us. This meant that Ghost Whispers needed to do three big things:
- Have a solid stand alone story that also sets up the creation of Motoko’s independent unit.
- Give hints at, reveal, or start the major plot line it’s planning to hit in the third and fourth movies.
- Do all of the above while maintaining the distinctive atmosphere of a Ghost in the Shell franchise while ensuring that it continuing to build on the style that the first movie introduced.
With ARISE 02 finally here, I’m glad to say that it does exactly that. Powered by a setting different from any of the previous iterations, all of the necessities were addressed superbly, and I dare say I liked this better than the first.
Of course, when I mean different setting, I don’t mean the fact that the whole locale is different or anything of the sort. ARISE still takes place in the same fictional metropolis as its predecessors, but the important thing to note is that it does so in a time period that none of the previous series have covered extensively. Whereas both the original movie and series seem to take place multiple years after non-nuclear World War IV, ARISE seem to be set some years earlier in a period immediately following the war. The concepts of corruption, national pride, political bantering, postwar concessions, and war crimes are on the forefront more than ever before, and it giving way to a setting that has the potential to provide all sorts of intrigue. We’re at a point where Japan is struggling to maintain what it still has (while trying to rebuild), and there’s just a lot here that ARISE is starting to tap in with its second movie.
Point in fact, ARISE 02′s entire plot line revolves around the aforementioned. The Vice Minister’s busy trying to profit from the sales of a key military database by scapegoating unit leader Soga Kazuya in the war crimes court, Kazuya’s unit tries to turn the tables back on him by taking the city’s 20 million inhabitants hostage, and Kazuya himself is busy trying to use the opportunity to expose the war crimes committed by nations throughout the war. It’s a weave of multiple plot lines that utilizes the current setting to its storytelling advantage, and it’s something that arguably could’ve only been done with the time period we have here in ARISE.
In turn, all of these threads also serve to provide the perfect storm from which to allow Motoko to build her independent squad. Sometimes, you need to capitalize on whatever chances you can get, even if it’s a large scale disaster. And just like she did in Stand Alone Complex, Motoko manages to do so with her ragtag group of Paz, Saito, and the mysterious “special forces agent” VV. But however fabulous the developments leading to its creation were, it wasn’t so much about its success—we knew this was going to happen—as it was the symbolic meaning behind it all. It was the creation of Motoko’s squad. She of the “I won’t take just anybody,” “I can kick all your asses and look good doing it,” “gorilla woman” personality. It’s a squad made not only of some of the finest personnel around, but mostly consisted of members who were former military and/or had lost their way following the war (or recent developments).
Considering the context, it’s a fitting gesture that not only counters the culture of a nation willing to throw away those that fought for it, but cements Motoko as the great character she always has been. She’s been my favorite character for as long as I remember, and what she accomplishes in this movie are just some of the reasons why. In the end though, her own quote says more about her character than any of my words can:
“I don’t want anyone who’s in it for the money or postwar concessions. It’ll be a team formed on skill, with no ranks, and given top priority—formed on a fixed standard that will be needed everywhere and in any age.”
And this is what I’m talking about. She’s the perfect amalgamation of idealism, skill, and wit—leading by example and by force of her unrivaled charisma. She’s a character unlike any other—a true lithium flower.
What makes this all the more significant however, is how she brings up the concept of age. Because again, this is the key point in Japan’s post-war development. It’s a new age unlike any of the ones that came before it, but ultimately, it’s just something that will give way to another “age of ______” in the future. As such, her desire to transcend this notion of “age” is not only a perfect representation of her, but of humanity’s propensity to try and fight against our limits (specifically the notion of time). The usage of old clunkers not susceptible to hacking just highlights this notion further, as does the whole Logikoma bit, as its outdated technology makes it an ironic foundation for the movie’s major plot line.
Ultimately though, all of these developments culminate in one key revelation: the fact that a rogue AI was behind the scenes the entire time, and it feels like this may be the thread that ties the last two movies together. It’s not exactly the most unique of plot twists considering its previous usage in the GITS universe, but it does feel at least fitting considering the series’ context. Whether it ends up being the actual main plot line remains to be seen—it’s highly possible we did see the last of this AI—but if the second movie’s demonstrated anything, it’s that ARISE has a lot to offer either way. This may not be the Ghost in the Shell that many fans wanted, but it’s holding its own as a solid addition to the Ghost in the Shell franchise. Because while it’s quite different stylistically, it manages to keep the atmosphere we’ve come to expect from series within this franchise, and it doesn’t forget its origins either—constantly referencing or demonstrating influences from both the original movies and Stand Alone Complex. For better and for worse, this is a modern take on GITS and I’m liking this more and more as it goes on. It’s just too bad that the next movie doesn’t come out until the end of June. TOGUSA!
ED2: 「外は戦場だよ」 (Soto wa Senjou da yo) by 青葉市子 (Ichiko Aoba)