OP: 「GHOST IN THE SHELL ARISE」 by Cornelius
「Border:1 – Ghost Pain」
After waiting for what’s seemed like an eternity, Ghost in the Shell is back. Created by a new staff (at least, in terms of position for some) led by Director Kazuchika Kise, ARISE comes as the newest iteration in a franchise that needs no introduction. And now that we’re here, I can safely say this: ARISE is an different experience might take some getting used to, but it’s definitely Ghost in the Shell, and what we get here is a promising start. The verdict’s still out as to whether or not it’ll be a worthy addition once it’s all said and done, but the first impressions are definitely of a positive variety—a key notion when considering the various staff changes between ARISE, the movies (see my post here on the original GITS), and Stand Alone Complex.
Looking back, one of the biggest topics was how neither Kanno Yoko or Kawai Kenji would be retained for ARISE. Instead, the relatively unknown (at least, in terms of work on anime OST’s) Oyamada Keigo (a.k.a. Cornelius) was tabbed to the chagrin of many fans—which was not surprising in the least. After all, the previous composers did a spectacular job with their respective soundtracks, and in many ways, they were part of what made the series what it was. With that said however, I’m happy to say that although there is a noticeable difference in the musical style used here in ARISE , it’s not something that takes away from the experience to any large degree. Like many other differences in this series, it’ll likely take some getting used to, but once you do—and you will—you won’t mind it nearly as much as you thought you would.
In many ways though, part of that reason is the notable shift in how things are done in ARISE, which reflects well upon the staff in terms of both having a solid vision for what they wanted to do and the ability to execute it. Because what we get this time around is something that’s sensual in a different way—relying on things such as realistic (and heightened) sound effects and various visual techniques (different camera angles etc.) to create the atmosphere and mood. What music there is—which only finds its way in occasionally—is made in such a way that it’s not intrusive and it’s done in a way that makes it literally a support for the established environment. To this end, this is where ARISE arguably succeeds well beyond expectation, as it does a great job weaving together a mood that makes you feel like something’s not quite right, which complements the equally mysterious (and fairly well done) plot line.
And on that note, ARISE’s plot line is one that is stand alone to both the movies and Stand Alone Complex. There was originally speculation that the new series could fit in before the events of Stand Alone Complex, but while it does take place in a time period before the formation of Section 9 as we know it, it’s definitely not part of the same timeline—although some details do remain the same, as Kusanagi is still a part of the military (a secret unit known as the 501), and the other characters are still all in the occupations we expected them to be (Batou as a Ranger, Togusa as a police detective, etc.).
As for the plot itself, the story ends up revolving around an investigation into the recently deceased Lieutenant Colonel Mamuro—suspected of taking bribes and engaging in arms dealing. The investigation by Aramaki leads him to Kusanagi, and with it—Batou, Togusa, and Paz as well. Outwardly, the general plot looks quite straightforward, but the ultimate result is anything but. Various twists and turns dot the landscape throughout this first episode, and really, there was a lot more here than I expected there to be. As it turns out, Kusanagi herself had been infected with a virus that produces false memories, and we end up really getting tossed around as we try to sort out what’s real and what’s not.
To top things off, there’s quite a bit in terms of philosophical concepts inserted in as well, and it’s something that combines with the aforementioned to create an experience that both surprised, but clearly demonstrated why ARISE is clearly a Ghost in the Shell iteration—albeit a different one. After all, there’s nothing like a universe where you can be turned into a cyborg even when you’re a growing fetus (a notable change to Kusanagi’s back story), where phantom limb syndrome is a thing, and where if your cyberbrain is compromised, you can’t even trust your own memories… and it all comes together to formulate a great start for this new iteration. I for one was admittedly surprised at some of the revelations at the end (how about Mamuro’s coffin being literally buried underneath another coffin?), and it just looks like a promising new beginning here with ARISE—one that was filled with boatloads of ass-kicking (literally, lots of kicking) from Kusanagi as well.
Ultimately though, I must also note how ARISE ends up being an interesting mixture of both old and new—mixing elements and scenes from both the original movies and Stand Alone Complex with the director’s new take on the franchise. Batou’s eyes being hacked mid-way through the episode (and his subsequent ass-kicking by Motoko), the starting scene with the helicopters flying overhead, and Motoko losing her arm (and getting lifted like this) were all things that were done previously, and they were admittedly a nice touch that also helped hammer in how this really is just another GITSseries. Again, many of the changes—especially to the character designs—will take some getting used to, but it’s arguably something that serves as a necessary thing that separates ARISE from its other counterparts. It’s like a kind of statement that says “Yes, this is Ghost in the Shell, but this isn’t SAC and this ain’t the movies either,” and that’s fine with me. Admittedly, my positive impressions of the series might be a tad bit biased due to the fact that the franchise is my all-time favorite series and Kusanagi’s my all-time favorite character as well, but I do genuinely feel like they did a good job here, and the future episodes will likely make this a worthy addition to the franchise. The only problem now is the wait between now and the next episode, which supposedly won’t come until the end of November at the earliest.
ED: 「じぶんがいない」 (Jibun ga Inai) by サリュバイサリュ (salyu×salyu)