Ever since Masamune Shirow published the first Ghost in the Shell manga back in 1989, there have been several anime adaptations popped up throughout the years. And apart from the SAC series, every adaptation was helmed by different directors, who had their own creative ideas and direction that they wanted to pursue. That simple fact resulted in a unique situation where we have different flavors of Ghost in the Shell in our hands.
This article will look into the different flavors of every Ghost in the Shell series. Hopefully, you can use it as a way to decide which one you like best. That being said, rather than the story, we’ll focus more on the atmosphere, which translates into the visual, the sound, and the overall mood of the anime. Let’s begin with the first flavor.
The Original Ghost in the Shell Movies
The original Ghost in the Shell movie is the 1995 movie of the same name, and its 2004 stand-alone sequel, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Both of which are directed by the legendary anime director, Mamoru Oshii.
Unlike the other Ghost in the Shell anime adaptations, these two movies have a somber and melancholic atmosphere to them. You can almost sense the distress and desperation of the people who live in this futuristic city that is adorned with blinding neon lights. The haunting choral song that refuses to leave you alone throughout the film only enhances that dreadful feeling even further.
Other than the flashy cybernetic tech, these two movies also deal with heavy topics such as existential crisis and trying to find the answer to the question of what it means to be human. This is not a movie for a young audience. This movie is an acquired taste. The later you are in life, the more you’d appreciate everything that these movies have to offer. In a way, it’s like the mature taste of dark chocolate.
The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Series
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex comes in three different packages. The first season that bears the same name and was aired back in 2002, its sequel, Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C 2nd Gig in 2004, and a 2006 sequel film called Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society.
Stand Alone Complex is a much more upbeat and optimistic series compared to the original movies. The world is bright and somewhat hopeful here. The visuals are unassuming yet still offer top-of-the-line animation for its time. The selection of predominantly Rock and RnB songs that accompany the series are also an apt representation of the musical taste of the masses at the time.
The Stand Alone Complex series is the one adaptation that is universally liked by Ghost in the Shell fans. And to many people, this series was their introduction to this franchise. That’s why Stand Alone Complex was part of a fond, youthful memory for a lot of people. Its universally-beloved nature is actually quite similar to milk chocolate.
The Ghost in the Shell: Arise Series
Ghost in the Shell: Arise is a five-part OVA series that was aired between 2013 to 2015. These OVAs are called Ghost in the Shell Arise: Borders. Later on, these OVAs were turned into a regular 10-episode anime under the name of Ghost in the Shell Arise - Alternative Architecture. The last installment in this series is a 2015 film called Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie.
Both the original films and the Stand Alone Complex have their own timeline and story to tell. Other than the characters, the world, and the concept, none of them actually has anything to do with each other. The Arise series is the first Ghost in the Shell that is actually connected to the previous Ghost in the Shell adaptation. In this case, Arise is actually the prequel to the original movies. As a matter of fact, the end of the 2015 Arise movie is exactly the beginning of the 1995 movie.
That being said, it soon becomes apparent that the series is in some sort of a dilemma. Storywise, Arise tries to talk about the same heavy topic, conjure the same mood, and evoke the same feelings as the original. Presentation-wise, however, it looks and feels like a much crisper and cleaner version of SAC. The songs and the overall sound is filled with ambient music that was popular within the popular minimalist movement at the time. Using music that is a truly proper representation of its era, just like SAC.
This sort of conundrum is why some fans love it, while others don't care for it. Arise tries to be a copy of the original while offering something extra that might not be favorable to some people, sort of like a Bittersweet Chocolate, which is basically just an extra bitter dark chocolate.
The Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Series
We finally arrive at the latest edition to this iconic franchise, the Netflix-produced, 2020 anime called Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045. Currently, there are two seasons available and one compilation movie of the first season called Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War.
As the name suggests, this series is a direct continuation of the Stand Alone Complex anime. It’s even directed by the same person, Kenji Kamiyama. And just like its predecessor, SAC_2045 also tries to present a rather bright and easy-going feel to the series. The modern hip-hop and upbeat jazzy tunes that you can hear throughout the series also emphasize that mood. Still using the popular music of the era, just like the original Stand Alone Complex.
SAC_2045 is the first Ghost in the Shell that utilizes full CGI for everything. The result is a clean and crisp animation unlike any other anime in the franchise. Some might even say it’s too polished to the point there’s barely any DNA of the original series left in it. So it is technically based on the original, but at the same time, it is also quite far away from the original, sort of like white chocolate.
There’s really no bad Ghost in the Shell anime adaptation out there. Sure, some might be better than the others, but all of them have their own stand-out points. So rather than good or bad, it’s more like each version has its own unique flavors, and each flavor has its own fans. And just like a bar of chocolate, sometimes you won’t know which one you like best until you give it a try.
Which version of Ghost in the Shell do you like best? And on that note, what is your favorite type of chocolate? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comment section below.