To recap from our last article: Ghost in the Shell ‘95 is a suitable introduction for non-anime fans, Stand-Alone Complex is fantastic for those interested in anime and anime fans alike, and 2nd GiG is for those who want a less tech-focused story and for those who loved the first season.
But there’s still so much more to cover, including a third timeline we still haven’t gotten to!
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Prerequisite: Ghost in the Shell (1995 film)
Despite getting a theatrical release right in the middle of 2nd GiG’s original Japanese airing, Innocence is actually a sequel to the original ‘95 movie. And this is the densest material GitS has ever covered to boot; arguably the most philosophical and introspective of any anime out there, Ghost in the Shell or otherwise. This also makes it one of the hardest to get into, and even turned off the most pretentious of film critics. It didn’t help that some of the visual oomph of the original film had worn off at this point, even if Innocence was more polished.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence really is a great movie, but we really cannot recommend it to anyone but the most diehard of Ghost in the Shell fans. Even if someone was a big fan of Ghost in the Shell ‘95, Innocence is one of the most impenetrable anime around. Many non-fans won’t be able to follow the plot without knowing the characters while Stand-Alone Complex and Arise have more of a human element to them that Innocence’s detached view of the world might be a bit jarring for people who come into the series with those. But if you feel up to it and go in recognizing you might not quite get it on your first, second, or even third viewing, then it may turn out to be your favorite of them all.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex - Solid State Society
Prerequisites: Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex and 2nd GiG
Up until the announcement of season 3 last year, Solid State Society was meant to be the conclusion to the 2 seasons of SAC. It’s a single movie covering a now much larger Section 9 with Togusa in the role of Major Kusanagi as he investigates a string of mysterious suicides. Along the way, Batou encounters a once-missing Kusanagi, who is conducting her own investigation.
You could potentially watch this one after either SAC or 2nd GiG, but this one is going to be most satisfying for people who watched both. It’s written to be a send-off for the Stand-Alone Complex, so if you don’t know the characters and their relationships, you’re not going to get much out of it.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise
Technically, Arise is a prequel, as it starts before the formation of Section 9 and follows its early years. It could theoretically take place on the movies’ or SAC’s timeline. However, Arise was meant as a reboot for the entire franchise, hoping to reach newer anime fans with a new take on the series. The art direction is updated, Major Kusanagi and everyone else has fairly distinct new designs, and it treats the team as a ragtag gang getting to know each other rather than a group of experienced professionals. It’s really meant to be its own thing, and as such is considered to be a third timeline to Ghost in the Shell.
This also puts Arise in a strange place. It doesn’t really work as a prequel for already-fans since the characters and their relationships feel fundamentally different from what they remember. People who aren’t really into anime feel intimidated by it because they already know the name Ghost in the Shell and feel like Arise isn’t for them due to its history. Arise is really just meant for people who are already into anime and want a brand new series to watch. It uses the Ghost in the Shell brand name to lure in new fans who may recognize the name but won’t go back and watch something so old. With only 5 episodes, it’s a good 4-hour marathon to get new people deeply familiar with the main characters.
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie
Prerequisites: Ghost in the Shell: Arise
Do not be fooled by the title. Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie is actually the finale to Arise that continues the plot of the final episode. We’re not entirely sure why Production I.G. called it “The New Movie” outside of tricking older fans into thinking there was another reboot while secretly marketing Arise. The New Movie is considered to be the best of the Arise works though, so it’s worth checking out if you end up a fan of Arise.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence: Die-hard fans only; at least requires a Ghost in the Shell ‘95 viewing
Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex - Solid State Society: Requires both SAC and 2nd GiG to fully appreciate
Ghost in the Shell: Arise: Anyone can start here, but best for new anime fans.
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie: Requires Arise
And that covers it for the animated Ghost in the Shell works! Of course, the 2017 movie does exist for people who just outright will not watch anime, and there is a manga that’s been running since the 80s. However, Ghost in the Shell will always be thought of as an anime first and foremost, which is why the ‘95 movie, SAC, or Arise are the best introductions to it!
Did we miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below!