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ANIME REVIEW: “Ghost in the Shell Arise: Borders 1 & 2”

ANIME REVIEW: "Ghost in the Shell Arise: Borders 1 & 2"

Masamune Shirow’s popular manga “Ghost in the Shell” (1989)
has been animated many times over the last decade. Ghost in the Shell: Arise, which debuted in Japan in 2013, is its
latest incarnation.

The premise and characters have apparently lost none of
their appeal: In the not-too-distant future, Major Motoko Kusanagi, who
sometimes suggests a cross between The Terminator and a Playboy centerfold,
pursues criminals in both the real and cyber-worlds. With the help of Batou,
Ishikawa, Togusa and the other officers in Chief Aramaki’s Public Security
Section 9, Kusanagi travels down mean streets populated with mecha, cyborgs, humans, and human-prosthetic
hybrids.

Mamoru Oshii’s landmark feature Ghost in the Shell (1995) largely defined the cyberpunk genre and
influenced the Matrix films in the
US. The long-awaited sequel, Ghost in the
Shell 2: Innocence
(2004) offered some ravishingly beautiful CG imagery,
especially the parade depicting characters from Chinese mythology. But even Oshii’s
skill as a director couldn’t disguise the underdeveloped story and flat
characters.

Major Kusanagi and her fellow-officers fared somewhat better
in the broadcast series Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex (2002). Director Kenji Kamiyama (who would go on to
write and direct the intriguing Eden of the
East
) did an impressive job of recreating the setting and characters on a
minimal budget. Politics and cyber-espionage collided in a somewhat tangled
plot that centered on the pursuit of The Laughing Man, an über-hacker whose
pseudonym is linked to J.D. Salinger’s 1949 story of the same name.

Kamiyama also directed Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C.–2nd Gig, the second season of Stand Alone Complex (2004). The intricate new adventure was linked
to the mistreatment of Asian refugees after World War IV. Most of the action
took place in bleak, gray and brown settings, which contrasted effectively with
the brightly colored cyberworld the Major visits. S.A.C.–2nd Gig was later recut into a feature-length OAV, Ghost in the
Shell: Individual 11
(2006). The story
works in both versions. It’s a question of whether the viewer prefers the
original episodes or a more tightly edited feature. Kusanagi and her squad
didn’t fare so well in the derivative  Ghost in the Shell–Solid State Society
(2006). The plot borrowed heavily from the “Laughing Man” storyline,
and the general lack of inspiration was evident in the failure to resolve the
mystery satisfactorily.

The first installments or “Borders” of the OAV Arise don’t feel as distinctive or exciting.
Too often, the hour-long episodes come off as just another sci-fi anime adventure.
The characters have been redesigned with a softer, less edgy look than their
counterparts in the previous versions of Ghost
in the Shell
.

In Ghost Pain, the
first episode, the Major begins as a free-lance agent who’s recruited by
Aramaki after she outwits him. Ghost
Whispers
, the second episode, is a tangled adventure involving a condemned
war criminal who’s comandeering traffic-guiding computers all over Japan to
hack into a secret government data base. Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars depicted the problems of an cyber attack on the traffic
system more imaginatively and effectively. The Tachicoma robots, which Kamiyama
had arriving at arriving at consciouness, have been reduced to Logicomas, so
many squeaky-voiced robots. Having outfoxed everyone and everything, Kusanagi
recruits her team for Section 9, taking its members from the enemy forces,
including Batou “the sleepless eye.”

Ghost in the Shell
Arise
isn’t really a bad series, taken on its own merits. But it fails to
match the excitement and imagination other artists drew from Shirow’s manga.

Ghost in the Shell
Arise: Borders  1 & 2

Funimation: $39.98, 4 discs, DVD/Blu-ray combination

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