Cyberpunk Review » Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex

July 7, 2006

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 2002

Directed by: Kenji Kamiyama

Written by: Masamune Shirow (Story), Kenji Kamiyama (Chief Writer), et al.

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

Key Cast Members:

  • Major Motoko Kusanagi: Atsuko Tanaka (Japanese), Mary McGlynn (English)
  • Batou: Akio Otsuka (Japanese), Richard Epcar (English)
  • Chief Daisuke Aramaki: Osamu Saka (Japanese), William Knight (English)
  • Ishikawa: Yutaka Nakano (Japanese), Michael McCarty (English)

Rating: 9 out of 10

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


Overview: Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex (GITS SAC) uses the same characters as Masume Shirow and Mamoru Oshii, but takes place prior to the first GITS movie. Like the GITS movies, GITS SAC revolves around Section 9, an elite anti-terror police force that works behind the scenes to keep the peace. The overall tenor of this series is far more action oriented than Oshii’s movies. While there are a few philosophy moments (including a terrific one with Batou and the Tachikomas), the vast majority of the season is action oriented. In short, we get high-end, slick cyberpunk butt-kicking in GITS SAC – one that’s well worth watching, even if you do miss the philosophy.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Laughing Man Story: In a world where cyberization has become the norm for a large segment of the population, a number of negative side effects have become possible. In addition to cyberbrain hacking, a disease called Cyberbrain Sclerosis has emerged which seems to randomly affect many who’ve undergone significant cyberization. The Mega-corporation, Serano Genomics has produced a cure for Cyberbrain Sclerosis – Serano Micromachines, a nanotech implant device that, when ingested regularly supposedly halts and eventually works to cure the disease. Unfortunately, the Micromachines only seem to help a small segment of those contracting the disease. A hacker named the Laughing Man seems bent on exposing a cover-up – one which posits that the lost Murai Vaccine has an almost permanent curative for those with Cyberbrain Sclerosis. Unfortunately for Serano Genomics, a real cure for Cyberbrain Sclerosis would decimate their profitability.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Laughing Man is a hacker extraordinaire who is able to hack into cyberbrains at will, and worse for public confidence, is able to take over TV shows at will. Section 9 has been brought in to find and stop the terrorist known as the Laughing Man. Throughout the season, while there are side plots, it’s the Laughing Man story which drives Section 9. As it continues, the intrigue builds and the plot thickens. Eventually, corporate betrayal, political scandals and personal vendettas play a role in setting the context and exposing the larger truth.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Side Stories: While the Laughing Man is the focus of the season, there are many side quests in GITS SAC. Some of the episodes closely resemble stories from Masume Shirow’s original GITS Graphic Novel. Among these, Batou has an interesting commando encounter with his past, and Aramaki is taken prisoner by thieves in a bank, only to get involved in a more intriguing plot. For him to survive, Motoko must be able to interpret his actions from afar to correctly figure out his strategy. Generally, the stand-alone episodes are good enough to keep you entertained – some are excellent.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


7Th Volume is the Best: While GITS SAC is pretty good throughout the series, the 7th volume – the last one – is by far the best. Without the 7th volume, I would probably rate GITS SAC 8 stars, but the 7th volume really deserves a 10 star rating. In the 7th volume, Section 9 is disbanded, while political intrigue hounds their very lives. The team escapes a crack commando unit and then all go their separate ways. Motoko and Batou become the focus of the volume, and in doing so, display more humanity and feeling then they do the rest of the series. On top of this, many of the best FX are found in volume 7.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


Differences with Oshii and Similarities with Shirow: Whereas Mamoru Oshii’s movies centered on the impacts of a cyberpunked society to the individual (Motoko in GITS, and Batou in GITS: Innocence), GITS SAC tends to broaden the filter to look at overall patterns in society. This leads to wonderful throw-away gems like the virtual meeting room (basically a holodeck) where everyone jacks into the meeting and then disappears when complete. We also get plots centering on problems with children in this changed new society, alienation of the masses, and loss of identity and humanity as technology takes center stage in human interaction. GITS SAC is also far more like Masume Shirow’s original graphic novel. While it doesn’t have the overt sexuality of Shirow’s work, Motoko is drawn as Shirow would; Shirow’s humor is evident in a number of the episodes; and the action takes center stage for the most part.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Tachikomas: Early on, Major Motoko Kusanagi determined that the Tachikomas weren’t destined to be front-line fighting droids. For this reason, in order to become useful, the Tachikomas sped up their learning AI processing. As the season progresses, the Tachikomas begin to exhibit full signs of sentience, including Freewill and more devious functioning – so much so that Motoko becomes worried about their potential. Many interesting discussions take place over the development of the Tachikomas. One of the more intriguing ones that wasn’t really answered was whether being a digital life form instead of an analog one, would the Tachikomas ever develop a Ghost?


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


External Memory Devices and Cyberbrains – Augmented Thinking: One of the really interesting things about the GITS world is the integration of augmented brains. Conversations and complex thinking become dramatically enhanced. While the philosophical conversations are significantly reduced in GITS SAC when compared to the GITS movies, we still get a myriad of instances where cyberbrains allow people to call up a set of details about any subject that no other human could ever do. Cyberbrains in GITS SAC show a society where humanity truly has become post-human in a very real way, even though the actual look of most humans hasn’t changed much.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Dubbing: GITS SAC is one of the few animes where the English cast is just about as good as the Japanese cast. Both William Knight (Aramaki) and Richard Epcar have been in their roles from the initial Ghost in the Shell movie in 1995, and all of the cast members have stayed consisted for both GITS Innocence and GITS SAC. Atsuko Tanaka (Motoko), Akio Ôtsuka (Batou), and Kôichi Yamadera (Togusa) have also been in their roles since 1995. It’s hard to pass up on Atsuko Tanaka though – I love her as Motoko. In any event, while the moods between the English and Japanese cast are different, they are both excellent.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Sound: GITS SAC consistently has decent quality sound supporting the visuals. The use of the side speakers for voices is especially emphasized. The sound FX (explosions, gun shots, car chases) are always top notch. But truly, the most impressive thing in terms of sound is the sound track. The opening and closing songs (Inner Universe and Lithium Flower) by Yoko Kanno are flat out terrific. Throughout, we are treated to a variety of songs and background music, which almost always add to the action and visuals on screen.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Visuals: GITS SAC has a variety of aids that add to the overall quality of the look. While some shots look pretty basic, others involve a variety of cool FX, including digital color grading, a myriad of environmental effects, and cell-shaded computer models. GITS SAC gives us a variety of color palettes including dominant greens, reds and blacks, and occasional blues and yellows. Overall, GITS SAC is a very professional, high quality production.


Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex GITS SAC screen capture


The Bottom Line: GITS SAC is a high quality cyberpunk production. While I personally like the tone and tenor of Oshii’s movies far more than I do GITS SAC, this is a personal preference. GITS SAC provides continued quality action wrapped up in impressive visuals and sound. While the first 6 volumes might only merit an 8 star rating, the conclusion is just terrific. This, along with the overall high level crafting GITS SAC provides throughout (visuals, sound, dubbing, songs) certainly raises the bar. And do yourself a favor – watch GITS SAC on a system with high quality surround sound – you’ll notice the difference.


This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Memory Modification, Made for TV, Man-machine Interface, 9 Star Movies, Hacker Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.


July 7, 2006

ETM said:

One of my favourite shows, period. It can be easily compared to live action, because of the level of detail and thought put into every single aspect of it. I love that you mention the throwaway bits, SFAM, because that’s where a believable world is crafted: like the guy who sells cyberparts, who sold all of his natural body for a huge sum, and transfered himself to a low-maintenance cyberbody which is basicly a box on four legs… brilliant. And Yoko Kanno’s music is absolutely wonderful, as always. I have two CDs, and I must say the songs on the credits are nowhere near my favourites - they are good, but other tracks blow them away. The second CD is particularly good… I would go as far as calling it a near masterpiece. Are you going to see the 2nd GiG and review it separately?

SFAM said:

Hi ETM, I’m already well into the second season (I like it better than the first) and will definitely be reviewing this separately. I’ll probably wait until the season concludes (meaning when the US has released all the episodes).

And yeah, the throw-away societal aspects of GITS SAC really add a touch of genius to the show.

July 9, 2006

David Gentle said:

I’ve only seen the first couple of volumes but I liked them. I’m not convinced by the level of animation though. Aramiki’s hair, in particular, just looked like a bizarrely shaped lump of concrete stuck on the back of his neck and the Majors decision to consistantly wear a basque and stockings seems questionable to me. Other than that, not so bad.

July 11, 2006

net5ui said:

There is no noise in which I can utter about how feel about this whole series, esp 2nd gig.
I _just_ finished the GITS PS2 damn it was good! I have yet to play the regular {lil ps}. If your a fan of the show sac you will LOVE the game.
sigh I love this show.

DannyV_El_Acme said:

The second season, GITS SAC 2nd GIG(PHEW, acronym overload!) is, IMHO, a more complete series. Although less action-oriented, it has MUCH more drama. I especially like how it exploeres Motoko Kusanagi’s personality and worldview more than the movie and first series, it is more intimate.

Oh, and RISE, the opening song for the second season, ROCKS, WAY more than the first season’s! :)

SFAM said:

Hi Net5ui and DannyV, so far I agree with you - although I’m not done with GITS SAC 2nd GiG, I do like it better than the first season.

It’s rather refreshing to see something so popular turn out so good, ey?

August 1, 2006

Cyberpunk Hero said:

I’ve been watching SAC again (and again) on Adult Swim, since I only own the Japanese DVDs and the subtitles aren’t all that great, and I’m consistently amazed by how great it is to watch over and over again. It truly speaks to the quality of the anime.

SFAM said:

Hi Cyberpunk Hero, I actually like the Japanese cast, but I definitely agree that the English cast is one of the best dubbing teams in anime. And yeah, its quality is consistently awesome.

October 20, 2006

Guy said:

masume shirow took good long time to right that story and also it rocks i have it on dvd well the laughing man is the man carcter which was couaght by garbe/undercover cop was shot and killed when on tthe sceen

October 26, 2006

Burgonet said:

The story seems to continue after the end of the two seasons, with the recent release of Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society. This is currently a Japanese-only release, with a future sub-titled and dubbed DVD version expected to be released in 2007.

December 9, 2006

Zyro said:

Hello there.

If you like Ghost in the Shell go

Give suggestions.


March 28, 2007

noname said:

who here is a programer ?
just asking ?

March 29, 2007

SFAM said:

Hi Noname, probably you’ll get a better response asking that in the meatspace forums. Also, I would prefer this entry stay focussed on Ghost in the Shell.

June 21, 2007

project_2501 said:

I just bought the region 2 1st gig boxset (new not used) , but when I play it on my region 2 DVD player and my PC it sounds like it’s going to break the machine - it makes the whole thing vibrate worringly. Only DVD that does this! Any ideas?

randomrob said:

try a different media player… ? - Satsuki has a nice free old skool windows media player… I started using this when Windows media player 11 started giving me grief w/DVDs..

I would also make sure the drivers for yr DVD drive are updated.

June 23, 2007

Made in DNA said:

Shirow’s studio/home were caught up and destroyed in the Hanshin Quake of 1994. He lost nearly all of the work (including Neuro Hard) he was working on at the time. Then there is the fact that Shirow does MUCH of his work on his own. He does not employ underlings to do his work for him like many artists do. So yeah, it takes him a while to do stuff. If you think about it though, Shirow put out 5 works based in the Ghost in the Shell universe during the 90s, so it’s not him being slow getting the comics out, it’s translations and movies that take time.

June 27, 2007

jkno said:

It’s not written by Masume Shirow but by MASAMUNE SHIROW!!

June 28, 2007

SFAM said:

Hi jkno, my deepest apologies for the spelling error. Your refund will be in the mail.

jkno said:

No refund needed, to correct the error was ok :)

July 1, 2007

PSY said:

I couldn’t say which season I prefer, however I do adore the GitS universe. With Solid State Society out in Japan, role on season 3!

July 2, 2007

randomrob said:

I was looking up Solid State Society on Amazon the other day and read a review by some cnucklehead who thought it was a good movie then went on to say what a lousy series GITS:SAC was. (Boring, not enough action, stupid robots… etc)

Another victim of ‘the Dragonball curse’….

wtf are we gonna do with these people?

August 1, 2007

project_2501 said:

I think the single worst thing about this series (english dub) was the voices of the tachikomas. I guess they were meant to sound cute but I just found them annoying. I haven’t watched the series in japanese with subs yet but I imagine the tachikomas sound better. Apart from that, the english cast is excellent, although it took me a while to get used to Batou’s radically changed character. He’s always grumpy in the first 2 films but is probably the most light-hearted member of section 9 in SAC.

Anakha said:

After watching the first Season I wasn`t so confident about the second becoming good, I mean the End was terrific, but the Series as a whole had some lags.
But now (in the Middle of SAC 2nd GIG I´m infected again with the Cyber-Virus of Ghost in the Shell!

Shureliy hoping the 3rd Season (Solid State) will make it at least into english, or even better (like the first 2 did) into German translation.

To a more general matter: keep it up that way! Really good reviews up to now!

August 26, 2007

Ni said:

Hey there,
The writers really do a good job of subtlety in societal descriptions. I’ll give you an example: Referring here to man who sold his body for a jamieson (I think thats what its called). he sold body parts, and saw an offer he couldn’t refuse. he sold away his own body. this shows the corruption in the society.

I am in love with the entire show and the issues it raises, though seldom seen. :)

September 29, 2007

ferchunix said:

I like gits, SAC, ans shirow’s manga the most but i have a doubt ¿What’s first GITS or SAC?,the answer I think is GITS because Togusa first appearance is in first GITS movie and they introduce him as a new rookie in Section 9 while in SAC he’s in stage since first episode.Am I wrong? Thanx

project_2501 said:

I think that the phrase ‘Stand Alone Complex’ not only has significance to the plot but also is supposed to distance the series from the films. SAC is meant to be an alternative to the films, there is no chronological link with them, ie it stands alone/is separate from the films. The only way I can think of describing it is as a spin off series but that makes it sound a bit trivial.

However, the latest GITS film, ‘Solid State Society’, does lead on from SAC 2nd gig. Only Ghost in the Shell 2 (Innocence) leads on from the original film (at least chronologically)

In any case, if the first film was set before SAC, then the plot wouldn’t make sense, because at the end of the film the Major leaves section 9 but she’s back again with no explanation in SAC.

Timothy said:

I would agree that ‘Stand Alone Complex’ would imply that it was an alternitave to the film’s however with only a few minor changes such as names the plot line could flow contiusly from the series to he film

September 30, 2007

noname said:

i think sac comes be for ghost in the shell it just gose to show you the fate
of Major and how she became the way she dose in ghsot in the shell.
any one seen one thing in ghost in the shell. the
Major is more open in to talk in sac but in ghost in the shell she is not open as much
not talking as much she is thinking more.
i do not know what one i like the Major from sac or ghost in the shell more ..
my web page will be up soon

October 1, 2007

xristos said:

While Gits:sac is one of the better animes, production values aside,
it can not hold a candle to the first GITS movie which is a monumental
piece of work, a journey through the imminent chaotic realities that
approach _very fast_ ;-)

They should have concentrated more into creating a deep storyline
and forget about all the cheesy action scenes. As it stands now,
it is another scifi anime, albeit one of the better ones. What could have
been if they have dived into the premise of the first movie, we’ll never know.

February 10, 2008

Jenny said:

This is my most favourite show. I bought them all on dvd and have watched them all. Awesome show!

April 1, 2008

Old Boss 1919 said:

I just finished watching the complete series of GITS:Stand Alone Complex and found it errie how the themes of this series as well as the Metal Gear Solid game series overlap, and in some ways, intersect.

It is almost similar to the Wold Newton Universe of Mr. Farmer and his colleagues who connect similar genres to create a singular universe in which they meet.

I found this extremely revelant after watching the end sequences of the first season in which Section 9 is disbanded, with what happens to Unit FOXHOUND and earleir their predecessor, FOX Unit in th Metal Gear Solid game chronology.

It is as if you could draw a line between the universes, chronologically, with the Metal Gear development giving way to the Tochikomas of the GITS universe and the S3 Program giving way to the Laughing Man program ( or, to go back to the original source material, Ghost in the Shell, the Pupetmaster program) or the one used to manage the Solid State Society.

Coincidence. Possibly.

But it does cause one to wonder how in synch writers of different series are on some topics.

May 5, 2008

Anonymous said:

i love the show kep it up

nonname said:

are they making any more ghost in the shell show or not been waiting
after i seen solded stade omfg was so good made me stop and thing .
there are not to many shows that make me stop an think like ghost in the shell.

September 24, 2008

nicole said:

OMG THE GUY WHO PLAYS THE LAUGHING MAN IS LIKE SOOO CUTE hes the most cutest kid ive ever seen u no like wow i got a friend who will prolly be the laughing man lol hes just a hacker :P but i know he will be a laughing man copy lol

nicole said:

well if u wanna talk more about it email me

September 25, 2008

OnoKeith said:

Noticed the drawing is more consistent in 2nd gig.
And they improve Motokos body :p

October 16, 2008

hell said:


December 9, 2008

Ghostfiles said:

My favorite show hands down. The psychological aspect as well as intense action and fun future tech just rules. But I primarily wanted to point out that the seasons ARE NOT previous actions of Section 9. They are more accurately a parallel universe in which The Major didn’t sync with the puppetmaster in the first movie.

January 21, 2009

Anon said:

I love GITS and since SSS came out i have been looking for any kind of information about a New Season for SAC. or a New Movie with no luck. Only thing new is the Remake of the first movie called GITS 2.0

kabukiman said:

They are 2 SAC, you know that, right (the second is with the 11 individuals)?

January 27, 2009

pom said:


February 14, 2009

LaughingMan said:

whats the new movie like sounds great i love ghost in the shell the comos are funny and the lady that acts for major is great actor i would like to meet the cast of ghost in the shell

February 16, 2009

Nikki said:

I hope they come out with a third season soon. Motoko is sooo cool!

March 23, 2009

Lighthawk Demon said:

I too would like to see more GitS:SAC.

If anyone has ANY info on a new season please post.

I can’t believe that they would just abandoned such a great series. There will always be the potential to make money with a show like this and the die-hard fans that follow it.

There’s a sale waiting RIGHT HERE for a new series if it’s ever created … 100% guaranteed!

June 25, 2009

Gren said:

Dude… 9/10? Compared to what? What cyberpunk movie ranks 10/10 that you could possibly compare this to? I’m not saying it’s the best piece of cinema ever made, but within the genre… what possibly matches (or trumps, for that matter) GITS?

And also… “Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High” Just “High”? Dude, there’s a picture of a blown open skull full of circuits up there. Does Billy Idol have to pop out of it wailing on a cyber guitar to put it over the “Very High” treshold?

January 5, 2010

Pef said:

@ Gren

yes its cyberpunk , and yes its a human brain in a cyborg shell ,
but , does it , in this movie , ask itself if its human?
if its alive , real or just a projection?

those are the true cyberpunk features , drawing robots shooting each other is not.

January 31, 2010

....... said:

that’s kind of what a main part of the series does….

March 7, 2010

Interventor said:

Seriously if Gits doesn´t deserve a 10 I´dont know what it takes.
Compelling history, tematics, and visuals. well told history.It´s a shame you dont give it a 10. Otherwise love the site and the reviews.

June 13, 2010

ShadowGunner49 said:

I’m an absolute major fan of the Ghost in the Shell series including the movies. One of the major influences on cyberpunk for me.

November 19, 2010

Anonymous said:

I think there are certain similarities between Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex and the non Cyberpunk Series Paranoia Agent. Both, Shounen Bat and the Laughing Man are criminals whose existence is doubtable. Both spawn unrealistic theories and “myths” cultivated by the mass media. People start emulating the crimes of both characters and there is a certain cult following the criminals.

There are also some differences between both Characters. While Shounen Bat is an embodyment of media triggered mass hysteria/paranoia (like the Swine Flu hysteria etc. ), the Laughing Man is an image of a Robin Hood like Hero who uncovers the dirty secrets of the Megacorps.

Perhaps, both Characters could also be seen as the embodyment of 2 Sociology theories about the influence of media.

There is the Cultivation Theory where based on experiments, it was discovered that people who get more information about Crime have stronger fears to become a Victim of a Crime. Even if it’s only via Crime Fiction in Television, the effect works.

I think this sounds similar to the Plot of Paranoia Agent, where the Crimes of Shounen Bat only increase because of the media coverage of the Case and it’s hinted that all these crimes were only paranoid delusions. So, in the series, media transmitted a delusion of a Criminal.

Then, there is the Agenda Setting theory that media are helpfull because they inform the Citizens about things Society would not have thought of otherwise. I think this pretty much sums up the action of the laughing man pretty well.

So, perhaps, in Conclusion, it’s possible to say that GITS has got a positive view of Mass media in Comparison to the rather negative view of Paranoia Agent.

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