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  • 15
  • Action, Adventure
  • 2006
  • 103 mins

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society

Synopsis

The mysterious 'Puppeteer' manipulates suicides and mass child abductions in a future Tokyo - but why? Kenji Kamiyama returns to direct this feature-length spin-off from the Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex animated TV series

About

Based on the manga by Masamune Shirow, Mamoru Oshii's visionary feature-length anime Ghost In The Shell (1995) laid down all the laws for the cinematic SF subgenre known as 'cyberpunk', not only having a direct influence on The Matrix (1999) and countless other films set in the 'wired' world of the future, but also becoming an ever-expanding franchise that continually raises its own bar while knocking most of its animated competition for dead.

Kenji Kamiyama's two television series, 'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex' (2002) and 'Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG' (2005), have allowed the philosophical, political and social implications of Shirow's future world to be unfolded and scrutinised in much greater detail, while Oshii's feature-length sequel Innocence(2004) is the first animated film ever to have been honoured with a nomination for the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Such prestigious pedigree is the undoing of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society. For while it bears all the hallmarks of its predecessors - the same core set of characters, the same convoluted plotting, the same state-of-the-art animation - Kamiyama's feature is the least distinctive member of the GITS family, even if it stands up well to so much other Japanese anime. Without Oshii's awe-inspiring imagination, Solid State Society feels like what it is - a film based on a TV series which was itself based on another film - and it is beginning to show the staleness that comes with any third generation copy.

It is AD 2034, two years since Major Motoko retired from the covert counter-terrorism group Section Nine to wander the Net as a freelance cyber-operative. Batou too is in semi-retirement, interested only in cases on which Motoko also appears to be working, so his younger partner, the family man Togusa, now leads the squad. Section Nine's current assignment seems straightforward enough, if still highly dangerous: they are trying to stop a group of foreign zealots launching a biochemical attack on Tokyo.

When, however, the bioterrorists all commit suicide under mysterious circumstances, and the 16 children that they had abducted to carry their plague all disappear, the case becomes altogether more complicated, as Togusa and his team must work out who is the so-called 'Puppeteer', what is the 'Solid State Society', how more than 20,000 children have vanished without trace, and what all this has to do with invalid senior citizens linked up to a computer nursing network. Most pressing of all for Batou, though, is the question of whether Motoko is merely investigating this conspiracy from the sidelines, or is playing a more crucial part in it herself.

Solid State Society uses its SF frame to dramatise all manner of present-day anxieties in Japan: the aging population coupled with a low birthrate, and the threat posed to democracy by xenophobic nationalists and backroom bureaucrats alike. Paradoxically for a film where maverick rule-breaking is the norm for many of the main characters, it is also concerned with the potential dangers that unrestrained rebelliousness can present.

All this is packaged in a narrative so uncompromisingly labyrinthine that it takes several viewings to grasp all of its intricacies and to appreciate fully the open-ended conclusion. Only the most die-hard of fans, however, will be patient enough to sit through Solid State Society more than once. For though it brims with interesting ideas, the absence of Oshii's magical touch ensures that it is all surface sheen without any deeper brilliance or, if you prefer, all shell without a ghost to give it a poetic soul. Perhaps Motoko should stay retired.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Bob Buchholz, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Joshua Seth, Richard Epcar, Dean Wein, Crispin Freeman, William Knight, Dave Wittenberg
  • Director: Kenji Kamiyama
  • Screen Writer: Shotaro Suga, Kenji Kamiyama, Yoshiki Sakurai
  • Producer: Tomohisa Nishimura, Hisanori Kunizaki, Norihisa Oki
  • Photographer: Kôji Tanaka
  • Composer: Yôko Kanno

In a nutshell

Solid State Society proves that there is life yet in the Ghost In The Shell franchise, even if it is beginning to show its age and look a little tired - not unlike the senior citizens who feature in it. Still, a cut above your average cyberpunk anime, even if it fails to match the lofty standards it has inherited.

by Anton Bitel

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