It’s been a while since I’ve watched any good Japanese television animation. Today, however, I stumbled upon Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (GITS:SAC) on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
A lot of people have seen Mamoru Oshii’s movie version of Ghost in the Shell. I didn’t much like it because it was, tonally, a deviation from the original manga from creator/artist Masumune Shirow. I found the movie to be aesthetically slow and ponderous…while it was interesting philosophically, I felt like my eyelids were being forceably strapped open with “art tape”.
Shirow’s original manga featured characters that were part of an ensemble, and delivered the philosophical themes through action-oriented plotting balanced by moments of introspection. There is a tension between events that just doesn’t come across in the movie versions. Television, with its episodic nature, is probably the better delivery medium for a faithful interpretation. As I watched the episode “Testation”, I was struck by how close it captured that feeling, and particularly how good the action detail was.
The production values for this episode are not like those of the movie, of course… this is television animation. However, being for TV didn’t limit series like Cowboy Bebop, where every frame exuded character. A lot of the shots in GITS:SAC were somewhat dull, except when there’s mecha or action started. Even then, the animatin had a sense of detail, sequencing of action, and timing that captured my attention. The character designs, though, are an improvment: a compromise between the movie and the manga character designs that I prefer.
What’s particularly interesting is to see Shirow-style mecha designs animated. They’re quite different from the usual humanoid mecha. Seeing the tanks in action was a revelation. I didn’understand the urban mobile tank concept before, but now it makes sense.
There’s some interesting cross-pollination of production talent too: * The music is by Yoko Kanno, who also composed the music for Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus. It’s a very pleasing cut above what you’d usually get in an anime series (particularly in the case of Cowboy Bebop, which my very-particular cousin Ben also enjoys, so that’s saying something). * The production company is Production I.G., which is Mamoru Oshii’s company, having done the two Ghost In The Shell movies and the animated sequence in Kill Bill Vol 1 among other things.
I’ve only seen one episode so far, but I’m hoping for more. It’s the most faithful adaptation of the original Ghost in the Shell manga out there, and to Shirow’s style of storytelling in general.