Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2045 (Season Two) [REVIEW] | To Doublethink Outside The Cage

Yeah, let’s tackle something a bit more challenging before we once again dip our toes in braindead killer animal exploitation crap.

When i reviewed the first season of this new Ghost In The Shell series back in 2020, i wasn’t expecting it would take 2 years before the second part/season would finally air, not because these projects aren’t time consuming (they are), but the general lack of interest in this new 3D CG iteration of the franchise shown by fans and the lack of much news at all almost made wonder if Netflix didn’t consider cancelling.

But then again, in the meantime we saw that it would take a gargantuan dumpster fire such as the live action Cowboy Bebop to make the streaming giant go and actively go “yeah, we’re gonna make more of this trash but we actually decided not to”.

A rare move, given WHAT this company is usually okay with greenlighting in excess, while killing stuff people actually likes.

Still, after a while it became clear this second season wasn’t exactly making anime fans go in the streets to demand it big time. Riots were not made for SAC 2045 Part 2, that much is undeniable.

Eventually, in late May 2022 the second season dropped on Netflix, preceded by a compilation film of the first season, called – fittingly so – GITS SAC 2045: Sustainable Warfare, which we talked about in its EXPRESSO review, and overall served as a good refresher since 2 years had passed.

And for obvious reasons, i’m not gonna over the premise or the characters again, check the older review for season one (or the EXPRESSO one for the compilation movie), but let’s do a very quick and overly concise recap.

Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger exactly when it started getting good, and season 2 keeps the ball going, so to say, quickly getting to the nub of the “Post Humans” problem Section 9 is expected to deal with, how they’re connected with the aforementioned global financial crisis known as the Global Default, what caused them, and we get to see the situation escalate with one of the Posthumans creating a willful “sect-indipendent nation” organized by using George Orwell’s 1984 as a bible, so there’s a Thinkpol, the “Peace IS War “ trifecta of diktacts is spoken as gospel, etc.

Americans intervene as well, making the situation even more dangerous and making this self proclaimed indipendent nation threathen the US and the rest of the world with a global war if their demands are not met.

Before going any further, i will say that this second season it’s noticeably better, not only as we get the answers to many question raised in Season One, the plot gets more intesting, we get more action and we also see the new Section 9 trainee/recruit, Purin Ezaki, gets a proper characterization, giving her a solid arc and a lot more importance for the resolution of the over arching plot. She definitely not just there for some comic relief, as for that – among other things – we have the beloved metal children that are the Tachikomas. Batou should really spoil them more, they deserve it!

Purin aside, most of the recurring characters are faithful and recognizable, they feel in line with their SAC characterization fairly well, and are quite charming as usual, even though i feel it helps that i know already these characters from the other iterations of GITS, as some don’t have much screentime and the show – as previously lamented – kinda assumes you know their personalities.

Though, the script makes some questionable choices, and i do mean “questionable” because some are not necessarily bad, some are effective on the moment but after stepping back they do feel like a bit of a narrative cop-out, and some plot points are good but the connected themes are not explored as deeply as you’d think they warrant. Again, keeping it spoiler free, as i usually do.

You could draw some similarities to earlier installments , for example the explanation for the “Post Human” phenomenon is kinda a reversal of the “Puppet Master” plot in the 1995 movie, and there are some common features to be found in the antagonist that almost ark back to the Laughing Man in the older SAC series, but despite what you might think, this isn’t the main issue of the series, as most of these parallels don’t make you feel like Kenji Kamiyama is retreading his older work.

Heck, you could argue the opposite, despite the title and what it’s supposed to follow up, SAC 2045 works as a stand alone installment, which is par for the course, but one could argue this alleged connection to the older series would mean something more than branding and some vague

I’m not counting the final scene that pretty much echoes both the first and second GITS movie and has Motoko do her iconic backwards fall into the void, that ain’t a spoiler, that’s a certainty.

Ironically, i’d say Kamiyama it quite aware of the conceptual creative defeat that would be retreading his old work to a tee, and the writing, while still fairly good, suffers for the opposite reason, as it’s arguably trying a bit too hard to stay relevant and modern in terms of “cyberpunk” themes, the phylosophical stances and issues that are entangled, to the point there’s a good chance it will age fairly quick, a lot quicker compared to the writing in the older GITS Stand Alone Complex series, with some themes explored in ways that still resonate strongly.

I didn’t feel this way during the first wiewing of the first SAC 2045 season, but i now find difficult to dismiss that specific point of contension. It’s still better than not trying or whatever Arise was doing, but at times some of the stuff SAC 2045 season 1 did was a bit on the nose, i must admit.

Oddly, i’m surprised the whole referencing of “1984” doesn’t make the series weaker, it fits as the demands of the “Post Humans” uni-mind movement are expectedly juvenile as their leader, Shimamura, a frustrated 14 yo that found solace in Orwell’s book, radicalize itself and also got infected with the post human program, but also harbored the goal of peace with both the cruelty and innocence of a frustrated teenager, whose woes where otherwise bound to fell unanswared.

The ending thought it’s the perfect blend of interesting, frustrating and a bit anticlimactic, even thought it’s not the complete cop out it appears…. it’s still fairly disappointing at worst, questionable at best.

Even if you don’t wanna call it a cop out, it’s kinda frustrating.

Overall, SAC 2045 as a whole it’s kind of bittersweet for a seasoned GITS fan, aside from the animation that could have been better or employ another style, this new series doesn’t fall into the trapping of trying to redo old material to the letter or carry things over from the older SAC series in order to fashion its own identity, but ironically trips on its desire to be extra modern, to update the cyberpunk themes to an age where cyberpunk feels like a passè wishful dreamscape, one dystopic scenario we almost wished happened as imagined, almost preferrable to the one we got.

While cyberpunk feeling more and more dated isn’t an issue that can be addressed as this new Ghost In The Shell series, the writing being almost good can, because having Kamiyama back in both the director chair (alongside the sadly not as regarded Shinji Aramaki) and as a writer is a good reason to expect very good stuff, and sadly this time it’s solid, has some very good moments and good scenes… but it’s not as strong as it could have been despite some good new concept like the Post Humans, due some narrative fumbles (especially regarding Purin Ezaki, again, no spoilers) and a finale that feels almost too positive. Kinda.

It started with a good opener donning some good potential, but ultimately kinda backpedaled into safer territory and less risk adverse narrative choices.

Utterly frustrating, since the final result it’s definitely above the “decent” mark, sadly not as a good as the previous SAC iterations, but definitely a better series and everything than Arise as a whole, that i can say again with extreme ease. Will there be a film “ending” for SAC 2045 as well?

Should there be? Honestly, i’m always up for some more Ghost In The Shell, i won’t lie about that, so i would welcome both that or the series getting some rest to come back in better shape. And maybe some newfound sense of purpose to retelling cyberpunk concepts born from the 90s into the already dystopic modern era.

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