Friday, November 5, 2004


Major Motoko Kusanagi returns in Cartoon Network's new series.

Parallel Universe

If the new TV series "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" is to be believed, the ending to the original "Ghost in the Shell" film never happened.

"Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex"

10:30 p.m. Saturdays as part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim

This might come as a surprise to anyone who's watched the film and its sequel, "Innocence." Major Motoko Kusanagi was supposedly assimilated into the consciousness of the Puppet Master at the end of the first movie, left only to appear as an omnipotent "ghost" to her assistant Batou in the second movie.

Yet, in "Stand Alone Complex," a 26-episode series released in Japan in 2002 and premiering in Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup tomorrow, there's Motoko back in her original "shell," alive and well and kicking the collective butts of the criminal element in a decidedly non-ghostly form. And she's doing it in the year 2030 -- supposedly a year after the events of the original movie.

Indeed, much has changed in the TV series' universe. It's still based on Masamune Shirow's printed work, but Mamoru Oshii, director of the two movies, is nowhere to be found. Sitting in the director's chair for this series is Kenji Kamiyama, who previously served as animation director on "Jin-Roh" and did the screenplay for "Blood: The Last Vampire."

"We decided to make it a parallel world," Kamiyama explains in an interview on Bandai and Manga Entertainment's first DVD of the series. "If we brought out the Puppet Master, we'd lose the character of Motoko Kusanagi. So at the stage we decided to keep the Puppet Master out of the story in order to keep her alive, we decided to make a character who would develop over the course of the series."

Later in the same interview, Kamiyama admits to preferring to watch simple Hollywood blockbusters over more mentally challenging fare -- a preference reflected in the way this series plays out. Gone for the most part is Oshii's penchant for inserting long-winded philosophical musings about the meaning of human existence into characters' dialogue; in its place is straight-up cop drama action and political suspense. Humor also plays a bigger role here, with the friendly banter among members of Motoko's police unit, Public Security Section 9, and the introduction of the childlike Tachikoma support robots as devices for comic relief.

That's not to say that the "Ghost in the Shell" franchise has been cheapened by these changes. To the contrary; the series seems designed to familiarize viewers with the activities of Section 9 on a basic level (seen in what are referred to "Stand Alone" episodes) before gradually drawing them into a more complex tale (in "Complex" multi-episode story arcs).

What makes this series succeed on a different level from its cinematic counterpart is in the way it plays with the themes of humanity and conspiracy. Whether Section 9 is tracking down the real reason behind a hostage standoff at a restaurant, a rogue tank, a virus attacking only certain robots or a cybernetic killer known only as the Laughing Man, neither the suspects nor the government agencies behind some of them can be taken at face value.

This is a series that rewards careful viewing, and it's highly likely that viewers drawn in by the opening episodes will not be disappointed with the payoff.

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.



E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com