TV Broadcast Info
Story = A+
Video = A+
Audio = A+
A.D. 2034. It has been two years since Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9. Togusa is now the new leader of the team, that has considerably increased its appointed personnel. The expanded new Section 9 confronts a rash of complicated incidents, and investigations reveal that an ultra-wizard hacker nicknamed the "Puppet Master" is behind the entire series of events.
Thank you God for Ghost in the Shell. I just have to get that out of the way because my guess is that this is the final GitS animation and I want to make sure to give thanks to the divine power that put Production IG, Kenji Kamiyama, Yoko Kanno, and Masamune Shirow on this earth to create another mind-blowing anime which left me in awe yet again.
It's kind of pointless to gush over this anime because you can pretty much just take what I've said about the two Stand Alone Complex series and just add a few extra comments about how Production IG created an even more spectacular visual experience, or how Yoko Kanno created an even more entrancing soundtrack, or how Kenji Kamiyama wove another incredibly detailed and complex plot. Then maybe throw in a comment like "I know I shouldn't give you unrealistic expectations, but you cannot build up this movie too much!" just for kicks. ;)
So gushing aside, what mainly makes this story stick out from the previous iterations is how the characters deal with the fact Motoko has left Section 9. All of the other characters are so attached and dependent on her for much of the original TV series, that it's great to see how each of them tries to fill in the void both personally and professionally when she's gone -- especially Aramaki, Togasa, and Batou. Her absence brings out a lot of characteristics in each of them that were always there in the TV series, but never explicit. And when she returns and they are not sure if she is a friend of foe, they have all the more to deal with because no one wants to go up against the Major.
Another thing that makes this a notable anime is that it touches on some real-life social issues in Japan; namely Japan's aging population and declining birth rate. It mainly uses these issues as plot points and character motivations, instead of as direct social commentary; but even so the mere fact that it brings those issues to light will probably teach the film's global audience something new about the country -- for what that's worth. On a more fanboy-ish note, when I saw the way the elderly in the movie were attached to the "Noble Rot" machines which provided all of their daily medical necessities automatically, I couldn't help but think of another anime that uses that same kind of idea in its plot -- Roujin Z. Now the question is whether that was an intentional homage or just a coincidence?
Speaking of homages, fans will appreciate the multitude of references to the Oshii-directed GitS movies. For instance, Motoko's plunge off off the building at the beginning and her face-off with the "Puppeteer" at the end are both scenes that directly mirror the original movie. Even the climactic battle at the end is reminicent of Innocence, and the very last scene is probably the most blatent reference of all to the first movie.
Altogether, this is one fantastic send off to the GitS anime. It is satisfying on every level and I'm sure I'll watch it again when the DVD comes out and probably a few more times after that just to grasp the intricacies of the plot. Hats off to all of the show's creative staff for providing one hell of an awesome experience.