And I mean, better than I expected.
You know that feeling you get when you think nothing new interests you, and you fall into a rut of watching internet caustic critics rip on movies you KNOW you’ll never watch because of the precise reasons these internet critics bring up - until you remember there’s still a LOT of anime you haven’t seen yet, despite your complaining there is nothing new you’re interested in?
Well, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex certainly lives up to the “complex” part of the title, but not in a bad way. It’s probably one of the best serialised TV shows I’ve seen in any medium adapted for television, it doesn’t just work as anime, and I don’t have to make excuses for it being watchable merely because it is anime and has craftsmanship to the animation. This Ghost In The Shell TV spin off show is probably a better introduction, or gateway if you will, to those American cop shows you see on TV occasionally while flipping channels, than actually watching a long running cop show where you feel lost as to who the characters are and what their M.O. is.
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex puts the cop show aspect of television into anime without dumbing it down, there’s still action sequences - which are much easier to create for animation than a live action cop show which would require a much larger, Michael Bay budget - but the spectacle is not sacrificed for depth of character, actual thought provoking plotlines that give you ambiguous messages about the line between man and machine, while still being essentially an anime cop show.
Even the dub in the licensed English translation isn’t horrible, the characters sound good enough to really be in a real cop show, rather than American voice actors trying to be high pitched moe girls. For some anime shows, an American dub can actually provide a different approach in translation - while a dub of something like Love Hina is horrible because the voice acting is trying to translate all kinds of regional accents into national stereotypes - Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex doesn’t suffer from this since it’s almost as accessible as say, its eighties older brother theatrical movie Akira, another anime I love to bits. What I’m trying to say is that the dub of Ghost In The Shell: SAC actually doesn’t detract from what was probably already a kind of sci-fi cop show to begin with, and since we’re used to hearing American accents in cop shows, as horrifying as it is, culturally, to admit this - it’s actually more reasonable to accept this in Ghost In The Shell than a possible dub of K-ON!
Perhaps this is because Ghost In The Shell operates on an accessible American friendly action cop show level, mixed in with Japanese concepts of Shinto applied to living machines in this weird William Gibson way. In this show, machines may well have souls because they were once human. I’m starting to like Ghost In The Shell as a franchise as the separate, action girl sister franchise to the massively scoped Akira, which is more like the Watchmen of manga and anime, if not artistically, then historically.