The time period “Stand Alone Advanced” will be loosely outlined as a social phenomenon the place unconnected actions mix to create a bunch effort, although it is not maintained by a ringleader or ruling physique. It propagates with out instruction or management, with random people transferring towards a collective purpose with out acutely aware intent, finally turning into a coherent entire. Basically, within the phrases of the Stand Alone Advanced fandom wiki, “One may say that the Stand Alone Advanced is mass hysteria—with objective.”
Whereas now we have all been swept up in mass hysteria at one level or one other, for a galaxy of various causes, what will be mentioned is that when the momentum will get going, there’s pretty little anybody can do to stem the tide. We will simply equate this to a stampede. When sufficient individuals get spooked and begin charging, even when there’s a sizable quantity of protest from inside their ranks, the entire mob will run clear off a cliff with out hesitation.
However what makes mass hysteria distinctive, is the numerous kinds wherein it may well seem. My favourite instance of that is the Strasbourg Dancing Plague of 1518, the place anyplace from 50 to 400 individuals inexplicably danced on the street for the higher a part of two straight months (although there’s appreciable debate over who really kicked off this flash mob, and if the rumors of a dozen or extra individuals dying every day had been merely made up). Whereas intense hypothesis has endured within the centuries since, based mostly on the collected data from documentarians, there has by no means been a definitive rationalization for what occurred.
One other well-known instance of mass hysteria got here packaged because the notorious Satanic Panic (which took root within the Eighties and has by no means actually gone away). This mass reporting of unsubstantiated circumstances of ritualistic abuse, trafficking and sacrifice has come to incorporate tens of 1000’s of investigations all through the world over the a long time. Not a single one has confirmed the existence of those ritualistic cults participating in satanic sadism. But, the panic stays entrenched in worldwide tradition and rhetoric, with little signal of ever absolutely dissipating.
Nevertheless, once we acknowledge a Stand Alone Advanced, the outcomes can get pretty extra difficult. In all probability the perfect trendy instance which might be categorized as this phenomenon is the decentralized hacktivist motion, Nameless. The emergence of those self-identified vigilantes using the ambiguous moniker turned information in 2007. The one-two punch of on-line predator Chris Forcand’s arrest in Canada, and the 2008 launch of Venture Chanology in opposition to the Church of Scientology threw this motion onto the world stage. Within the succeeding years, within the wake of continued exercise and notoriety, investigations from journalists, and worldwide legislation enforcement and intelligence bureaus frequently show that Nameless members can function solely unique of each other in the event that they need it. And enjoyable truth, once I was 18, I really attended a couple of protests supposedly organized by Nameless. However to the reality of that, I solely have assumptions because the organizers had been faceless on-line, and masked in particular person.
It’s fairly troublesome to show that these actions had been the work of a free collective, or whether or not random individuals are throwing a label on their actions as a method of brand name recognition with a view to legitimize their actions within the eyes of some, and to probably cowl their precise tracks. Nameless has come for use in music, tv, and merchandise to a level that it’s now an indelible a part of our collective tradition, for higher and for worse (relying in your stance in direction of them).
However the principle level that I’m driving at is that Nameless now exists as an entity which is self-sustaining, fueled by our contrasting idealism and hysteria, and continues to outlive merely by the burden of its cultural affect. Whether or not or not those that claimed allegiance to their collective are nonetheless energetic, or ever had been, many see the publized actions of the group as all of the proof they want with a view to consider of their existence and efficacy. Whereas others will keep stark skepticism for the exact same causes, sustaining that personal organizations, authorities branches, or particular person energy gamers are utilizing the zeitgeist with a view to manipulate and misdirect public opinion and data.
This uncertainty in direction of a shadowy entity on the periphery of our society, manipulating its many tiers, is precisely the framework which is utilized throughout the traditional anime collection, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Based mostly on the 1989 manga by Masamune Shirow, in addition to the 1995 Mamoru Oshii characteristic movie, Stand Alone Advanced is an authentic adaptation by Kenji Kamiyama which is ready in an alternate storyline to that of its supply materials. Whereas it nonetheless makes use of most of the similar characters, settings, and designs, it manages to inject a substantial quantity of authentic materials into the present ethos of the Ghost within the Shell universe.
Ghost within the Shell: Stand Alone Advanced largely takes place in Japan throughout the years 2030 and 2032. After humanity develops the flexibility to cyberize themselves, using prosthetic physique elements and cybernetic brains, the boundaries between what’s human and machine is ever extra blurred. The proof of humanity in opposition to synthetic constructs often boils right down to somebody’s possession of a “ghost,” or primarily the idea of the human soul. Within the wake of society evolving and restructuring round this large singularity occasion, we observe Public Safety Part 9, a clandestine counter-cyberterrorism squad of former navy and police personnel, who’re accountable for mitigating threats which can’t be dealt with by mundane safety efforts. By means of their regular actions, they uncover widespread and amorphous conspiracies which pose threats on a global scale. Although paradoxically, the nearer they get to the reality, the extra harmful and untenable their state of affairs turns into.
The collection is basically set within the fictional Japanese metropolis of Niihama, and follows Part 9 by way of two main circumstances which threaten to unsettle Japan’s stability between its inhabitants and its authorities: The Laughing Man and the Particular person Eleven. Whereas there exists appreciable overlap, in addition to large divides between these circumstances, for this video, we will deal with the previous case.
The Laughing Man is an enigmatic hacktivist reportedly accountable for the most important acts of cyberterrorism in trendy Japan, the place quite a few companies had been hacked and blackmailed. Unaware whether or not The Laughing Man is a home or international terrorist, or even when it is a solo hacker or a crew, the police have chased this ghost for six years with little to point out for it. Togusa, the rookie of Part 9, is contacted by an previous good friend nonetheless investigating the case. Within the wake of his good friend’s mysterious automotive accident, Togusa discovers police corruption involving unlawful inner surveillance of its officers. When the scandal breaks, a police press convention publicly denying duty known as, blaming the pinnacle of The Laughing Man job power. However earlier than reporters can press the non-public ties to the nanomachine firm accountable for the surveillance tools on the coronary heart of the scandal, The Laughing Man hijacks a police official’s cyberbrain, denouncing the police response as a “farce,” and threatening the Superintendent-Basic’s life.
The next night time, an try is made on the lifetime of the Superintendent-Basic when a safety chief is brain-hacked, adopted by a detailed collection of obvious accomplices trying to complete what the hacked goon couldn’t. Whereas a virus is blamed for the preliminary try, it’s quickly obvious that all the succeeding people operated solely on their very own volition, with no hyperlink to 1 one other or the earlier crimes. Whereas the general public is fast to be swept up within the fervor when a fall man is known as posthumously as The Laughing Man, Part 9 unravels a large conspiracy that the federal government was doctoring proof and utilizing The Laughing Man as a method to regulate public opinion whereas they work with non-public companies to revenue off of human distress.
The Laughing Man is seen as each a vigilante hero and a public menace all through almost each echelon of society who look from the outside-in. His iconic brand is utilized in artwork, and on merchandise. His title is evoked within the fiery rhetoric of these wielding public platforms and open boards. Whereas the perpetrator of the extra televised actions which fast-tracked the entire Laughing Man frenzy is revealed to be a person named Aoi, whether or not this persona was born from an actual activist trying to alter society, or was all the time a farce created to control the plenty, on the earth of Stand Alone Advanced, it is moderately a moot level. His place within the tradition, and as a method for motivation to pursue related programs of motion, is ready deep inside Japan’s social panorama. This makes the general public reactions to his supposed rhetoric and acts of terrorism much more harmful, as a result of there’s nothing to precipitate what individuals will do, when they are going to do it, and for what objective. This uncertainty supplies an ideal alternative for powers ready to control the picture of The Laughing Man. The remainder of us will consider what we are going to, and can act accordingly. Because of this, hysteria spreads, the reality is buried, and the world retains on turning.
Now, the metatextual origin of The Laughing Man initially got here from the brief story of the identical title, written by American writer J. D. Salinger. And even when you have not learn the story, or any of Salinger’s works, on high of a number of references to his writing by way of informal conversations, the character Aoi is extremely influenced by Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher within the Rye. Now, I’m actually not a fan of Salinger, and I’ve talked about this a couple of occasions in different movies, and there are quite a lot of the explanation why I preserve something he wrote at arm’s size. However the shocking factor with Holden’s motivations and qualms with the world round him, a side of his character that has brought about immense irritation, is that when Aoi takes maintain of the identical rules, there are two key variations—he’s proactive, and he manages to mature.
Holden is a passive character, and a perpetually immature one. He’s an adolescent, cursing the grownup world for its harshness, monotony, and greed, which influences his views on what’s vital in life. However Aoi tries his damnedest to do the fitting factor within the wake of such inhumanity; he desires to alter the world for the higher. He desires to embrace the concept that innocence and solidarity are innate ideas inside human society, which have to be fostered and guarded. As he aged, along with his moniker hijacked by these looking for to take advantage of others, and people he sought to deliver down nonetheless working behind the scenes, he sees the work of Part 9 as a fastlane to lastly accomplish what he got down to do all these years in the past. And get used to quite a lot of literary references, as a result of the entire solid of Stand Alone Advanced is extraordinarily nicely learn (as if all of them had been going for a graduate diploma in literature).
Each installment within the Ghost within the Shell franchise is buried beneath an avalanche of overarching themes and visible motifs, sporting lots of its influences proper on its sleeve. Whereas largely this comes round as extra debates over life when synthetic intelligence is sort of similar to natural intelligence, the deal with a Stand Alone Advanced and its implications for a society is totally distinctive. And though SAC simply handed its nineteenth birthday, its relevance is extra prevalent now than ever earlier than. We exist in a world of hyper-charged ideological battlefields and cultural friction, with hysteria persevering with to strain public coverage and mob mentality. We dwell in an age the place stand alone complexes comparable to Nameless are certain to extend exponentially, no matter who could also be seen on the helm. Once we finally attain our subsequent singularity level, these complexes will solely compound the appreciable change our worldwide civilization will bear and settle into within the coming generations. Nothing actually happens inside a vacuum, and all actions have penalties.
Whereas Ghost within the Shell: Stand Alone Advanced is laden down with weighty themes and conflicts, seasoned closely over a multi-faceted thriller, does the collection maintain up as an anime, and as a persistently coherent story? Effectively, ranging from a technical perspective, you will not hear me debating whether or not or not early 2000s 3DCG is all the time efficient. Positive, it is not Hand Shakers (2017) unhealthy, and this was when 3D was actually being ramped up all through worldwide animation manufacturing for the primary time. However within the first season, its limits finally inhibit immersion excess of it augments the collection; and although the second season does enhance considerably, the 2D and 3D content material maintains a disjointed relationship. That is made much more distinguished in scenes the place settings are largely rendered in CG, as a result of it takes away one of many key elements which make the Japan in Ghost within the Shell really feel so wonderful—tactility.
To make my level, let’s return to Oshii’s 1995 characteristic movie. As we observe the Main all through Niihama, we’re given a parade of areas which all the time play with two important parts of this universe—development and decay. We see the mechanized limbs and our bodies of cyberized people meshing in opposition to a backdrop of a decrepit and overcrowded metropolis. It’s an amalgamation of cultures and historic eras conflicting with technological singularity, and the result’s a large divide between haves and have-nots, which extends to the very buildings and streets we inhabit.
The luxurious colour scheme of the unique movie provides an ethereal vibrancy to its world and characters, but we additionally really feel the burden. We get to see the rings of the tree, so to talk. Within the colorized pages of the manga, you can too see its use of a reasonably vivid and putting colour palette. Each of those approaches had been changed in SAC with earthy colours, which may typically mix into a large number of murky hues. Gone are the overused waterways, the ever-constant infrastructure enhancements, the ever-present mix of the stylish and the decrepit. Once we do get related aesthetic combos to those in SAC, we’re often venturing into extra unsavory elements of city. Because of this, this dichotomy turns into much less reflective of the society as a complete, and extra particularly tied to Japan’s prison parts and underclass, inadvertently lowering its total effectiveness. Sure, diversifications are free to make of what they are going to with the fabric, particularly when you must make quite a lot of choices as to the place the restricted sources are greatest directed, however when such an intrinsic component of the world is uncared for, we lose a potent facet which makes Ghost within the Shell so distinctive.
However reverse this, Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG is a large enchancment, each in inventive course, and in manufacturing design. It manages to recapture these authentic atmospheres whereas nonetheless preserving quite a lot of visible motifs established at first, which I totally take pleasure in and admire. As a result of buttressing your current strengths, and altering these inventive choices which fell flat, with out sacrificing the integrity of your story or your visible identification to which your followers are already attracted, is extraordinarily exhausting to do. Although plainly Kamiyama might have forgotten to import his final save over to Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045.
Having mentioned that, Stand Alone Advanced understands Shirow’s humorousness significantly higher than Oshii. The manga’s darkish, but playful humorousness is among the key options which had been considerably dismissed within the characteristic movies, being the extra critical tackle the topic, to make certain. However Stand Alone Advanced is continually riffing, and a lot of the scenes that includes the Tachikomas discover methods to throw in a good few jokes even when the scene is deathly critical. And once we take a look at the Tachikomas within the manga, the snappy dialogue and pacing is sort of a precise match. So whereas there have been a couple of artistic paths taken that I actually have points with, there is also sufficient beholden to what got here earlier than it, that Stand Alone Advanced nonetheless manages to really feel “proper” regardless of the liberties taken.
Kamiyama manages to make skilled use of his belongings, making price range and manufacturing limitations virtually negligible, and permitting the collection to save lots of nearly all of its complicated work for moments of upper octane motion. There’s little that I might describe as fluff or fats, with every sequence meticulously crafted round a succession of angles which all the time add additional emphasis to every pivotal scene’s tone and significance.
Comparable anime collection which share the identical economical course embody Noboru Ishiguro‘s 1988 adaptation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Hideaki Anno‘s 1995 collection Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Naohito Takahashi‘s 1997 anime adaptation of Berserk. Not a lot could also be occurring throughout these moments, however the lack of movement hardly ever makes me really feel bored or impatient, due to what else is going on and the way it’s delivered and paced. However on the flip aspect of that, these moments are sometimes veritable shiploads of exposition, and in case you aren’t a fan of anime the place they sit round and discuss all day, this one in all probability will not be for you. Huge data dumps happen each couple of episodes, and there’s little left to the creativeness by the tip of the collection.
This conflicts with the pure ambiguity and uncertainty which hallmark the unique work and the movies, particularly when The Main incorporates the Puppet Grasp into her cyberbrain, erasing the unique Main (as the remainder of Part 9 knew her) from existence. Now, as SAC is ready on a distinct timeline, this by no means happens, nevertheless it does not does not fill that void with an equitable battle. That is not to say you will not have a major emotional response to the dour occasions which plague the Main and her colleagues, however the focus is significantly extra drawn to the overarching story moderately than private introspection. Having mentioned that, Stand Alone Advanced advantages from its expanded runtime and scope, permitting episodes to deal with particular person members of Part 9 with a view to present their tales to the viewers, and to raised perceive their motivations, moderately than preserving a microscope largely mounted on Main Kusanagi. This creates a little bit of a disparity between the tone of the manga and Oshii animated movies, and that of Stand Alone Advanced, the previous two being significantly extra ambiguous and emotional, the place SAC is extra cerebral and action-oriented. One is not higher than the opposite, because it comes right down to a matter of desire. However I by no means had a response to Stand Alone Advanced like I had with the manga or with the unique movies.
So, once I began making video essays for Anime News Network final yr, my very first matter was on Serial Experiments Lain, wherein I mentioned the next: “That is not to say Lain‘s story is the head of cyberpunk, as a result of Ghost within the Shell will all the time maintain that spot in my world.” Whereas this was directed largely on the manga and Oshii movies, this declaration completely consists of Stand Alone Advanced. Its wholesome stability of motion, masterful course, compelling intrigue, and the chances of expertise. It makes for a prophetic thriller which can hit a little bit too near residence for a few of you, and whereas the manufacturing parts will be hit-and-miss extra occasions than some would permit, these similar elements can often be outright sensible.
Whereas there’s a lot extra I wished to speak about, and careworn about it lengthy sufficient that I needed to delay placing this essay out for an additional month, I’ll finish with saying that the second season surrounding the Particular person Eleven, subtitled 2nd GIG, is much better at interweaving storylines and themes than the primary, in addition to offering minor characters with much more characterization and alternatives to affect the bigger world. On the flip aspect, the primary season is rather more exploratory with its titular idea of a Stand Alone Advanced, making for a extra participating thriller. Both means you can’t go fallacious with the entire 52-episode collection, as a result of it continues to carry up extraordinarily nicely, each as a stand alone challenge and as a part of the higher Ghost within the Shell multimedia franchise. Ghost within the Shell: Stand Alone Advanced stays a kind of anime collection that won’t enchantment to everybody, however everybody ought to give it at the least one go. You get one thing new out of the collection (and out of your self) by way of every rewatch of the present, analyzing your individual understanding and observations of how our world operates round us.
Thanks to everybody who’ve made all of it the best way to the tip of this video essay. I do know it could not have been straightforward—you are superior. For those who loved (or have taken situation) with my interpretation and examination of Ghost within the Shell: Stand Alone Advanced, go away a remark down under to let me know what you suppose. If in case you have an concept for an anime which you want me to cowl, additionally let me know within the feedback. If you have not accomplished so, subscribe to the Anime Information Community. We launch new content material each week, so you’ll want to ring the bell. You should definitely mosey on over to my private channel Criticlysm for related content material, and observe my utter misunderstanding of social media over on Twitter. I deeply admire your continued assist and suggestions. Till subsequent time.