Ghost in the Shell is one of the most influential animes of our time and will always hold a special place in my heart. First released as a manga in 1989, the story follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, an agent of Public Security Section 9. It’s all about a world where technological advances lead you to question what it truly means to be human, and the way in which we will evolve moving forwards.
In honor of the upcoming release of its live action movie adaptation, let’s have a look back at some of the popular franchise. Also, here is the trailer for the upcoming film, if you haven’t already seen it:
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
The first movie is amazing and a testament to Japanese animation. The popularity of this anime followed in the footsteps of the likes of Akira in helping to show how popular adult-oriented anime can be in the West.
I remember the first time I watched Ghost in the Shell, staying up until midnight on a Saturday night, glad I didn’t have school the next day. I was absolutely mesmerized and have loved anime ever since. On the surface, it is an amazing science fiction story filled with action, unafraid to shy away from graphic scenes. Beneath the surface, however, is where the real beauty of this movie lies. It deals with heavy philosophical views without bogging itself down and will leave you with many existential questions.
Major Kusanagi is in pursuit of a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. As the story develops, cover-ups and political intrigue surrounds this person’s identity and ultimate goals. The visuals were breathtaking at the time and still hold up. There is also a re-release titled Ghost in the Shell 2.0 with updated animation and new audio.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
The first film was followed up in 2004 by Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. This was its own separate story and not billed as a direct sequel. The visuals were massively upgraded from the previous film and it is a truly beautiful film to watch.
This film explores the more philosophical aspects of the universe, while shying slightly away from the action. It is definitely a movie that is improved with multiple viewings.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is actually my favorite part of the Ghost in the Shell universe. This animated series tells an alternative story to the first Ghost in the Shell movie and original manga.
All of the original members of Section 9 (plus a few new extras) face off against various cyber criminals and terrorists, with an often underlying link. The main antagonist is the Laughing Man, a super class hacker and terrorist.
Section 9 is aided with their tasks by Tachikoma’s thinking spider-tanks, which that really makes Stand Alone Complex something special. It was made into a feature-length OVA called Individual Eleven and had a made-for-TV film sequel, Solid State Society. It was successful enough to get a second season.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG (2003)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG is set two years after the first season and focuses on the aftermath of the third and forth World Wars. More specifically, the influx of refugees and their standing in society. It also follows organizations working within the shadows, manipulating situations to their own ends.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise (2015)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise was released a re-imagining of Ghost in the Shell with completely new visual design to help separate it from the rest. It follows Motoko Kusanagi during her younger years, before Section 9. The episodes also focused on other members of Section 9 before it came to be.
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2015)
As the latest film from the franchise, Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie continues the Arise story line. It takes place a year after World War 4. Debuting 20 years after the original Ghost in the Shell film, there are a lot of references and nods for fans.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – First Assault
In addition to shows and movies, the Ghost in the Shell franchise, there have also been four video games released. The most recent game is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – First Assault, which is a free-to-play squad shooter. It is a lot of fun and has excellent character balancing, each with their own unique abilities, which has different effects on other team mates.
While this is a massive universe, and may appear intimidating if you’re not familiar with the series, it is most definitely worth checking out. If you’re a fan of the franchise, be sure to let us know what your favorite moments have been!