Ghost In The Shell Arise's biggest enemies are fans' expectations. Most people who have watched or will be watching its first episode Ghost Pain would be very familiar with the incredibly rich GITS universe - the futuristic world of hacking and cybercrime first introduced in the classic anime film by Oshii Mamoru in 1995 and expanded upon in his 2004 film sequel and also Kamiyama Kenji's extraordinary anime series in 2002-03 and 2004-05. So this reboot, which will consist of four 50-60 minute episodes, comes with high expectations; and after seeing Ghost Pain, I could say that it is so far interesting but not spectacular.
Ghost In The Shell Arise Border 1 - Ghost Pain tells the story of how Major Kusanagi's Public Security Section 9 team came together at the beginning. The Major's superior was murdered, and she set out to find out who did it and why. As the plot unfolded, it became obvious that there was something much more sinister going on... The story turns out to be well thought out but lacking the philosophical complexity seen previously in the franchise.
Like the previous installments, imaginative use of future technology is incorporated into the storylines. Many elements that have come to be familiar to audiences, such as optic camouflage and brain hacking, can be found in Ghost Pain. Of course, the cute Tahikomas combat vehicles also make an appearance. One particularly interesting scene from this episode involves the Major walking down the same path as her superior before he was murdered, and at the same time, she examines the security camera footages in her head.
The animation is relatively simple and doesn't quite match the rich color palette and incredible attention to detail found in Kamiyama's anime series. The camera placement is also not as brilliantly inventive. One thing that will bother a lot of Ghost In The Shell fans in particular are the changes made to the character designs, most notably the Major's younger appearance. Also, the 'ghost pain' that the Major suffers from gives her a vulnerability that is rare for a character that we have come to know to be tough and invincible.
Overall, Ghost Pain is enjoyable, but it does feel underwhelming when compared with what has come before in the Ghost In The Shell franchise, and it doesn't appear to add a lot to the GITS universe. However, it would not be fair to judge Ghost Pain too harshly, because it may just be the first part of a continuous story arc that will be told over 4 episodes, in which case there is plenty more time for the story to develop. Also considering the fact that Arise's director, Kise Kazuchika, was a key animator for the Ghost In The Shell franchise (and therefore should be very familiar with it), I actually wonder if the Major's younger appearance is part of a plot that will unfold over the next 3 episodes. So I am looking forward to catching the second part, Ghost Whisper, which will be released in Japan in November.
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