'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045,' Season 1 - TV Review

I've watched almost all the "Ghost in the Shell" media there is to watch. Really: both of the original movies, the new live-action movie (don't), and all the "Stand Alone Complex" TV episodes and movies. So I know a bit about the universe this is set in. (Okay, I've only read a couple of the manga.) If you're just starting out with "Ghost in the Shell," don't read this review: go watch the original two movies and stop there. The SAC TV series isn't terrible, but neither is it particularly good.

What made the original movies great were good characters, spectacular artwork, and their examination of our potential future when our brains were augmented with computer hardware and software - and we became hackable. Good action helped, but was never really the point to me. The SAC TV series did manage to maintain some of the political intrigue and computer hacking aspects, but wasn't nearly as sharp as the original pair of movies.

My review of this new (2020, Netflix) series is based on episodes 1-6 inclusive of the available 12 episodes, each of which is around 24 minutes.

This series resurrects one of the original SAC's worst ideas: the Tachikoma "think tanks." They're sentient AI tanks that work with the team. Each of the three of them sound and act like a five year old on a permanent sugar high. They kept the sexualized opening credits, and kept Major Kusanagi in an improbably tight uniform. But this new series uses computer animation where everything previous was (mostly) hand-drawn. If you look at any given frame, it looks quite good. But it's incredibly low rent: when the characters talk, they look like hinged-jaw heads, and for most characters their hair is a single mass that looks like plastic and doesn't move. Except for Kusanagi: her hair doesn't look like hair, but it does move.

The series nearly lost me on the opening text in the first episode, in which they quickly outlined the current state of the world: "sustainable war as an economic principle." That's hard enough to swallow, but was almost immediately followed by something like "humanity was in danger of being wiped out" which means it wasn't actually sustainable.

But I stuck around as the action moved briskly along. Absurdly, but briskly. And in the sixth episode we meet the new enemy: "posthumans." We're told they have the equivalent of the world's best supercomputer in their head. Kusanagi asks "are they born with these capabilities?"


That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. Kusanagi has survived multiple twisty movies and TV series by not only being the smartest person in the room, but the smartest person in the nearest city. And to ask "are they born with these capabilities?" insults the intelligence of any normal human who knows anything about the series, never mind Kusanagi. People in GitS are born human, and then modified: they're not born with computers built-in: biology hasn't changed, just technology. And I guess I sound like a hardcore fanboy, but the show has a history and a mythology that stretches across 25 years. Hell, it would have been better if the answer to her question was "yes" and they'd just retconned the whole series, but the answer was "no." That was my cue to exit the series: intelligent writing is a requirement for a GitS property, and this really doesn't have it.

This show isn't recommended if you're not familiar with the series, and it's really, truly not recommended if you already know GitS.