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Review: Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 Is a Muddled Mess That Is Hard To Follow

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BY June 6, 2020
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A Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 recap is sorely needed after the debut season of the show on Netflix. The series is a continuation of the immensely popular Ghost In The Shell anime franchise. But this iteration is one that loses itself in its own convolution. The series deals with many high-concept technological ideas. It explores concepts like the infiltration of technology on humanity and the moral implications that come with it. But somewhere along the way, SAC_2045 becomes a hard to follow visual extravaganza. 

Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 Recap Sees The Franchise Continue

Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 recap team Image via Netflix.

Even though it may seem like a reboot, this Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 recap continues the story from its previous incarnation. The Ghost In The Shell franchise is a hugely popular anime series based on an equally popular manga. There have been countless anime movies and shows based on the manga. SAC_2045 is the newest sequel in that franchise, with a brand new style of animation. The series is completely CG, something that purists of anime dislike. The franchise is a cyberpunk futuristic science fiction anime about technology taking over the human condition. 

Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 is a sequel to the Stand Alone Complex series, as it continues many of the same storylines albeit, ten years later. So while SAC_2045 has a lot of backstory to keep track of, there’s even more that’s referenced that will go over the heads of newer audiences, as I immediately found out. Before diving into this Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 recap, let’s provide some disclosure. I have not seen the previous incarnations of the Ghost In The Shell franchise. So I am coming into SAC_2045 with completely fresh eyes. But even as my first experience with the franchise, this was disappointing in many ways. Ways that have nothing to do with the series being a sequel. 

The Setting Of The New Series Takes Up A Lot Of Bandwidth

Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 recap Major. Image via Netflix.

The setting of Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 is pretty hard to follow. It’s world that has devolved into war. The heavy-handed prologue that begins the series makes that very clear. Profiting from this global war is the economy of the world, known as ‘sustainable war’. Despite not knowing too much about what state the world was in prior versions of Ghost In Shell, the politics of this new series takes up a lot of the story. This part isn’t hard to follow, it’s just too much.  

There are entire episodes spent on incredibly complex ideas that seem out of place for a show marketed as a sci-fi action adventure show. There are back door political deals, long-winded exposition on the economic and geopolitical climate of various countries, and their relationships with one another. And while most of it is to, presumably, flesh out the series, it feels boring and irrelevant. Information that is relevant to the story is brief, and the rest takes up the entire episode. There is talk of corporations, profiteering, black market trading, and so much else that has very little impact on what’s happening in the story. The exciting action or sci-fi elements take a complete back seat to all this. It honestly felt like Phantom Of The Menace all over again, in that the emotional heart of the story felt lost in its political messaging.

The Story Of Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 Is Hard To Follow

Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 recap HQ Image via Netflix.

Going beyond the world and its many layers, the story of Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 is somewhat straightforward, at least on paper. The series is about Major Motoko Kusanagi, and her team of elite soldiers. The Major herself is a full body prosthesis, meaning that every part of her is an cybernetic enhancement. While this shown as being a big deal, it never really gets paid off. She heads an elite cybercrime division known as Section 9. Although disbanded, the group now works as mercenaries. Until a new threat rears its head, and their unique skills are needed to combat it.

The show starts with one of their missions, and it’s the perfect hook. The action provides a lot of fun moments of high-tech gunfights, drone chases, and explosions that the rest of the season lacks. It pulls you in and makes you excited for what’s to come. The setting is immediately established as one where various factions have cropped up in this new world, all fighting for their agendas. Upon completion of their mission, the Major’s realizes that it was a trap. Captured by the American CIA, they manipulate the group into pursuing another mission. This is where things get difficult to follow. 

Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 Ends As Abruptly As It Began

Post Human Fight Image via Netflix.

The CIA hired the team for a job, which they then ambush, to manipulate them into another job? And then, they ambus the team again. The job they’re hired for is to capture a famous CEO. But upon their arrival, they realize the CEO is less than human. And this is the main plot of the Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 anime series; post-humans. Humans who have seemingly evolved into killing machines, beyond all technological advancements. They’re the new terrorist threat that the newly re-formed Section 9 has to stop. But this thread doesn’t come up until halfway into season 1.

After this halfway point, the show briefly becomes a more straightforward procedural. The team has a base, a nerdy recruit, and work around the clock to track down more post-humans. There is also a one-off episode featuring a great supporting character. Good as it is, it feels out of place and interrupts the flow of the larger story. S0-called “filler” episodes can be fun, but they shouldn’t be more engaging than the larger arcs. Season 1 ends with the discovery of another post-human, as well as new software that is seemingly crowd-sourcing vengeance. A new entity punishes people by having others vote on their crimes in the cyber world, which then manifests violently in the real world. So of course, the team has to investigate. 

But the show again veers off of its tracks as the last two episodes of the season seemingly focus on one particular post-human and his origin. The episode spends a lot of time in the past, with the character’s back story. It feels like a potential way to explain how he became a post-human, but we’re not fully sure as the season ends in a cliffhanger. Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 essentially ends as bafflingly as it began. 

Critics Of CG Anime Get Their Vindication

Batu Image via Netflix.

While the story of Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 is problematic, the animation is another issue entirely. I loved the action sequences, and think that there’s not enough of them. The story focuses heavily on dialogue-rich scenes and emotionally driven plot points. But the CG animation doesn’t live up to the depth of emotions needed for that. The facial expressions of the characters are nonexistent. The movement and motions of the characters feel very much like blocky cut-sequences in role-playing video games on older consoles like the N64. While the background scenery and character design look great, when it comes to movement, fast-paced action or emotive character development, it falls flat. 

I will end this Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 recap by advising anime fans to steer clear. The series doesn’t work for newcomers to the franchise, given that it’s a direct continuation of a series before it. And even for fans, this iteration barely deals with the metaphysical themes and techological allegories that the Ghost In The Shell franchise is known for, which is what made me interested in it in the first place.  The season 1 of the anime series currently holds a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which suggests that I am not alone in my criticism.

Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045 season 1 is now streaming on Netflix. 

What did you think of the new Ghost In The Shell: SAC_2045? Especially tell us how you think it it plays if you are a die-hard fan of the franchise and previous versions of the story. Let us know in the comments below. 

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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