Ghost in the Shell: Arise is a perfectly good anime series. Its four hour-long episodes – the first two having just been released on Australian Blu-Ray – navigate labyrinthine cyberpunk narratives layered with themes of identity and our perceptions of reality. This philosophical density is leavened by the show’s kinetic, deftly-directed action sequences and sharp animation. If I’d gone in blind, I suspect I would’ve been immensely impressed.
Except that I’m familiar with the original Ghost in the Shell film and the Stand Alone Complex spinoff series, and their influence on Arise is (understandably) impossible to ignore. While Arise is great in a vacuum, it does too little to distinguish itself from its forebears, instead comfortably resting the midpoint of these earlier iterations. It’s warmer than the film, but cooler than GITS:SAC; the animation has this pseudo-realistic angularity that recalls the former but uses bright colours and fluidity that’s more reminiscent of the latter.
The main letdown is that Arise’s ideas don’t feel as fleshed out as its predecessors; while the first episode’s unreliable narration is a shade too confusing, the second episode, “Ghost Whispers”, reveals some pernicious politics with its climactic twist. Arise is fine, but ultimately overshadowed by its influences.