It took me until the third episode of Ghost in the Shell: Arise (the first instalment of which I reviewed precisely one year ago) to realise that this was a prequel, rather than an alternate universe take à la GITS:SAC. That’s as much a reflection of my obliviousness as it is Arise’s similarities to its source material, which it relentlessly imitates. It’s not just thematic similarities – more reflections upon the challenges of maintaining identity and individuality in an increasingly technologised world – shots are also regularly recreated wholesale.
Despite a richly-realised world and gorgeous (expensive-looking) animation, I never truly connected with Arise. Perhaps that’s testament to the mini-series’ failure to build upon the ideas of its predecessors, with potentially rich considerations of, say, gender, left by the wayside. But I think mostly it’s because of how the dominant transhumanist themes aren’t combined with meaningful humanism. Relationship falsity is the inevitable subject of late-episode twists, but it’s the opening sequence of episode four, “Ghost Stands Alone”, that really jars. The massacre of dozens of civilians by hacked police officers is presented with chilling objectivism. Perhaps it’s a deliberate choice to emphasise detachment, but it makes it difficult to engage beyond the intellectual.