Ghost in the Shell: Arise 04 – Ghost Stands Alone – Review

[THORA] GITS OVA4 Arise mtHD 10bit CRF24 Sub.mkv - 00002Mokoto’s work-philosophy: Doing a shitty job and not giving a shit about the consequences.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise 04 – Teamwork Is The Best Kind Of Work

I didn’t know that the series would already end with this movie. I mean, having seen the movie, I don’t feel like this series has accomplished anything of note. It isn’t a fresh take on Ghost in the Shell and it definitely didn’t measure up to the standard set by the Stand-Alone-Complex-series. The whole movie-series really is just a neat idea that would reasonably sell well due to its association with the GitS-franchise. But the series itself hasn’t offered anything that would explain why anyone in this world needed to see this.

Synopsis:
Release-Date: 2014
Running Time: 50 minutes
Synopsis:

Section 9 busts a press-conference as some nefarious people from the previous basically go berserk on National TV. One of the bad guys gets killed by Mokoto but then a super-hacker-girl forces policemen to kill each other and various protestors. Section 9 captures the super-hacker-girl who’s basically giving herself up.

Turns out super-hacker-girl has a dude in her head and they’re both on a Romeo-Juliet-trip. And Section 9 is along for the ride on this suicide-trip. A couple meaningless battles later super-hacker-girl with her lover in her head manage to reach the sea before being killed by a battleship. But before that they upload their consciousness onto the net, you know, like that thing that happened in the second Stand Alone Complex season.

Also, Aramaki FINALLY gave in to Mokoto’s demands and accepter her elite-team of elite-dudes.

[THORA] GITS OVA4 Arise mtHD 10bit CRF24 Sub.mkv - 00006In the original Ghost in the Shell series and the movies, that was a rather loaded comment and sometimes it was just Mokoto being enigmatic. But here it’s just a silly phrase that uselessly tries to “explain” away seemingly nonsensical decisions.

Review:

Action should never be the point. And yet this last movie in the lackluster Ghost in the Shell: Arise movie series can be best described as having action-scenes and, well, non-action-scenes. The series never quite seemed to find its own footing and the only voice it had was a weak mimicry of what Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex had been doing. Even more than that, the series had the usual prequel-troubles of being far too concerned to connect with the original series. And just like Star Wars: Phantom Menace sullied the movies it tried to be a prequel to, Arise really doesn’t add anything of necessity to the Ghost in the Shell Franchise.

The fourth movie is in many ways the most solid movie of the bunch actually. Gone are the confusing antics that would lead to the creation of Motoko’s Section 9 team. And with the team formed everyone can comfortably settle into their roles. The team can spice up every quiet scene with easy banter that way, although none it is really inspired in this particular movie. Also, the movie is a continuation of the last movie in many ways, in fact this is the first movie in the series that really feels like a part of a series. The other three movies only show signs of continuation in their subplots but overall they could be watched independently pretty easily. Not so with this movie. Characters from the last movie reappear and the story heavily builds on the events of the last movie.

At the same time, though, it really feels like this movie has the weakest story of the four movies because it’s neither very compelling nor very complex. The story barely has any intrigue actually, so there aren’t any real plottwists present. A philosophical or political subtext is also pretty much missing. The movie alludes to the notion of ghosthacking as something still considered impossible which is proven wrong by the girl Section 9 is protecting and investigating, but a real discussion of the subject never happens. Aramaki’s like “That’s impossible.”, Mokoto’s like “Face the facts, old man.” and that’s all the discussion that happens. There’s also the discussion of this girl having two ghosts in her mind at the same time which is also kinda special but nothing really comes out of it. And I mention this despite this being a spoiler because in the end it really doesn’t matter.
Another reason why this movie’s story feels so thin is its exorbitant amount of action. The first three movies had more action than what was necessary and their stories did suffer because of that. But this fourth movie feels like it’s drowning in action-scenes. They are loud, blunt and not very stylish. It’s just a lot of noise that makes a lot of story-time disappear. And with the story not being that impressive to begin with, the movie starts to feel very bland.

[THORA] GITS OVA4 Arise mtHD 10bit CRF24 Sub.mkv - 00007Get it?! It’s like that scene in the Ghost in the Shell movie, only its original meaning gets replaced with a less meaningful one as it’s less about the subtext. Instead it’s now just a silly reference to that one time in this movie Mokoto nearly died.

One annoying thing is of course still there: Retconning. Yeah, it’s just that. Seriously, Mokoto’s diving-scene in the original Ghost in the Shell movie is great and has a lot of symbolism, philosophical subtext and whatnot. So, when this movie comes along and tells the audience that Mokoto likes diving because she was forced to do that one time when she got nearly killed? Yeah, that feels more like a ‘Fuck you’ than anything else. It’s exactly the kind of shit that makes Star-Wars-Fans hate the three Star-Wars-prequels. It’s irrelevant information! It doesn’t add anything and it gets worse like with this diving-scene when it actually takes away something. A powerful, meaningful scene can get diminished by overexplaining its circumstances. The magic of storytelling often works because the audience actually doesn’t know every little detail of a particular scene or a character. And still there are all these prequels out there who to satisfy fans feed them with all this information they are eager to hear about. I mean, it’s understandable. If the storytelling creates a world compelling enough that it sucks you in, then there IS an urge to experience the whole fictional world. But in terms of storytelling and art, that urge is more valuable than the act of satisfying it.

On another note, I really would like to say that the one through-line of this movie-series, the creation of Mokoto’s Section 9 team, couldn’t have gotten a more stupid ending. The whole way through it was always Mokoto basically already thinking of the team she has in Stand Alone Complex and Aramaki being like “That’s… stupid. Do it by the book!”. And then step by step Mokoto has gathered the dudes she wanted in her squad until finally Aramaki was also forced to recognize that team as the official Section 9 elite-squad. Mokoto simply was stubborn until Aramaki just gave up and gave her everything she wanted.

I don’t even know why we needed to see this process in the first place. It certainly wasn’t a riveting thing to watch, I can tell you that much. But that’s how this prequel-series has ended and well… it’s not good. First of all, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has set the bar VERY high for any new Ghost in the Shell stuff. But even setting that aside, the Arise-series isn’t that great. The first movie had TOO much intrigue and was confusing in an alienating way. It got better but the series at no point offered good storytelling, characterizations or sci-fi-moments. The prequel-retconning was always this obnoxious thing that neither added anything to this series nor did it add anything of value to the Stand Alone Complex series. Overall, it wasn’t bad enough to be infuriating maybe but instead it’s just unremarkable and forgettable.

Episode-Rating: 5.0/10

Series-Rating: 5.5/10

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on September 28, 2014, in Anime, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I wasn’t too excited when this OVA series was announced. I would have been happier with a new season of SAC.

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    • After all these years reproducing the brilliance that is GitS: SAC is like catching lightning in a bottle TWICE – which is, of course, nigh impossible. If anything, they should do something in the GitS-universe but with new characters and ideas.But in the end it’s all about name-recognition and money naturally…

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  2. Ah yes, GITS : The Movie, and SAC 1 and 2 were pretty bad, but could you do a retroactive review of ARISE 1 and 2? And yes I know it’s painful, but maybe the entire Ghost in the Shell franchise? I do enjoy reading this blog.

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    • That’s an interesting opinion. The first GitS-movie is considered to be a classic and the SAC-series is nearly as beloved as the movie for its relatively mature, complex storytelling. That’s one of the reasons why Arise went out of its way to do all this retconning and origin-storytelling: The whole GitS-franchise is REALLY popular – which naturally doesn’t mean that you HAVE to like it.

      Personally I actually do love the first movie and the first season of SAC. And plenty has already been said about those. No, if I’m gonna review something from the GitS-franchise it’s the two movies that are forgotten fairly frequently when people are talking about the GitS-franchise. And that’s the second GitS-movie and the Solid-State-Complex-movie. The former was a direct sequel to the GitS-movie while the latter was a sequel to the SAC-series. Those two aren’t exactly as clunky as the Arise-series but they are flawed, although, and that’s what would make talking about them so interesting, they do have some good stuff to offer as well.

      As for Arise 01 and 02… *sigh* The first one had the most plottwist-heavy story of the entire series, I feel like, except it was complicated to the point where I lost any interest in following its labyrinthine storytelling. As for the second one… I can’t even remember what that one was about, except Batou got recruited in that one. It was utterly unremarkable. I have no desire to revisit those two.

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  3. Ah damn shame. I think I will do a reviews on the various flaws with the GitS franchise, especially when first compared to cyberpunk classics like Neuromancer, and hidden gems liike the first Battle Angel manga and OVAs

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