Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig / Anime Legends : 5 of 5
It's a close call, but I almost love the Stand Alone Complex anime series more than the brilliant Ghost in the Shell films, just because they are so long, rich, and full of additional characterization that only a 26-episode show can manage! Although the second season isn't as popular as the first, I found it incredibly compelling and addictive, even though the storyline is extremely intricate (actually, I found it useful to read the episode summaries on Wikipedia to make sure I didn't miss any important details). This season explains much more of the Ghost in the Shell world, occurring after World War III and a second war in Vietnam, and the plot hinges on the Japanese government policy concerning thousands of Asian refugees who fled to Japan after these conflicts. Section 9 is reactivated because of the terrorism of the Individual Eleven, an idealistic group based on the writings of an actual Japanese literary figure, including the mysterious full-cyborg Kuze and the devious Gouda who controls things behind the scenes (there's simply no way to sum up this huge storyline, so that cryptic sentence is the best I can do!). Similar to the first season, some episodes contribute to the main arc of the show, while others contain complete stories by themselves. I love these subplots, since they often focus on a specific character, and they are plenty of awesome examples in this season! There's a look at Motoko's past as a young girl and her relationship with an injured boy who makes origami cranes, a glimpse at the seedy past of Paz as he's hunted down by a former lover, a fantastic look at the recruitment of Saito into Section 9, and even background about the Tachikoma AI and the "father" of these lovable characters (who once again steal the show with an incredible sacrificial move at the end of the series!). The animation is wonderful given the show's budget (but a little jarring after just watching Innocence), and they really pull off some fantastic action segments, such as Motoko ejecting from a Tachikoma and holding back a helicopter via a cable, and even a new version of her classic fall-away while activating her thermoptic camouflage. Each of the seven DVDs in this set includes bonus interviews with the show's cast and crew (in Japanese), and I really enjoyed hearing the creators discuss all the intricate details and decisions they made to come up with the right story. There's no way around the fact that Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig can be difficult to fully understand, but in a way, that's what makes it so incredibly cool. I was definitely sad to finish this series, but now I can turn my attention to manga and books to keep enjoying Ghost in the Shell!