Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2nd GIG (2004-2005)

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2nd season of the Ghost in the Shell TV-series that deployed the same heady mix of philosophical musings and political intrigue as the first season. Again, another social emergent meme is at the core of the narrative (which also seems to have no real origin, just like with the Laughing Man case), though deeply interlinked with a powerplay of old-school hardliners who want to strengthen ties between the Japanese and the American government and those who rather would not. Most of the major players think they know what’s going on, often not realizing that they are just a pawn in a deeper game.

The emergent meme thing and the connected philosophical musings about human nature were just, as in the first series a bit too wordy for its own good, with lots of talking but often lacking anything to tell. It’s an extreme show don’t tell approach, by way of exposition-heavy seemingly pointless drivel (what they are telling you is not what they are telling you, clever but tedious) and it often makes for very long, boring scenes that contain few nuggets of real information among all the noise. And since the second season has worse pacing than the first, that’s not a good combination.

There are lots of interesting ideas and concepts, though nothing really mind-blowing. One bigger theme is that the environment that is shaping humans, both on the individual and group-level, has changed drastically with the dawn of cyberspace (basically next generation, virtual reality internet), yet most humans aren’t even aware how distinct that change is as they lack the perspective and/or means to really see the big picture. One of the players in the series has a two-layered game of revolution going, with the base layer taking place in the real world but hiding inside a deeper game where lots of human are forced to upload their minds into cyberspace, go through a forced evolution and basically become transhumans who see cyberspace for what it really is.

It’s a bit on the naive side and the overall concept is not very well thought-through (though this could be a matter of the anime just not giving the viewers enough information), but it’s at least more interesting than the whole emergent social meme with no real origin thing both seasons had going on.

Overall I appreciate what the season was trying to do, but I found the delivery seriously lacking. The first season had just the right mix of individual and overarching-plot-related episodes that I was easily drawn into it. The 2nd season felt just like one long slog from start to finish with fewer episodes that dived into the personalities of the characters while the pointless drivel-talking was ramped up a notch or two. Still worth seeing, but to a much lesser extend than the first season.