Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045: A Complete review
For my review of the first episode, check out my previous preliminary review on Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 here. Since my first episode review, the English audio has finally been released for the series–I highly recommend watching it in that format, since the voice acting is pretty good. Also, when compared with the English subtitles, the English audio is significantly different and more natural.
A General Overview
Alright, after 12 episodes of about 20 minutes each, the new Cyberpunk series from Netflix called Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is a fun, fast-paced (for the most part) Cyberpunk action/mystery series, created in 3D CG and is a welcome addition to the Cyberpunk titles on Netflix. Unfortunately, the series is clearly not finished in telling its story.
An Unfinished Series
Why is it not done? Because the first season of Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 feels like a lackadaisical combination of 2 different parts connected by a standalone episode, and ends abruptly without any closure whatsoever. Perhaps it was their intention to keep you hooked, but the structure was a little surprising storytelling-wise.
More great Cyberspace Visuals
We have a lot of great Cyberspace visuals here when the team confer in their online cyber-room. One example is when Togusa is trying to find a lead on the security outfit called Obsidian, and infiltrates a virtual group. The white hallway with countless identical doors feels very similar to the back doors Neo accessed in Matrix Reloaded.
There’s also a fascinating part 20 minutes into the same episode where Togusa is able to very easily access a merchant’s cyber-brain, because she never bothered to secure it. In it he’s able to access countless files, including the mortgage on her cyber-brain, the contents stored on it, and a video log of everything she’s seen before, including the members of Section 9 that he is looking for. It’s a brilliant new example of cyber-sleuthing presented in a very cool way.
A Japanese Take on American Culture
Throughout the series there are a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle references to American culture, in what feels like how the Japanese see American culture since it’s a little overdone. The first episode, for instance, features the Major drinking a Budweiser. We later see an American operative called John Smith smoke Lucky Strikes. I was surprised his second in command wasn’t the Marlboro Cowboy eating a cheeseburger.
Highlight of the Series: Face-off with Patrick Huge
If you liked the action sequences from Episode 1, then you will love the climax of the series with Episode 5 when the team face off with Patrick Huge. Without any proper intel about who (or what) he is, Huge ends up being a creepy, mysterious, and very worthwhile opponent to the Major and her entire team–no small feat for Section 9.
The First Bank Robbery: A Stand-Alone Episode
After the thrilling 5th and 6th episodes revealing the new real threat (post-humans), all of a sudden the series takes a hard turn with an episode that is completely standalone. Aptly named “PIE IN THE SKY The First Bank Robbery,” it is exactly that–just a bank robbery episode featuring only Batou. It’s a refreshing episode that gives the series a breather and takes a look at basic people living in this new world and how their lives were affected by the simultaneous global default in currency. However, for the main plot of beginning their investigation and battle against post-humans, it’s quite a halt in pacing and was quite surprising.
A Return to Mystery-Solving Before the End
After Episode 7, the series slows down as it returns to its mystery-solving and cyber-sleuthing roots for the rest of the season until its conclusion. With episode 8 featuring more detective work with Togusa, episode 9 is an interesting new murder-mystery to stop another post-human who is going on a killing spree with an enhanced cyber-arm. Unfortunately, it starts and concludes in the same episode. The final 3 episodes involve the prevention and disarmament of a new cyber-weapon attacking people’s minds, with the post-human behind it out of sight.
An Unsatisfying Ending
The investigation leads the team, with Togusa and Batou in particular, to a shed in the woods as the team follow the post-human’s memories as a teenager. And then the series just…ends. It’s very odd, and was quite surprising. This must be to leave viewers on a cliffhanger to renew the series for a second season.
Final Verdict: 7.5/10
With a strong beginning and great parts action and cyber-sleuthing, this was a fine first season if you can get past the 3D CG animation. However, this season has serious problems with pacing and maintaining a consistent engaging story throughout the entire season, in particular with the final three episodes, and the anti-climactic ending doesn’t help. With a couple welcome new ideas like the introduction of Post-humans, including their abilities and fighting style, this series is notably absent of social commentary and feels more like a CSI series set in a Cyberpunk world. The “post-currency sustainable warfare” environment the season is placed in also feels like a misstep, giving more questions than answers. Nonetheless, characters like the Major and Togusa are easy to like, the post-human villains are interesting, and Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 is overall a solid, engaging addition to Netflix’s Cyberpunk repertoire.