This second season will do little to convert any naysayers, but it offers more of the same while upping the dramatic stakes.
This review of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Season 2 is spoiler-free.
The first season of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 was recently re-released on Netflix in the form of a feature-length supercut called Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War, as unwieldy a title as it’s possible to get, though fitting for such an unwieldy show. The purpose of this, one supposes, was to build hype for this 12-part second season, which continues the storyline of the first very directly.
That film was an investment of design and marketing resources that seems ill-advised, frankly, since anyone who watched and enjoyed the first season would presumably be tuning in for the second anyway, and anyone who didn’t won’t care – and rightly so, since the follow-up does absolutely nothing to win over those who were put off by the ropey CG animation, questionable character designs, and verbose storytelling in the first place.
A refresher, then. Set in the Stand Alone Complex universe, an alternate continuity not shared by Masamune Shirow’s original manga or Mamoru Oshii’s landmark 1995 anime film, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 transplants Major Motoko Kusanagi and the rest of Public Security Section 9 to a post-apocalyptic future where a global economic meltdown referred to as the Synchronized Global Default has led the G4 nations to perpetuate a so-called “Sustainable War” to keep their respective economies moving. The first season saw the Major and co. – including old favorites Batou, Ishikawa, and Saito – working as private security contractors for the “one-percenters”, but they were eventually brought back into the fold by Chief Aramaki in order to combat a new threat known as “post-humans”.
And that’s where we pick things up here in Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Season 2.. The nature and purpose of the post-human conspiracy forms the bulk of the narrative across these 12 new episodes, and it allows for a fair helping of weirdness, some twists and turns, a plethora of action sequences, and a couple of surprisingly poignant character moments, with Batou and Purin proving to be the heart and conscience of a story that often forgets to make time for such things.
The visuals remain… questionable, at best. The fake-looking CG is marred by a clay-like texture that is only exacerbated by stiff, weightless action, very limited facial expression, and self-defeating editing. A game voice cast really tries to do most of the heavy lifting, and their efforts should be respected, but their on-screen representations simply can’t hope to communicate the same depth of feeling that they’re clearly trying to convey. It’s nice to see the long-time actors still being committed to the franchise, but it often serves as a reminder of how much the franchise itself seems to be oddly uncommitted to the franchise.
This season at least raises the narrative stakes a little, building to some surprising developments towards the end that reframe well-known characters and earnestly try to espouse a complex moral conundrum, asking some big questions and trusting – mostly – the audience to come up with answers for themselves. That’ll be satisfying for those who have stuck with the series, but the naysayers will find few compelling counter-arguments from a season that is mostly content to deliver more of the same.
You can stream Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Season 2 exclusively on Netflix.