July 2, 2007
It's normal for a popular animated TV series to go feature-length at some point, no matter which side of the Pacific you're on. Teen Titans, Kim Possible, Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Cowboy Bebop—to pick four random examples—have all had a go, to varying degrees of success. But none of them went from movies to TV series to movies again, and I'm hard pressed to think of any others that have. The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society TV movie may well be the first such undertaking.

I'm not completely sure it works here, but that's because Ghost in the Shell has gone through different hands for different media. The first two features were directed by Mamoru Oshii and carried his trademark intellectual style and visual fervour. The two Stand Alone Complex television series, both directed by Kenji Kamiyama, are just as smart but in a different way—it's like comparing David Mamet's dialogue to Tom Stoppard's—and, due to the nature of the medium, simultaneously more action-oriented and more intricate. It's the usual tension between the episodic half-hour format and the overall ten-hour running time.

Kamiyama helms Solid State Society, which finds our heroes in a state of flux. The Major is no longer part of the Section 9 team, having resigned to work toward her own mysterious objectives. Togusa, the least upgraded and least hardcore member of the team, has been promoted to take her place, and some new members have been added to the team. As usual, it's part police procedural, part high-concept science fiction, and part action movie.

As is typical of the Stand Alone Complex series, Solid State Society explores the more prosaic aspects of mass cyberization, as compared to the movies. That means things like healthcare for the elderly versus philosophical ruminations on the nature of consciousness; more politicking and fewer dream states. Solid State Society finds itself between two worlds, as its smaller-scale focus finds itself expanded to a longer running time and consequently more extended narrative beats. Although Kamiyama juggles Ghost in the Shell's various aspects with his usual skill, I found myself wishing that Solid State Society had been a miniseries rather than a feature.

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society
Directed by
Kenji Kamiyama
Manga Entertainment, 2007
109 minutes
Buy the Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society DVD at Amazon.com
Buy the Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society Limited Edition DVD at Amazon.com
Buy the Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society CD soundtrack at Amazon.com

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