Ghost In The Shell: ARISE – Borders 3 & 4 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 117 minutes approx.
This mini-series of one shot OVAs which serve as a prequel to legendary Ghost In The Shell film and subsequent offshoots, continues with two more adventures featuring the nascent Section 9 team.
The first tale Ghost Tears is a minor departure in that a key focus of the story is Major Motoko Kusanagi’s love life. Yes, apparently cyborgs are capable of falling in love too. The lucky fellow is Akira Hose, an ex-military prosthetic technician who met the major while carrying out maintenance on her cyborg body, and the episode opens with them indulging in some cyber nookie – until Batou interrupts with news of terrorist bombing that needs investigating.
Rather fittingly, Togusa discovers that one of the victims was a superior of his, Detective Mizuki, carrying a case full of prosthetic limbs with a card for the “Mermaid Legs” which has Akira’s name on it. Togusa suspects that Mizuki had proof that a water machinery company is involved in weapon smuggling on behalf of the terrorists, and Akira is a link to both. Meanwhile Section 9’s Ishikawa uncovers the terrorists’ identity as being Qhardi with all known members sharing the same tattoo, the symbol for Scylla, a fallen leader of the Qhardi Separatist Army.
GITS and its offspring are renowned for their convoluted plots and Ghost Tears in no exception. The rarity of the Major’s personal life being in the spotlight is a unique selling point but adds a further look into her complex character and why she became as cagey about her privacy as she did later on.
During the course of the investigation, the Major is infected by a virus from one of the terrorists so no surprises who she turns to for a check up. Later whilst together with Akira an assassin tries to attack them both, leaving the Major upset that her new beau has been caught up in her work. Naturally when Togusa presents his evidence that Akira may be connected to the Qhardi terrorists, the Major isn’t too receptive towards this accusation.
The Major’s relationship is neatly interwoven into the story and is not just a seedy gimmick to inject some fan service into the proceedings, or indeed to try and “humanise” her. There is still plenty of action to be found here and the terrorist plot is both pure GITS and rather frightening in its relevance to current real life events. The Qhardi may be a fictional Middle Eastern group but its inspiration is rather obvious, but we can remain thankful that religion is less a driving force for their actions.
As much as these episodes are self-contained, one key element of Ghost Tears does act as a bridge to the next story Ghost Stands Alone, which brings with a protest against foreign cartels and demanding the return of stolen water for war orphans. This takes place outside a public meeting where one of the speakers is Dr. Thied, the Qhardi head of the water company involved in the prior scandal. One of the protestors begins to get unruly and is subdued but has no weapons.
Suddenly a riot police officer opens fire on the protestors, then attacks his own men. With Section 9 observing the scene, the Major leaps into action and suspects a ghost hack but can’t figure out how one person could control so many people at once, concluding it must be a virus. There is one lone survivor of the crowd massacre, a young girl named Emma Tsuda, who becomes the prime suspect hacker known as Fire Starter.
The personal affairs are put aside for this tale supplanted by much psychobabble exposition and techno-speak as Section 9 try to discover the unusual hacking skills of this prodigious and prolific games designer. Of course there is more to the story than a young girl with an extraordinary and unnatural ability which the group, which now includes Togusa as a fully-fledged member, has to crack under pressure from external forces who clearly have something to hide.
It seems to have become an unofficial remit of any GITS successor to pay homage (read: re-enact) the famous opening scene from Mamoru Oshii’s original 1995 film and it befalls to Ghost Stands Alone to uphold that here. During the open fire at the protests, the Major once again does her famous leap (fully clothed this time) in camouflage mode off the top of a high building while being shot at by a gunman in a helicopter.
Amazingly no matter how many times they recreate this scene it is still something to behold as an exciting adrenaline rush to reminds us of the frenetic future world our heroes inhabit. That said, it would be in there interest of the writers to come up with something new before homage becomes a tired and clichéd parody.
Similarly the multi-person hack Fire Starter executes begets some trippy sequences in the form of a fantasy world inside Emma’s head which has distant echoes of the mind bending time loop Batou was caught in as seen in the GITS 2: Innocence film. Not quite as psychedelic and confusing as that but just as esoteric.
By the end of this particular episode we are now one step closer to the fully formed and tight knit Section 9 group we are all familiar with from the previous (later?) outings. There are still some bumps to iron out as illustrated here – the Major and Aramaki still but heads while she and Batou are finding their compromise level with regard to his humour. A funny running gag sees the Major hack Batou’s arm so punch himself in the face!
Offering a slightly different flavour to the norm, fans of the GITS franchise should find these two ARISE OVAs provide the same, if slightly rushed, high standard of intelligent, cybernetic action packed entertainment, bolstered by the always impressive presentation of animators Production IG.
English Language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Japanese Language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
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Rating – ****
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