The DVD set for the Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex TV series has been available to American audiences for several months, but for people who are unwilling to shell out money for a show they've never seen, Cartoon Network's Adult Swim has begun airing the series on Saturday nights.
The first screen adaptation of Masamune Shirow's manga (Japanese comic book) came in the form of a 1996 feature-length movie. Easily one of the top ten anime films of all time, the Ghost In the Shell movie beautifully captured the comic's futuristic world, in which AI is commonplace, most humans have at least some form of physical and mental augmentation, and the line between people and computers has been almost completely erased. In the interest of cohesion, the film adapted just one of several stories contained in the Ghost in the Shell comic, focusing on the most serious, existentialist themes of the series.
In some ways, Stand Alone Complex is more faithful to the manga than the film adaptations. Because the new series, like the comic, is episodic in nature, it is more free to pursue elements of the comic that were left out of the first film. Some characters are restored to greater prominence, including the childishly intelligent Tachikomas. These bizarre robotic vehicles frequently provide comic relief to the show, a quality that was entirely lacking from the films. Thus, the show is true to the spirit of the comics, even though the plots of the stories themselves are entirely new.
As for the animation, it would be unrealistic to expect it to measure up to the groundbreaking visuals contained in the first Ghost in the Shell movie. Nevertheless, the show is remarkable in itself, surpassing the quality of most animated television series. Combined with intelligent and entertaining stories, it makes for a show anybody can enjoy, regardless of their prior experience with the Ghost in the Shell franchise. And with Adult Swim now airing the series for free, there is no excuse for missing it.