The Best Sci-Fi Cyberpunk Anime Of All Time Is Back On Streaming

By Charlene Badasie | Published

The popular cyberpunk anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is streaming free of charge on Adult Swim. Based on Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga, the series initially aired on the Japanese television network Animax. The series is written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama with character design by Hajime Shimomura.

Section 9

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex focuses on a specialized law enforcement team called Public Security Section 9 (led by Major Motoko Kusanagi) as they delve into cybercrime and terrorism cases. Season 1 revolves around their pursuit of The Laughing Man, a highly skilled hacker and corporate terrorist whose actions lead to the series’ central theme, the “stand alone complex.”

The Laughing Man Is The Ultimate Hacker

The Laughing Man reveals that some micromachine manufacturing companies, in collaboration with the Japanese government, hid information about a low-cost cure for a severe cyberization disease to profit from expensive treatments. The hacker kidnaps a company owner, attempting to force a confession on live television by hacking everyone’s vision and cameras to hide his identity.

The Laughing Man’s actions inspire copycats, leading to the emergence of the Stand Alone Complex phenomenon. When authorities investigate, the hacktivist resurfaces, and Section 9 uncovers how companies and politicians exploited the Laughing Man’s image for personal gain. Togusa and the Major lead a campaign to expose the truth, setting the stage for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Season 2

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Season 2 begins two years after the first season and explores the political and social consequences of the preceding events. During the Third and Fourth World Wars, approximately three million Asians were displaced and sought refuge in Japan. These invited refugees live on the reclaimed island of Dejima and face unemployment and social unrest.

Section 9’s involvement in the refugee crisis begins after they stop a hostage situation instigated by a domestic terrorist group called Individual Eleven, leading to Prime Minister Yoko Kayabuki officially reinstating the organization. The group appears to emulate the May 15 Incident, where naval officers assassinated the Prime Minister and subsequently gained public support.

Spawned Multiple Movies And Video Games

Short animated segments called Tachikomatic Days, featuring the Tachikoma “think tanks” from the main series, are shown after each episode and often link directly to the main storyline. In 2005, the first season was made into a full-length film called The Laughing Man. Due to the series’ success, video game adaptations for PlayStation consoles and mobile devices were created.

The second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was also turned into a movie called Individual Eleven and was released in 2006. Both seasons of the popular anime series were well-received by viewers and critics for tackling themes of government corruption and overreliance on technology.

The Franchise Dates Back To 1989

The Ghost in the Shell franchise, starting with the manga, which was first serialized in 1989, has been adapted into various anime films, series, and video games. The 1995 film Ghost in the Shell follows Kusanagi as she hunts down a cyberterrorist called The Puppet Master. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the movie is often described as an excellent work that blends philosophy and anime.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, also directed by Oshii, was released in 2004 and expands upon the stories of the original film. This was followed by The Ghost in the Shell: Arise series, which consisted of five 50-minute episodes and a theatrical movie. These offerings serve as prequels to the events of the 1995 film, revealing the origins of Major Kusanagi and the future members of Section 9.

Along with Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the franchise also includes its 2020 follow-up Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, which sees Public Security Section 9 members deal with more political corruption and cybercrime in a post-cyberpunk world.