First released all the way back on October 1st 2002, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has reached a cult following status over its almost two decade existence as an abridged adaption of the Ghost in the Shell manga released in 1989 and the first Ghost in the Shell movie released in 1995, with the series in whole racking up four other anime series, five full-length animated movies (not including that strange live action adaption with Scarlett Johansson that had a better reception in Japan than the states), and four games starting from the PSOne's Ghost in the Shell in 1997 to the more recent failed Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex- First Assault Online in 2016 to 2017 respectively. I'll be taking an in-depth look on this series as a whole, starting here at Stand Alone Complex, and giving you my take on it. Click on "Read More" if you're interested in my two cents on the first episode of the series.
The episode starts with main character Major Motoko Kusanagi standing atop a building overlooking the city whilst listening to her prey speak to one another over comms about releasing sleeping gas. She then jumps down from said perch, gun in hand to engage her enemy. They tussle for a minute before her prey runs, only for her to shoot him right in the ankle. That's gotta hurt like hell.
She pins him by the hand when she catches up, and they monologue for a bit. "You people are cops?!" He exclaims angrily, "Now I know there's no hope in the justice system!" She points her firearm in retaliation, fiery look on her face. "If you've got a problem with the world, change yourself. If that's a problem, close your eyes, shut your mouth, and live like a hermit. And if that's a problem..." She presses the gun into the side of his temple, proceeding to be interrupted over comms, quick shot of our strange eyed friend Batuo hanging from a helicopter and we proceed.
The scene transitions to outside of a building flanked by cops and swat teams then to a group of pretty important looking dudes inside a field riot van squabbling about police jurisdiction. Enter Lt. Col. Dasisuke Aramaki, Chief Executive Director of Section 9. They discuss that they believe that the Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as his private secretary, the director of the Minister's Support Association, and two people from the North American Industrial Promotion Alliance (say that five times fast) are being held hostage by geisha robots. You following yet? Aramaki and a man dressed in a brown suit named Kubota step outside and speak about the military wanting to step in privately using the strange thing around Aramaki's neck. Gives new meaning to pass the aux cord.
We learn in the next scene that one of the people we saw in the previous scene was the Minister's private secretary and her brain was damaged in the scuffle. She was there for Kubota conducting a secret investigation of the Minister. His activities have shown that he had taken interest in something called the "Ichinose Report", something to do with diplomatic and military strategic scenarios during states of emergency... Aka, something something plot related. Apparently, they wouldn't be able to refuse if the military received a disclosure request... But they haven't. So they've been watching him instead. He's been clean on the surface but something darker is afoot. It's up to Motoko and the gang to find out what really happened in that restaurant. A quick couple banters between Motoko, Batou, and Togusa pass us by and Aramaki is met in a park by another character who tells him to disregard things? I'm not sure what's going on here entirely. He's met with Motoko in a vehicle with surveillance footage from the restaurant, some of it bothering the major.
What I assume is one of the North American Industrial Promotion Alliance guys is shown to not have a correctly fitting spinal column. The Minister goes into the restroom with a geshia. He's weird and likes to swap bodies with them when he's drunk? Yikes. The not dead at the time NAIPA dude follows behind them into the bathroom with a suitcase... A suitcase that the Minister picked up earlier in the episode after the dust had cleared. The secretary comes to the bathroom, worried, only to stumble out and be attacked from behind by a geshia. The footage hard cuts then we see the secretary on the ground.
Togusa is at the restaurant, peeking around in the bathroom. "What did she see?" He wonders to himself. He slowly comes to the realization about the suitcase. The Minster is into body swapping the geishas, remember? What if someone swapped out the Minster's braincase (apparently that's what the suitcase is). If someone wanted that Ichinose Report, wouldn't they have to look like the Minister? The secretary was attacked because she saw the braincase switch! They speed off, hurrying to capture the imposter before he can fly out of the country.
They corner him right as he's about to leave, pleasant for only a moment before getting pissed off that they've got him.
The episode ends with Kubota relaying to Motoko and Aramaki that the secretary will be a-okay aside from some speech issues and thanks them for saving his ass.
I think it's a good starting episode to get you into the series, its characters, and its cyberpunk aesthetic, even with some kinda obvious exposition here and there to help you understand what's going on. It can kinda drag at times though, but the slow parts build tension at least so there's that. I'll give this episode a 3/5, only because it's the beginning and middle of the road for what's to come in the series.