Ghost in the Shell: Arise

Ghost in the Shell: Arise (Kokaku Kidotai: Arise – Ghost in the Shell) is a series of anime films written by Tow Ubukata and directed by Kazuchika Kise, that is the latest addition to the Ghost in the Shell franchise and at the same time re-imagining of the original Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow. The music score is performed by Cornelius.

The series of four films, also known as ‘borders’ (Ghost Pain, Ghost Whispers, Ghost Tears, Ghost Stands Alone), originally received national theatrical releases in Japan, before they were broadcast as an anime television series under the name Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture, with an addition of one extra film or ‘border’, Pyrophoric Cult, added with the aim to tie the series with the follow-up standalone film Ghost in the Shell (Kokaku Kidotai - Shin Gekijoban) that premiered in Japanese cinemas on 20 June 2015.

The members of the Public Security Section 9, from left to right: Borma, Saito, Batou, Major Motoko Kusanagi, Lt. Col. Daisuke Aramaki, Togusa, Ishikawa and Paz.

In the year 2027, when cybernetic augmentations became a norm, two-years-younger Major Motoko Kusanagi (main protagonist of the Ghost in the Shell series) arrives in Newport City, a fictional Japanese metropolis. This being prior the formation of the Public Security Section 9 she will be later intrinsically associated with, Kusanagi is still a member of the Organization 501, a special military unit that employs advanced cybernetic techniques in order to expose and neutralise enemy threats. The Organization 501 is also de facto the legal owner of Kusanagi’s cybernetic body, which is lent to her in exchange for her services to the organization.

Border 1: Ghost Pain, sees a senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Kurtz, assigning Major Kusanagi to a case involving a self-propelled bomb in the shape of a cute, innocuously-looking android girl, that sets of in one of the city’s alleys, killing a major weapons dealer. Along the way, we are introduced to buxom Kurutsu, the head of the Army’s Organization 501, as well as Daisuke Aramaki, Chief Executive Director of Public Security, along with other future members of the Section 9: detective Togusa, investigator Paz, ex-ranger Batou, and explosives specialist Borma, who all assist Kusanagi with her investigation. Throughout the investigation, Kusanagi suffers from memory loss that inhibits her progress on the case. It is later revealed that this is a side-effect of a failed ‘Ghost Hack’, she had performed on money-laundering conspirator Mamuro, during which she was infected with a memory-loss virus. Once Kusanagi realises that the Organization 501 was involved in the scandal, she leaves the unit and secures legal possession of her cybernetic body. Encouraged by Aramaki, Major Motoko Kusanagi then oversees the formation of a new unit within the Public Security, unit which later becomes known as the Section 9.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise takes place in Newport City, a fictional Japanese metropolis, in the year 2027, when cybernetic augmentations became a norm.

Border 2: Ghost Whispers, tells the story of Kazuya Soga, a former soldier who is being tried for crimes against humanity by the Japanese government. The alleged crime took place when Soga was in charge of a refugee transport and dozens of, seemingly unarmed, civilians were massacred during this operation. But nothing is quite as it seems and, after the Kusanagi invades Soga’s cyberspace, she discovers that he was affected by a memory-falsification virus. It soon becomes apparent that Soga is innocent and a victim of a false memory implant, and that the ‘unarmed civilians’ were in fact armed insurgents attempting to ambush and gun down Soga and his team. Also, someone hacks the Logicoma (Logistics Conveyer Machine) – an AI-equipped robotic weapons platform with a quadrupedal exoskeleton used by the Public Security Section 9 as a bodyguard during the investigations. The Major also continues recruiting new members for the Section 9, such as ace sniper Saito, who however frequently changes sides, working for whoever offers the highest pay.

Border 3: Ghost Tears, centres on Major’s, ultimately doomed, romantic relationship with Akira Hose, who is not only her love interest, but her mechanic as well, all the while she and Batou try to stop the bombing campaign conducted by an unknown terrorist organization. Soon, they discover a clue to the origin of the terrorists in the form of the tattoos that each of the terrorists are marked with. It is the sign for Scylla, a symbol of the leader of the Qhardi Separatist Army. Meanwhile, Togusa investigates a murder of a man who was fitted with a prosthetic leg manufactured by the Mermaid’s Legs corporation Akira Hose works for, suspecting that Kusanagi’s lover is also somehow involved in the case, and trying to convince the Major to see the apparent connection. Kusanagi at first refuses to see the truth, but eventually, under the weight of irrefutable evidence, accepts that her lover is in fact Scylla – the leader of the separatists, and faces a difficult choice between her feelings for Akira and her duty as a member of the Section 9.

The first case sees Major Motoko Kusanagi investigating a case involving self-propelled bombs in the shape of adorable, harmlessly-looking android girls.

Border 4: Ghost Stands Alone, begins with the celebratory banquet at the headquarters of Japanese mega-corporation Harimadara Heavy Industries. Despite fierce protests and a massive demonstration outside, Harimadara just took over the Kuzan water company. The Section 9 receives an anonymous tip-off that Qhardi terrorist group plans to conduct an unspecified attack to disrupt the event. The members of the Section 9 are frantically trying to find out more to try and prevent the attack, but it is too late as the strike comes from the least expected direction. The riot police, who have their ‘ghosts’ hijacked by a cyber-virus known as ‘Fire-Starter’, opens fire at the unarmed protesters outside the HQ, slaughtering dozens, before turning guns on each other, thus destroying the evidence. While Qhardi citizen Dr. Zhinzhee Bekka Arr Thied declares on live television that this is a revenge for the suffering of the people of Qhardistan, all the evidence points to Emma Tsuda, 17-year-old war orphan who makes cyberbrain games under the name ‘Tin Man’, being the real perpetrator of the cyber attack. But when the Major analyses the girl’s cyberbrain, it becomes apparent that it is occupied by not one, but two ghosts: ‘Tin Girl’ Emma and ‘Scarecrow’ Brinda Jr. (both pseudonyms being characters from The Wizard of Oz) and slowly uncovers a wide conspiracy involving powerful cartels, Colonel Hozumi from Army Intelligence and dirty cyberbrain business.

Logicomas (Logistics Conveyer Machines) are multi-purpose AI-equipped robotic weapons platforms with a quadrupedal exoskeleton. Spider-like in appearance, having four legs and a pair of front-mounted manipulators, Logicomas are often used by the Public Security Section 9 as bodyguards during the investigations.

Border 5: Pyrophoric Cult, starts with a mid-air explosion of an airliner, claiming many innocent lives. The members of the Section 9 determine, that similarly to the story arc of Ghost Tears where the limb-shaped Ariel bombs were used for terrorist attacks, the bomber blew himself, and the plane, up with an Ariel bomb. Clearly, the target was a group of foreign cyberbrain engineers who were on board of the Flight 381. Assigned on the case, Borma and Ishikawa manage to extract from the wreckage a damaged cyberbrain casing containing vital clues from which they are able to deduce first the name of the bomber – Tei Murasaka, a stockbroker with a dual Japanese/USA citizenship – and then his address. When Batou and Togusa raid the man’s apartment, they are caught out in a shootout with unknown men of American origin. It turns out that Murasaka was in fact undercover American Intelligence agent, and the men in the apartment were NSA agents, also assigned on the case. Aramaki informs Kusanagi about the connection between the attack on the Flight 381 and the Fire-Starter cyber-virus. Later Kusanagi learns about the existence of the Fire-Starter’s broker, Pyromania (called thus because of the massive damage unleashed by his Fire-Starter cyber-virus wherever he appears). In the meantime, Paz learns that Pyromania’s true identity could be Galvez Garcia, an international cyber-drug dealer and that he is in Japan on a mission to eliminate Colonel Hozumi, who, though badly injured, survived the first assassination attempt in the previous story arc, Ghost Stands Alone. Kusanagi sets a trap, using Hozumi, or what is left of her, as a bait, to lure the Fire-Starter’s broker from his hiding, setting thus the stage for the final confrontation with Pyromania. Everything is not as it seems though and it slowly emerges that Kurutsu, the head of the Army’s Organization 501, might be the one who is quietly pulling the strings from the shadows…

Although Ghost in the Shell: Arise marks a welcome return to the Ghost in the Shell universe, and the individual films, or ‘borders’, work quite well on their own right, collectively they fall short in replicating the unique atmosphere and peculiar, almost hypnotic, charm of the original 3 films of the franchise (Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society).

TRIVIA: The ending song for Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Ghost Tears was composed by Cornelius, with lyrics and performance by Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.