You’ve probably heard of Ghost In The Shell before. If you were lucky enough to have DSTV in the 90s, it was a regular fixture on Friday nights for the anime block on the Sci-Fi channel. Or maybe you saw it on a video store shelf or heard it mentioned with reverence by the Wachowskis when they were making The Matrix.
Point is, there’s more to Ghost In The Shell than just a single movie. There are anime series, original video animations and even a movie sequel floating out there. But where do you even start watching? Bear in mind, the movies and TV series don’t necessarily follow the same continuity, being only loosely connected as Nekos on Reddit pointed out.
But if you have to start somewhere, start with the first movie, marathon your way through the first anime series and then cycle back. Or follow this handy guide, because I like you guys that much:
Ghost in the Shell
The original 1995 movie, that has Motoko Kusanagi and her Section 9 team tracking down the Puppet-Master hacker who is wreaking havoc on the populace and is a pawn in a wider political conspiracy. Heavy on action and philosophy, Ghost In The Shell combined cutting edge traditional and CG animation at the time to deliver a movie that went on to become a cult classic.
Ghost in the Shell 2.0
The original film, but further enhanced with a new colour palette, improved audio and more CG imagery. Depending on how much you actually love 2D animation, you might want to stick to the original 1995 release. Here’s a handy list of comparisons between the original and the updated version.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
The 2004 sequel to the original GITS film was a lot looser with its source material adaptation, specifically the Robot Rondo chapters of the manga, and featured Bató and the Major investigating a homicide that was apparently carried out by a sex robot. The best version of this sequel is easily the original Japanese release, as the Western dub’s numerous edits resulted in a lacklustre follow-up.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
The first GITS anime series say Kusanagi and her Section 9 team return for a 26 episode run in 2002. With an emphasis on cyber-crime, Section 9 tracks down hackers such as the Laughing Man and other Super Class A antagonists. The first season focused on the Laughing Man and a collusion with the Japanese government as they suppressed information regarding the development of a cheap cure for a cyber-disease that was running rampant among the populace.
With the Japanese government managing to convince the nation that Section 9 had gone rogue, Kusanagi and her team had to play a dangerous game to save Japan and clear their names as the corruption spread.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG
Two years after the Stand Alone Complex incident, 2nd GIG explores the ramifications of the event of a world which barely survived World Wars Three and Four. With millions of refugees from Asia forced to toil away as cheap labour within Japan and the island of Dejima, Section 9 finds itself embroiled in a new battle against the terrorist group Individual Eleven.
But the plot thickens, as the machinations of a sinister force who keeps to the shadows and the emergence of the charismatic Hideo Kuze see Japan stand on the brink of a new war as the refugees rally for some form of independence. Going even deeper, Kusanagi begins digging deeper into her childhood, coming up with answers that point to an even wider conspiracy.
Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society
Two more years after the 2nd GIG storyline, Section 9 now finds itself having increased massively in size to combat cyber-crime, with Togusa leading the organisation in this TV movie as a new hacker codenamed “the Puppeteer” begins a campaign of terror using children as carriers for a new cybernetic virus.
Ghost in the Shell: ARISE
A reboot of the Ghost In The Shell universe, Arise is a compilation of TV movies which rebooted the character designs and created a prequel for the franchise. Featuring a younger version of Kusanagi before Section 9 was formed, the major begins paying off her debt to the 501 Organisation that has legal rights to her cybernetic body by engaging in dangerous espionage missions.
The TV movies are made up of four “borders” that chart a path back to the original 1995 movie:
- Border:1 Ghost Pain
- Border:2 Ghost Whispers
- Border:3 Ghost Tears
- Border:4 Ghost Stands Alone
And there you go! By my count, that sets you up with two movies, five OVAs and 52 anime episodes to burn through before the movie arrives next year. Good luck!
Last Updated: November 16, 2016