As if to say ‘welcome back,’ Ghost in the Shell SAC: 2nd Gig opens with a night sky, and a pair of helicopters flying in. The city is awfully green, glowing so in monochrome keying us into maybe a visual focus. Or laziness. Let’s go with focus.
The police have cordoned off the Chinese embassy, and although we don’t know it yet, we’re in for a familiar jaunt. And yet, there’s something new here, something often novel in the Ghost in the Shell vocabulary: continuity.
Section 9 rolls up in a regular Blendin’ van, the type referenced in The Simpsons as “NORMAL TRUCK: LOOK AWAY,” because they’re still on the hook. Previously on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, our friendly paramilitary police death squad was disbanded as a play to bust a high-ranking government official for unbelievably complex corruption.
Now they’re back, and this episode is all about the finalizing touches on their reunion. Some old ghosts, if you will, still linger, most notably Togusa’s resentment toward the Chief. Notable also because it never really comes up again. Just once, briefly, in this episode.
“Reembody” is a great episode. One of the tightest and most effective in the entire series. While the show would be slow to catch up to these heights, this is actually a solid indicator of things to come. And yet, for all the context of before and after, it can probably be enjoyed on its own. The action is bristling, and serves as the breaking point of the cross between politics and crisis. It explodes outward from the friction between the two, of careful maneuvering and a hostage situation.
Embodying the Stand Alone Complex formula in confident strides, the episode is an upgrade from the first season’s excellent but somewhat sedate introduction. To reiterate today’s buzzword, there’s a stronger focus here — on green, on everything. It’s a mission that elapses in realtime, and by the end, reminds us of everything we love about Ghost in the Shell, in case we forgot in the interim.
For exposition, the Major calls everyone to braindive on her so she can lay out the situation. We see that there’s a terrorist group holding hostages within the building, and they’re calling themselves the Individual Eleven. Right away, we’re in it. It was only in Episode 4 that the Laughing Man arc got started — here we don’t bother with the same species of Stand Alone episodes.
Indeed, the labeling is all different. This episode is a “DI,” which stands for — you guessed it — Dividual. Wikipedia breaks it down as IN (Individual), DI (Dividual), and DU (Dual).
IN (Individual): Related to the Individual Eleven Storyline
DI (Dividual): The standalone, and not strongly related to the Individual Eleven storyline
DU (Dual): Relate to the CIS and Gouda storyline [which is… pretty close to the Individual Eleven storyline]
So this is a Stand Alone episode, but maybe only because the case isn’t opened yet. This is where it begins. And the next time we talk about the Individual Eleven, it’s a Dual episode. Additionally, the plunge into further Stand Alone episodes starts with “Night Cruise,” which is heavy world-building for the refugee situation, and this is directly tied to the Individual Eleven.
And these Individual Eleven, at current, are calling for a halt to the influx of Asian refugees. In the English dub, you may be confused for a moment, especially in “Night Cruise.” ‘Asian’ is just a catchall for Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, primarily. The Japanese still know they’re also Asian. Regardless, China in particular has been sending refugees into Dejima for a while now, ever since the two wars (first we had the nuclear WWIII, and then the non-nuclear WWIV, also known as the Second Vietnam War), which makes them a target now.
Boma and Ishikawa have found the hacking room for the embassy, that room with the machines that I can never name. Good for jacking into systems, though. Meanwhile, Saito is hovering in a helicopter, surveying the premises through his scope. He mentions that they have image curtains he’ll need to neutralize. In the future, sniping will be a lot of this kind of stuff — direct visibility interference, to be knocked down. Signal jamming, maybe. Things of that nature.
Section 9 is on standby. The Major says that if they don’t get the call, she’ll take them out to a strip club. I knew it a second before she said it — she actually makes the joke from the manga. Of course, given this context, it means something else. This edition of the Major is so much more charming, because this is a nice break in her professionalism. It isn’t a temporary lapse in borderline psychopathy — or that same psychopathy but with a ‘funny’ twist.
Anyway, a bunch of suits gather in a room. Among them is the Minister of Home Affairs, that toad-man. These important people establish the goal with the embassy: neutralize the terrorists before their demands are leaked to the media. Apparently there’s an upcoming policy shift regarding the refugees, and given the timing, it would look like they’re giving into terrorist demands.
We meet Prime Minister Yoko Kayabuki, who instantly characterizes herself with her contribution to the discussion — not a single hostage can be killed. The Chief is on hand, proposing with his very presence the solution we’re all thinking of, but don’t have the courage to say. The issue with the lifting of the Special Forces restriction is that the Section 9 affair is still fresh in people’s minds.
They’re waiting for the paperwork to go through. If they were to go in, and especially if they were to fail, it would be a disaster. Why? Maybe the devils themselves can answer. Sitting in their van, Section 9 philosophizes, noting that they’re essentially a terrorist team without the legitimization. Indeed, the line between black-ops and terrorists is pretty thin. Psychological warfare tends to be intrinsic to both, and even if it’s not an explicit parameter for Section 9… well, let’s just see how they handle things here.
The dialogue continues. Ishikawa fills us in on how Kayabuki is filling in for Yakushima. This is supposedly a conservative reaction to the post-war administration, and she’s right now trying to phase out the refugee policy, a work in progress through the next four episodes. Togusa may not necessarily agree, but understands it as a reasonable move. For tax and employment reasons, the refugees are prompting even subversive elements like this hostage crisis. However, Batou thinks terrorism as an outgrowth of anti-immigration is a little extreme.
Speaking of Toad-Man, if you’re wondering how he’s still around, he was the only one to come out unscathed from the last administration. Must’ve been some clever maneuvering. Section 9 doesn’t seem to have a positive opinion on him. The Major says that if this job goes right (or at all), they’ll be getting some new blood. Let’s remember that phrase.
Togusa says that, knowing he may be speaking out of turn, not many people out there are qualified for this job. This gets a good reaction from various members of the team. Togusa still feels like the rookie, making his role in the organization come Solid State Society a nice twist. In the first season, he proved himself by essentially taking the lead on the Laughing Man case, but being largely non-cyborg puts him at a disadvantage when it comes to taking on hulking robot suits. His bravado here will still garner a few silent chuckles.
But always on the job is Saito, the loner. Consummate professional. He’s neutralized the image curtains, but gadzook, wouldn’t you know it — they’ve got the blinds drawn! This is a minor setback, but the situation inside is heating up. The police have sent in two scouts, who are spying from the air ducts. One guy has a little camera snake on his helmet, which is perfect for this exact environment. This perspective is our transition into the building, and through the camera we move on to the terrorists.
Just in time, because the Major decides to control the brain of one terrorist — she makes him her puppet, but because he maintains some level of sentience, it’s kind of sad. He’s shaking, sweating, not really getting what’s going on. The body operating without your input, in this high-stress environment. Some distant gunfire seems to echo my concern.
Back with the air ducts, the police scouts have been discovered. One is dead, the other is taken hostage. The Major spies, but can’t identify a leader among this troupe. And this guy, strangely enough, is all natural but with a cyberbrain. This is a detail that bugs her for a while. The report runs into the suits room — things happened, casualties on both sides. Now we have an hour before the killings start, Prime Minister.
Aramaki jumps in. These circumstances require a speedy solution. And if Section 9 specializes in anything… Unfortunately, the paperwork still isn’t ready. So in typical fashion, he proposes a bold strategy: Section 9 will storm the place under cover of the police raid. And then once that molasses paperwork goes through, it’ll confirm them de facto. If things go wrong, Aramaki will take the fall, clearing Kayabuki of any responsibility. Toad doesn’t like this, and is surprised at the PM’s go-ahead.
The Chief contacts the Major, gives her fifteen minutes before the police head in. The music spools up and the Major flashes images of the situation inside, instructs her team to memorize the structure and layout of the building. This is something that really spoke to me upon a first viewing of 2nd Gig, and although the NSS guys from prior season also did this, it made so real to me the fact that I could never ever be a Section 9 agent. Not only for the whole ‘I would get broken instantly,’ but Jesus — I can’t memorize for shit.
They don’t have much time before the police arrive, the witnesses, we might call them, and so the Major considers this evidence of the Chief’s faith in them. Togusa scoffs. The Major splits them into cells, gives the orders — all is well with the world.
The police captain is given the order to storm in fifteen minutes, and considers it crazy. Not suspicious though — he’s only a cog in the machine, man. Section 9 is off and running now, with the Major causing some confusion inside with her puppet while the invisible members head inside. She calls out to them: one shot, one kill. This is a precise operation.
Batou in camouflage runs after the cyborg that the Major’s puppet missed. The ensuing gunfight is fast and pure adrenaline. The police decide ‘screw it’ and also go in. We see some more good stuff on Section 9’s part, including a pretty sweet combat roll from Togusa. The climax of course is Batou diving at the cyborg and tackling him through a wall, snapping his neck on impact with the ground. He stands and goes invisible — all set to Yoko Kanno, of course.
And then something familiar is brewing in the next room. The last guy is holding a girl at gunpoint, and the police have him surrounded. They’re blocking an invisible Togusa’s shot. He starts shouting about the Individual Eleven, and the disembodied voice of the Major has a pithy comment. She must have the Bose hookup in that room, because next we see her, she’s outside. She shoots into the room, exploding the guy’s head.
The police check it out, and the Major disappears before their eyes, mid-fall. This plays to Ilaria Graziano singing “I Can’t Be Cool.” You are cool, the Major. Granted, this is old stuff, but it’s so good.
The next day, Kayabuki approves Section 9. She asks the Major if she’s the unit commander who rescued those hostages. The Major doesn’t say anything. She’s actually quite suspicious of Kayabuki — you don’t earn her trust by just occupying a role, and perhaps Japan’s first female prime minister isn’t as mind-blowing for her as everyone else. The Major also suspects however, that she could be trouble. Maybe this was her game all along, to get a rapid solution from the Chief while also sealing herself against liability.
Our issues with the PM ought to be taken up later. For now, the new recruits arrive, and it’s none other than the Tachikoma. They show up to pull a prank on Batou. The Major had them restored, and so we let Tachikomatic Days be our indication that every single Tachikoma is probably back to the way they were. Deus ex blue machina?
So in the end, everything is back to normal, even the damn Tachikoma are back. It’s to compound on good feeling, because ultimately, normalcy is good. It may have hampered the dramatic consequence for the Laughing Man case, but it was hardly ruinous. And that’s in the past anyway. Today, it’s about 2nd Gig.
The design philosophy for the series is always ‘carefully constructed adaptation,’ the graceful filtering and refinement of elements enjoyed previously in manga and film, but this is really par excellence. It’s a perfect episode.