Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (S.A.C.) Review

Genre: Action, Mecha, Military, Police, Sci-Fi, Seinen
Air Dates: October 2002 to October 2003 (first season) and January 2004 to January 2005 (second season)
Studio: Production I.G.


In the not so distant future, mankind has advanced to a state where complete body transplants from flesh to machine is possible. This allows for great increases in both physical and cybernetic prowess and blurring the lines between the two worlds. However, criminals can also make full use of such technology, leading to new and sometimes, very dangerous crimes. In response to such innovative new methods, the Japanese Government has established Section 9, an independently operating police unit which deals with such highly sensitive crimes. Led by Daisuke Aramaki and Motoko Kusanagi, Section 9 deals with such crimes over the entire social spectrum, usually with success. However, when faced with a new A level hacker nicknamed “The Laughing Man,” the team is thrown into a dangerous cat and mouse game, following the hacker’s trail as it leaves its mark on Japan.[Written by MAL Rewrite]


Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (or S.A.C for short) has a perfect blend of overarching and episodic plot.  Each episode has it’s own flavor of story and the overall plot is not constantly forced down your throat, which allows for a more defined setting and character development.  The story is pleasingly complex, requiring undivided attention, so this is not an anime to have playing in the background.  The attention to detail for the setting and the plot is nothing short of astounding.  S.A.C. truly gives insight as to what it would be like to live in a cybernetic generation.  Medical use, weaponization, cyberbrains, A.I., hacking, physical enhancements, and even personal maintenance are covered in this fully fleshed out world.  All these aspects are introduced piece by piece during the action packed, investigative cases that are being worked by Section 9.

Character Development

 Characters in S.A.C. are defined slowly throughout the two seasons.  Don’t expect the usual opening episodes to have dedicated introductory screen time for each character or any kind of internal monologue.  While the personalities of the main characters are certainly distinct and one can get a feel for who they are, there is little history revealed about them until the second season.  But, given that they are members of an elite black-ops team that technically does not exist, this is not that unusual.  That being said, the characters are brought to life in a very realistic way.  All of their reactions and expressions are true to life and very believable.  The voice acting for the sub and dub version are both works of perfection.  Every character (including minor ones) have voices that fit them with lines delivered in a way that sounds perfectly natural.  The level of realism in S.A.C. makes it incredibly immersive.


The entire Ghost in the Shell animation franchise was way ahead of it’s time and truly raised the bar on what quality animation should be.  Again the attention to detail is unmatched by anything before it.  The characters are lifelike with easy to read facial expressions and jaws that actually move when they talk.  Their movements are fluid, body mechanics are accurate, and even their clothing crinkles when they move.  The backdrops of each scene are well polished and the characters in most of them are even animated instead of still lifes.  The lighting and shadows were also important aspects that contributed to the animation quality of this anime.  From broad daylight to a night raid with thermographic cyber-eyes, everything was spot on.  Another aspect that was given special attention was damage.  Be it damage to a vehicle, cyber parts, or flesh and bone, they did it right.  In most anime if a character gets shot, all one sees is a spot of blood on their clothing, but in S.A.C. they get mangled and it looks real.


 I.G. spared no expense when it came to the musical score for this title.  With Yoko Kanno as the composer and the late Origa on vocals, you couldn’t possibly go wrong.  They made an excellent pair and there will never be another one like it.  The quality of this soundtrack is like something one would expect to hear from a theatrical blockbuster hit.  The fast beats keep your brain flying along on this action packed thrill ride.  At the same time, it does not overpower dialog or drown out other sound effects.  Yoko Kanno knows exactly what kind of music to make and where to use it.  The music in S.A.C. helps create the right mood and fits each scene perfectly.

Viewing Order

 The viewing order for this franchise is rather unique as there are 3 timelines involved.  The characters are all the same, but the story and plot are all different.  Events in one timeline will not match up with events in another chronologically, so each timeline should be watched separately, but which timeline you watch first does not actually matter.
Theatrical Animation Timeline
– Ghost in the Shell (movie)
– Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (movie)
S.A.C. Timeline
– Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (series)
– Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – The Laughing Man (movie recap of first season)
– Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig (series)
– Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Individual Eleven (movie recap of second season)
– Ghost in the Shell: Stand Along Complex – Solid State Society (movie)
Arise Timeline
–  Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 1 (one hour movie)
–  Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 2 (one hour movie)
–  Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 3 (one hour movie)
–  Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 4 (one hour movie)
–  Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture (series version of the Border movies with additional footage)
– Ghost in the Shell 2015 (movie)

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 was a remake of the first Theatrical movie that made changes to the soundtrack and added some CGI to a few scenes.


This is by far my favorite anime franchise and I use it as my basis of comparison on many other titles.  Definitely don’t try to watch this while doing something else as you will miss out on some important details and lessen the experience overall.  However, because of how the overarching plot is spread out in the series, you don’t have to marathon it to keep from getting lost.  If the idea of an elite black-ops police team with cybernetic enhancements sounds awesome to you, then watch this.  I promise, you wont regret it.