The Solid State Society film picks up about 2 years after the end of the 2nd GIG of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series. We find Togusa leading up a field team, Batou becoming somewhat picky about the ops he goes on and the Major long resigned from and out of contact with Public Security Section 9. Whilst this might not be quite the future you’d have hoped for for Section 9 (an intelligence department and anti-crime unit) after the series, it does make sense, even if the explanations given for the changes are a little on the ropey side.
The film begins with Section 9 trying to apprehend the son of an exiled dictator from the Siak Republic, who after a brief stand-off, commits suicide after mumbling about a ‘Puppeteer’. It is soon seen that a number of other Siak agents have been committing suicide (apparently under influence of the shadowy Puppeteer) and that they are planning a micromachine virus attack as retribution.
The team come across a group of abducted children who they at first take to be tied into this plot as carriers, however it is soon discovered that their abductions might be part of something far more sinister and far wider than any of them could have imagined.
Solid State Society has some really interesting ideas running through it but suffers from a really slow first half and general lack of action. The series certainly had its wordy episodes, and that worked fine in the context of a series, but when a film spends most of its run time with everyone just standing around talking in different locations and very little substance happening, it gets boring fast.
There are however two major action sequences and both are executed brilliantly with the fluid and dynamic action that were hallmarks of the series. It’s just a pity that there aren’t more of them.
There’s implied development for the characters that will only be appreciated if you’ve seen the series, otherwise everyone will seem a bit flat. If you have seen the series then there’s some interest to be taken from how the characters have developed in the 2 years since 2nd GIG, especially in regards to Togusa taking on more responsibility and the general enlargement of Section 9 with a slew of new rookies and a nice explanation from Chief Aramaki as to why the changes were necessary. The treatment of the Major however isn’t done as well, it feels confusing and her motivations aren’t at all clear.
The Blu Ray is nice with crisp sound and a fine dub with the series cast reprising their roles. The animation is a definite step up from the series, but isn’t anything overly spectacular. The colour palate is generally darker and more drab, but that actually helps to give a proper ‘film’ feel to the proceedings rather than it just appearing as a feature length episode. Anyone coming in cold will be able to follow the events of the film, but anyone who’s actually seen the series will have a much fuller experience. First timers are likely to have some issue with terminology and character relationships though, as the film essentially presumes you’re already aware of the setting context and the characters.
Quite a nice selection of extras can be found on the disc. There’s several trailers and interviews along with some design featurettes along with the usual sets of trailers for the film and for others. Fans of the series will certainly be pleased to find a mini OVA starring the ever popular Tachikoma think tanks.
The film has a lot going for it in terms of story, the mystery surrounding the nature of the Solid State Society is actually very interesting and there are some fascinating ideas and concepts thrown up, however the pace and plotting of the film don’t do the underlying story justice. It’s sadly one of those films that is better the more you think about it in hindsight, as experiencing the slow drip feed of the initial plot is quite frustrating. SSS feels too long during the slow build and too short during the frenetic action and breakneck (and not entirely satisfactory) plot exposition at the end.
Fans of the series whilst possibly disappointed in the lack of decent amounts of action, will definitely find a number of things here to really enjoy, but newcomers, not armed with the whole series cannon to explain the setting and concepts of the Ghost in the Shell world, are going to find it something of a confusing watch.
Solid State Society will be available as a DVD/Blu-ray combi pack on 21st May and is available to order now on Amazon.