We return to one of the most beloved sci-fi anime’s prequels, primarily to better understand the universe in which these characters live. This time, Major Kusanagi has already integrated herself in with her team and moved on to hunting cyberterrorists and exploring the limits and structures of a cyber-society on the verge of chaos. But does it live up to the franchise name and provide us with the background we crave?
Let’s take a look at Ghost in the Shell Arise: Borders 3 and 4.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.
For those of you looking for the first two movies, click here.
As the second half of the OVA series, it remains pretty consistent with the first set, though there are more noticeable animation errors. Overall, while it is entertaining, it’s still not quite up to the quality of Stand Alone Complex, which is a real shame given the amount of time they had for the films, though given the state of the anime industry, not very shocking.
Border 3, Ghost Tears, follows some three months after the second film of the series. Major Kusanagi and team are called in on a cyberterrorism bombing, wherein the parties are infected with false memories. This is where Togusa finally joins Section 9. However, the Major’s love interest, a prosthetic engineer, ends up involved in a scheme to mess with cybernetic parts. By the end, Togusa joins the team, completing the Section 9 we know and love. There’s a huge water theme going on throughout the episode, which I can’t help but tie into the underwater scene from the beginning of the Ghost in the Shell movie.
Border 4, Ghost is Alone, is about the conflict between cyberization and naturals. In order to protest the forced cyberizing of people’s minds, a body that hosts 2 ghosts implements a virus that can hack into other people’s cyberbrains. There’s also a political conspiracy going on, but if I were to be honest, it proves particularly hard to follow, especially since it doesn’t connect to anything in the end. There’s also a Wizard of Oz motif running throughout the story, though why is anyone’s guess. This is the weaker of the two Borders, wherein a lot of the explanation is rushed and the focus is less on what’s happening and more on the team itself, which would be fine if they didn’t try to cram it into 55 minutes.
A lot of the plot issues stem from the fact that ultimately, there’s not much of an overarching sense of plot. All that happens in the span of the four OVAs, all that occurs is that the team gets together as a unit…and that’s it. The mysteries are not connected, the figures that are constant don’t always follow the same plot lines. There are still unanswered questions from the end of the OVAs to the beginning of the original film. When did the Major get her new body? What happens to the advancement of the tachkomas? What happens to that other commander who always is in the background? If you make a series of prequels, you might as well actually answer all the fan questions that are left lingering.
Some of the facial expressions come off as a bit odd, where it looks like animators didn’t seem sure how to draw teeth or where to put eyes. Again, the animation was never in the same league as the other entries in the franchise, but it just seems so sloppy and out of place. There were cheats here and there, probably trying to save the budget for the action sequences (which still look very good) but it also means there are a few awkward moments that don’t look quite right.
The music has remained pretty constant throughout, with good background tunes to carry through the action and the drama. The ending theme for Border 3, Heart Grenade by Sean Lennon and Cornelius, is a mellow, techno-jazz song that I feel will grow on me eventually, just not on the initial listen. Split Spirit by Yukihiro Takahashi and METAFIVE ends Border 4 and I have to say that I couldn’t listen to ten seconds of it at first, though I forced myself to power through, which didn’t change my feelings towards the melody. I have no real complaints on the voice acting side of the spectrum — the English and Japanese dubs both sound great, as they should. If I did have to nitpick one thing, it’s that on occasion the English dub has a second or two of awkwardness here and there, specifically in reaction scenes.
All in all, Ghost in the Shell Arise Borders 3 and 4 don’t end the mini-series on a strong note, and that leaves a sort of sour taste in terms of looking back at the whole endeavor. Border 3 is more interesting than Border 4, in my opinion, if only because the latter felt incredibly rushed in terms of story and explanation. If you’re a diehard fan, then you’re going to want to watch these no matter what, but otherwise I would urge you sticking to the other media in the franchise. I know there’s one last movie that exists as a stand alone, Pyrophoric Cult, and I hope it is able to clean up some of the mess left behind by these last four, but only time will tell.
– Interesting concepts.
– Good music and animation for the most part.
– Poor narrative structure overall.
– Animation issues.