Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Volume 1

When a high-ranking government official is kidnapped, the Prime Minister must call in his top crime fighting force know as Section 9. Lead by the beautiful (and deadly) Major Kusanagi, the cybernetically enhanced squad must use all their skill to take down the kidnappers and rescue the hostages. But that’s only half of the mission; can Kusanagi and company find out who’s behind the kidnapping, and, more importantly, just what they’re after?

By Yu Kinutani
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Action/Drama
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I picked up this title on a whim. I was at the comic shop and saw it on the shelf. I enjoyed the TV show that this manga is based on, so I decided to give this title a chance. I wasn’t disappointed, but neither was I wowed by it.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex takes place in a world where cybernetics and AIs have become common place. Humans can have limbs and even their brains replaced by cybernetic parts. Thoughts can be communicated like radio signals, and information transmitted by a plug-in the back of the neck. Public Security Force Section 9 is a special forces unit filled with former military and police detectives, most of whom have some sort of cybernetic implant. They take on cases the police can’t handle, or are too sensitive for other agencies.

I enjoyed this first volume. It played out like a TV police procedural drama, with the spanning the volume. The Section 9 team works like a well-oiled machine as they rescue hostages and chase down the hacker, so there’s plenty of action. There’s also some good-natured ribbing and joking between the team mates, giving some brief moments of levity. Togusa really proves himself as he finds the clues to figure out what was really going on. The mystery itself is laid out well, with all the clues there for the reader to figure out as well.  The art is well done, keeping the realistic look of the anime. There are only one or two moments where the title falls to manga conventions. It was a good enough read that I didn’t want to put down.

It wasn’t perfect though. The manga didn’t have that dark, gritty feeling that the TV series had. Major Kusanagi seemed to have been softened up some too.I think it’s her eyes, they don’t have that really hard look to them sometimes. I don’t know how this title was serialized in Japan, but the beginning of every chapter was a summarization of the last few panels of the previous chapter. I know J-dramas often do this after commercial breaks, and that’s what first came to my mind as I got further into the volume, so the analogy to a TV drama isn’t all that far off. This might work for TV, or a monthly/bi-monthly magazine, but for a volume, it starts to wear thin.

While I enjoyed the story and characters, I still came away with a sort of “meh” feeling to the volume. I liked reading it, but I wasn’t left with a dire need for the next volume. It was good, but not great. I will continue to follow this series though. I did enjoy it that much. And then of course, there are the Tachikoma. They didn’t get a lot of scenes in the main story, but did get their own bonus manga at the end, that was very cute and funny, just like the Tachikoma. It’s a must buy just for them! There is no explanation of the world, or introduction to the characters, so those not familiar with the TV series may be lost, but fans of GitS: SAC will find a lot to love about this volume.

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