What a joy it is to see the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex mythology capped off so exuberantly and intelligently — at least, for now. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society (which has easily the longest title of any release this year) is a fitting culmination for what was created by the two seasons of the Stand Alone Complex TV shows. It has enough plot to fill a whole season of TV, skillfully and efficiently condensed into a single two-hour movie, but it never loses sight of the pole stars in the GITS cosmology of ideas: the tension between the individual and society; the way our lives and worlds are technologized with unforeseen consequences; the way this technologization gives rise to new orders of existence within and without us. And it’s also a great movie, period: fast-moving, gorgeous to watch, loaded with things that improve on repeat viewings. I also couldn’t ignore multiple parallels — thematic and visual — between SSS and the very first Ghost in the Shell film, right down to the images in the final shot and Kusanagi’s prescient closing lines.
Solid State Society opens some time after the end of the second season of Stand Alone Complex, and features many of the same characters. Togusa, the family man and former greenhorn, is now the mature and determined field commander of Section 9, leading Bateau, Ishikawa, Boma, Pazu, and all the other members of that elite outfit while himself taking orders from “the old goat”, Aramaki (himself a right-hand man to Prime Minister Kayabuki as per the 2nd GiG plotline). As for Motoko Kusanagi herself, she resigned four years ago and has “gone off the grid” for reasons unknown, much to the chagrin of the rest of the crew. “Her talents were as rare as ESP,” Aramaki laments, although apparently just as difficult to predict. We also find out that Bateau was offered Togusa’s post and explicitly declined it, and as much as Bateau admires his former teammate’s prowess it’s also clear he’s biting back a great deal of jealousy for what could have been.Read more
The Mystery of Rampo is a rare creature: a truly original movie, blessed with a fearless imagination and a delirious visual style. It helps somewhat to know from where the film has mined its imagery and inspirations, but I don’t think it’s crucial: the spell Rampo casts all by itself is powerful enough to bewitch most any receptive audience.
I’m lucky enough, I guess, to have been a fan of the film’s core inspiration: the life and works of Edogawa Rampo, the man who was to 20th-century Japan what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and (to a fair degree) Stephen King were and are to modern English-speaking audiences. One of his chief inspirations was Edgar Allan Poe, from whom he (rather cheekily) derived not only his pen name but also the other man’s nose for human frailty and foibles, and he wrote voluminously in Japan for decades without his work ever receiving much attention elsewhere. I devoured the only two editions of his work currently available in English (Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination and Black Lizard), along with other films that drew on his work for inspiration (Rampo Noir), and wanted more. And now I can add Mystery of Rampo to that list, which adds wonderfully to the man’s legacy without being redundant or insulting (as was the case, sadly, with the lamentable Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf).Read more