Chimpzy watches Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex (Part 3)
Season 1, Episode 3: Android and I
So the setup here is that a particular type of gynoid, nicknamed Jeri, is self-terminating. Once popular, but now obsolete, they still have a small but hardcore fanbase. The “suicides” are themselves caused by a virus planted in the factory that manufactured them, propagating to other Jeris whenever their owners bring them in for maintenance. Section 9 quickly tracks this to the son of a diplomat, a rich boy with an obsession for his Jeri, seemingly genuinely in love with it, apparently to such a degree that he wanted to eliminate all other Jeris so his would be unique. The remainder of the runtime is pretty much Batou and Togusa chasing the culprit down, which is effortless because he’s just a regular dude protected only by having the same power as the bad guy in Lethal Weapon 2.
It’s actually the Jeri that does him in, restraining him, ostensibly to save his life after he pulls a gun. Before that Batou remarked how impressively lifelike the Jeri talked and behaves compared to Section 9s operator androids, and at various points in the episode allusions are made to androids gaining ‘ghosts’, aka true consciousness instead of just well-programmed AI, marking this the first but far from last time the series will play with this concept. In the end it is left ambiguous whether the Jeri was truly sentient, its humanlike dialogue revealed to be just lines from Jean-Luc Godard’s “À bout the souffle”, except for one final bit that leaves open the possibility. Myself, I’m a bit confused by what benchmarks Jeri is supposed to be impressive tho. Seems about on par with operators. Meanwhile, the Tachikomas might behave like excitable puppies, but their speech is very natural, and their interactions with the human members of Sections 9 much more human, despite having basically no human features.
Anyway, the other big theme of the episode is attachment. I suppose we’ve all had moments where we stuck with something old simply because we like it, even though newer versions are better in every way. That’s nostalgia for you, I guess, and generally harmless. Not even the otherwise high-tech main characters are immune to it, as proven by both Togusa and Batou. But pair that with severe insecurities and detachment from reality, and I can easily see how that might turn unhealthy, like it did with the culprit. The android offers him a fantasy he can control to suit his anxieties, to escape his fears, and mistakes that for love, or maybe it’s just his own little version of happiness. It would be easy to see the man as pathetic, but as someone who’s no stranger to self-esteem issues, I don’t feel so comfortable as to judge.
Overall I found this merely an average episode. It seems very loosely based on a chapter of the manga, but doesn’t hit as hard from both an action, narrative and philosophical standpoint. It brings up a few staples of the series, but iirc, those are all done much better further down the line. Not really a visual showcase either, outside of the opening with the android suicides. I did enjoy that it spends a little more time fleshing out the members of Section 9, if only slightly: the Major’s penchant for reckless driving, the fun chemistry between Batou and Togusa as they discuss their own respective nostalgic attachments, Togusa coming home to his wife and child. People who have lives outside of the job.
One more thing. I decided to watch this episode with the English dub instead of Japanese with subs. That’s not my habit, I generally prefer watching something with the original audio, but the dub is not bad. I’m not fond of the voices they chose for some characters, and there’s some wonky lines here and there, particularly that thing they do where they stress the wrong syllables in Japanese names. I still prefer the Japanese voices, they sound a bit more natural and like they “belong” in general, but the dub is fine, especially since this was released when dubs were still quite hit or miss. I’m thinking of alternating between between sub and dub for here on.