The second season of Ghost in the Shell gets off to a very slow start, filled with talking heads that inform us how the political situation has changed since the previous series ended. It couldn't be more topical to contemporary America. You see, the main conflict of the show is being caused by a refugee problem. After the last war lots of Asians immigrated to Japan in search of a better life since their countries were poor and Japan was relatively rich. They were welcomed at first as a cheap labor force but over the years the Japanese began to think twice about the situation and realized that the immigrants are a huge tax burden. A new Conservative government has been formed, promising to deal with the problem once and for all. But there are elements within and outside of the government who are not prepared to wait for legislation. So, in the first episode here, a group called the "Individual 11" takes the Chinese Embassy hostage to protest against the parasitic immigrant population. Section 9 is called in to rescue the hostages, and if no innocents are killed, they are promised full reinstatement by the new Prime Minister. In the second episode, another human being/cyborg scarred by the war and its effects, fantasizes about mattering in a society that doesn't recognize the need for love in individuals. He constantly daydreams about killing all the people he despises and even falls for the Major, who he mistakes for a prostitute. In the third episode, "Cash Eye" is the name of a thief who is so good that she even tells her victims when she is going to rob them! It's up to Section 9 to stop her from robbing a multi-millionaire who will be busy giving a sex-doll soiree at the appointed time attended secretly by very high-up dignitaries. Lastly, in an episode reminescent of an early episode last season, an attack helicopter whose pilot has had a heart attack is taken over by its AI and suspiciously, is joined by other unmanned aircraft in the immigrant district of the city. Their purpose....unknown. Section 9 is called in by one of the government intelligence services who seem very aware of the situation. As though they knew about it before it happened?
2nd Gig has a very different feel from the first season which seemed obsessed with Catcher in the Rye references and cyber crimes of sometimes Enron complexity. This first volume seemed firmly grounded in real-world problems. Namely, what do you do when the equivalent of a slave labor force begins to revolt against its masters and demand more rights? Some people believe they have the right to be here. Some that they should all be kicked out. When a population sees itself as threatened, they fight back, whether this population are the legal citizens or the immigrants. Of course, this show came out in Japan long before the current immigration issues that are now plaguing America. But it's just eerie seeing this. The situation in the US could very easily slip into the conflicts we see in Volume 1 of 2nd gig. Everything about this second season is top-rate....except maybe the writing. The second episode in particular is really slow, since Section 9 is hardly in it at all. While I liked the experiment they did by doing that, it's too early in the show to take the focus off the main characters. Yoko Kanno's music, while masterpieces, seemed to strain to make boring scenes dramatic, but most of her score improves the show, especially a homage to the first Ghost in the Shell movie when the Major falls backwards out of a high-rise, turning on her Predator-like camouflage as she descends after blowing a terrorist's head off. This show looks like it might be great, once it gets past the exposition.
Extras: Interviews with the director and two designers who worked on the show.
I would also recommend: The first season of Ghost in the Shell SAC. The two GITS feature films. The SECOND edition of the manga which features panels cut out of the original American release.
The Matrix trilogy.