WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, now streaming on Netflix.
Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 always had a hard act to follow, especially in terms of the original series’ political themes. The existing Stand Alone Continuity consisted of two seasons and an animated movie, wading into cyberterrorism, faulty micromachines that harmed the human/robot industry, and also, the issue of child abuse. We even got takes on refugees, but it wasn’t as deep as what this Netflix series offers.
In its first season, SAC_2045 addresses new issues while also adding a lot more depth to what was previously explored, making it the most political entry into the series.
Now, the usual’s tackled as Japan’s Sector 9 and America forge a secret alliance. There’s crime prevention using tech-soldiers and mercenaries hacking other cyberhumans as part of digital warfare in a world divided amidst an epic arms race. However, SAC_2045 really wades into corrupt politicians and businessmen with a social justice group, or at least what we think is a mysterious society, going after the one percent who cut shady contracts to benefit from the Sustainable War.
This leads to a couple things arising: firstly, there’s the Think Pol app, which allows internet users to use malware/viruses to kill corrupt businessmen associated with the Tokyo Rebuild Project. It’s a global problem, as politicians look after their friends and families. But there’s another layer, as Japan’s higher-ups are illegally giving immigrants citizenship and exploiting them for cheap labor as nationals. It’s a deep cut, but the app allows revenge for this sin.
In addition, there’s also the post-human virus turning cyberhumans into deadly, unstoppable killing machines. America wants Japan to round them up using Sector 9, but not even Major’s crew can fully contend with them. They’re not just driven by bloodlust, but by purpose. It’s a virus that’s gone global, causing Togusa to investigate young Takashi’s infection.
This is basically the franchise showing that it’s a time for the common man to rebel, not just militaries, and power is in everyone’s hands, literally. And the way Japan’s Tate is a puppet of America, the public sees colonization taking a different form in this sell out, which appears to be a shot at American and Russia’s relationship, namely presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Viewers also witness post-humans being harvested like oil too, like in so many Middle East and South American dramas in the real world. More so, they’re viewed as insurgents, released to act as equalizers for the public, to rage against the machine and, thus, cripple evil empires. The fact nations can now hire mercs from anywhere as if it’s a game is all the more reason they’re essential.
SAC_2045 wants to give all countries a voice, adding nuance to what came before. And the way the Sustainable War actually began, with paper and cryptocurrency all being rendered null and people losing their savings, it’s a shot at the banking industry and collapse of financial institutions. It’s all down to an A.I. program, so again, technology moves from being a saviour to an enemy, with lords of war the only ones who can profit, as they alone have the money in the first place to manufacture weapons and sell them.
This leaves everyone isolated and exposed to invading militaries, all while the rich are holed up in ivory towers, making the series feel as worldwide as ever. There’s a lot drawn from George Orwell’s 1984 too, as Takashi teaches Togusa to forget authoritarians and dictators, and rise up. Not doing so allows the world to be plunged into turmoil and if the rich keep capitalizing on the poor, the global economies will keep collapsing. That’s why Batou actually tries to help old people rob a bank, because as he, Major and Sector 9 realize, being puppets of politicians has eroded their souls and ravaged the place they call home.
Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is directed by Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki. Season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.
With its social justice warriors and the Sustainable War, Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 is the franchise's most political chapter.