Ghost in The Shell: Arise, part 1: Ghost pain
One of the best series of hard-sci-fi anime' in the modern era is the "Ghost In The Shell" series, which has existed in manga and animated form for about 20 years now. Hollywood seems to be catching on to the phenomenon at last: A live-action adaptation was announced as in development at the beginning of this year. "Arise" is a new, animated "prequel" to these stories, which creates a very accessible introduction to the cast and main protagonist, with their origin stories. I just finished watching "Arise" this weekend on Amazon, and it was amazingly good. If you're puzzled about where to dive into this series of stories, this is the logical place to start.
Ghost In The Shell (GITS) revolves around a hyper-connected future society where artificial intelligence, cyborg brain implants and advanced prosthetics are commonplace, and the events of the series explore how we re-define the "self" and the "soul" - and the nature of "reality" - when we exist as both flesh and blood people and as virtual consciousness, simultaneously. It asks questions that reach as far back as the shadows on Plato's notional cave wall, and makes them relevant to today as we stand on the threshold of Kurzweil's "singularity" of consciousness.
That's heavy-duty stuff, but the series makes the debate accessible thru the perspective of the protagonist; a futuristic cop/soldier/anti-terrorist operative working in an undercover intelligence unit, pursuing cyber crimes. Because it's a prequel, and an origin story, all the characters are younger-looking than in any of the older movies in the collection. The protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi, is a complete cyborg: being the victim of a childhood accident, her entire body is robotic, her mind, her consciousness, the only originally "organic" part of her. This means she can swap out robot bodies and look like anybody; handy for espionage and counter-intel work. But she spends as much time surfing inside cyberspace as she does walking a beat or fighting robots and criminals hand-to-hand. The main conflict lies in her exploring what parts of her "self" are real, and what is an illusion or false memories, implanted by unknown people with unknown motivations. The premise offers lots of potential for rock-'em-sock-'em action, interspersed with the philosophical musings and political intrigue. If you liked the original "The Matrix", but wanted to see more about the nature of how it worked, you should enjoy this. Fans of 'Dollhouse", "Memento", or "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind", this should be on your list to watch.
The animation is an expert blend of 3d CGI with more traditional cel animation technique, and the combat scenes flow more smoothly than any previous Ghost In the Shell anime' I've seen, while closely retaining the same art direction and style.
and an 8-minute taste of the beginning: