Following the events of the Laughing Man incident, Section 9 continues their operations against terrorism and conspiracy rooted in advanced technology. However, various circumstances cause their duties to greatly escalate. Japan had over the past few decades accepted a large number of refugees, however their outlook and financial situation had remained bleak with no signs of any improvement, resulting in great discontent from them as well as great discontent from the Japanese citizens who’s tax money was used to support them in their refugee towns. Looking into a number of terrorist attacks related to this tension, Section 9 stumbles upon a group calling themselves The Individual Eleven. However, as they dig deeper into this, they discover a massive conspiracy, where a major escalation of conflict regarding the refugee situation was purposely being manufactured, and that furthermore at the center of this conspiracy was Gouda Kazundo, the head of the Cabinet Intelligence Service.
Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG is similar to the first season in many regards. It is still set in the same futuristic world with the impacts of technology on society being the core focus. It still involves a lot of secret operations, intense action, and incredible suspense. And it still features all the same amazing characters from Section 9. However, it takes a different direction in a lot of ways, some that were quite interesting, and some that I wasn’t much of a fan of.
Starting off, while this season does have three categories of episode distinctions, differently from the first season which had a multitude of stand alone episodes in addition to the complex episodes that tied into the main Laughing Man plot, the entire story is centered around the singular issue that is the refugee situation and the conspiracy surrounding it. I’m okay with that in concept, but in practice, that led to things moving a bit too slowly. The stand alone type episodes seem to be oriented around tying in with the main plot in some way, which resulted in them not being able to be entirely self contained, and hence they felt lacking in terms of being complete, but at the same time they didn’t push the overall plot forward much, and hence they just had a general feeling of unimportance, which made them somewhat of a drag to get through. This wasn’t the case for all of them certainly, as there were still some good stand alone type episodes, but as a general trend I felt this was an issue. Furthermore, because of this, it felt like Section 9 was on the defensive and essentially losing for the vast majority of the season, which wasn’t something I was fond of, as watching their steady string of incredible victories was one of my favorite parts of the first season.
In terms of the new overall plot, it was certainly a hell of a lot more intense and interesting than the previous seasons. It was rooted in conspiracy even more than the previous season, and at a whole other level escalating things well beyond the first season. I felt the technological elements didn’t evolve much part the first season and ultimately were quite similar to the first. However, the political elements, which were primarily centered around how to deal with refugees, went in a very different direction of being a lot more grounded in modern issues, as opposed to the elements of the previous season that were more rooted in the hypothetical. Because of this, it felt more like it was showing that this would always be an issue for humanity, regardless of technological advances, which was gave the commentary a more grounded edge. All of it came to an a tremendously impactful conclusion, unlike the first season, and one that I was tremendously satisfied with. I should note that I thought the end of the Tachikomas, while incredibly sad because they somehow seemed to have become my favorite characters, was incredibly well handled.
In terms of the old characters, by which I primarily mean section 9, there was a focus on making things more personal. It dived into the past of pretty much all the characters that hadn’t yet been explored in the first season. Some of these were interesting and welcome, such as those related to their careers as soldiers. But the backstory that had nothing to do with combat, such as Motoko’s past, felt like it removed a veil of mystery that was a key part of making Section 9 as cool as they were. Furthermore, while I was a major fan of Motoko i the first season, her progression in this season, including having too much of an emotional investment and having a perceived personal stake dampened that considerably as it felt contrary to what I liked about her as a character.
In terms of new characters, there were three new key ones. The first is Kayabuki, the new prime minster, who has her own hopes in where to guide Japan but has difficulty in dealing with the politics necessary in order to accomplish it. She is a reasonably interesting and sympathetic character, with a decent character arc towards the end. The other two are Kuze, a part of the Individual Eleven who eventually becomes the leader of the refugees as they fight for independent, and Gouda, the head of the cabinet intelligence service who is masterminding the conflict with the refugees. I am by default not a fan of heroic characters pushing forth ideals that people flock to by default like Kuze, and hence to some degree grew an inherent dislike for him. Hence, I feel that the portions of the show trying to make the viewer sympathize with him were completely lost on me. To be quite frank I prefer characters like Gouda, and found quite a bit more interesting. In the end though, I was satisfied with both of their conclusions.
The animation and art style are the same as the first season. The soundtrack I would say is a bit better, so a bit more than decent. The OP uses normal animation so it doesn’t look dated, and the music I liked about as much. The ED felt lazier as it didn’t involve much.
A continuation of Stand Alone Complex that’s more intense and more cohesive, but slower and less cool.