Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a success both commercially as well as artistically. It didn't exactly elevate the medium but it was an intelligent thought provoking science-fiction series with a lot to say about both technology as well as society. Given it starred a bisexual cyborg swimsuit and trench coat wearing ninja, that's pretty impressive.
However, the bane of all successful thought-provoking science fiction is the sequel. It can't ruin good science fiction but it tends to occupy headspace which would otherwise be full of pure joy. We can't think of The Matrix without The Matrix Revolutions, for example, and I'm visibly annoyed every time I remember The Lost Boys sequels exist.
|S9 loses some of its invincibility this time around.|
The premise of 2nd Gig is Japan dealing with a refugee crisis from World War 3. They've let in large numbers of what I believe are meant to be Chinese and Koreans but have informally ghettoized them in a single island off the mainland. This is an unfortunately prescient piece of science fiction even as there will always be refugees and they'll almost certainly always be treated like garbage by the state they're living in.
|Gouda is right. He does have a memorable face.|
2nd Gig is always at its best when it's dealing with more human stories than the technology which makes them science-fiction. The best stories of this season are an adaptation of Taxi Driver minus the shoot-out at the end, a story of love turned into obsession, and a trial where the defense is more interested in indicting the officer than the circumstances of the case. The episodes are more tied to the main plot this time around than in the original Stand Alone Complex, though, and build up steadily to the end.
|Kuze is a bit of a Gary Stu but as he's the antagonist, that's okay.|
I have to say this is another area where 2nd Gig shines because both of these individuals feel like they could pose legitimate threats to Section Nine. Gouda is perhaps a little too over-the-top in his evil but the fact he is behaving in such a way out of a desire for fame is part of his backstory.
|The Individual 11 - Terrorists Without a Cause.|
This is alright, if the authors feel that way it's their prerogative, but Kuze's backstory has a great deal of similarity to certain World War 2 Imperial Japanese apologia which sours the pot a little. I could be misreading what's being said but the fact I was able to see it does make me suspicious. There's also the fact the show never really comes down and gives a strong opinion on the refugee issue, being vaguely for them when I think it might have been better to go full acceptance.
In conclusion, 2nd Gig is an extremely intelligent and well-written season of cyberpunk sci-fi. However, it's not quite as enjoyable in some respects as the original season. It actually improves in many ways but the flaws are much deeper. Still, I recommend this to anyone who loves science-fiction and not just anime.