Book Backlog: Global Neural Network

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Like most 90s kids, Adult Swim was my window into mature Japanese animation, and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was part of the regular lineup. During my college years I watched the first and second seasons, and then read the original comics. I went on to write my senior thesis about the film adaptations, somehow convincing my art history department that I wasn’t just watching anime for fun. For a few years Ghost in the Shell was my life, so finding out Kodansha was working on a new 2018 anthology was very good news.

The Free Comic Book Day preview of Global Neural Network was surprisingly light on the intellectual fodder and philosophy Shirow Masamune, the original manga-ka, was known for. Written by Max Gladstone and illustrated by David Lopez, we’re dealing with a covert mission for Section Nine, a Japanese anti-terrorism unit. Major and Aramaki, who run the team, find themselves attacked at a cocktail party by the Ghost Force, drone-piloting special operators that supposedly died ten years ago during the last war.

With last year’s release of the live action film, it’s nice to see Ghost in the Shell become part of the nerdy mainstream. For fans of Japanese otaku culture, however, there’s always a double-edged sword in that American treatments are fun to think about, but rarely turn out the way you hope for. This installment of Global Neural Network has the makings of a decent cop-thriller, and goes to great lengths to humanize our former war heroes; however, the extent to which cyber-technology has affected normal people’s lives is a little lost on me. The titular network doesn’t manifest, and instead we tread familiar franchise ground in showing people trapped within aqueous preservation tanks as their minds are manipulated. Perhaps the anthology will paint a bigger picture of this world?

What’s difficult for someone like me, perhaps, is knowing that Ghost in the Shell was ahead of its time for such a long time. It was a product of the cyberpunk era, the age of Neuromancer and Blade Runner, works that saw the world enslaved by corporate interests and the cheap technologies they sold (sounds a lot like present-day). These works have inspired so many stories since, and now every hot franchise focuses on fully immersive virtual reality within networks. For any writer who treads similar territory, I’d like to see an attempt at breaking new ground. I didn’t see that from this one story, but I’ll still be buying Global Neural Network in the event there’s gold to be found.