Continued reimagining. We’re pretty sure you’ve already come across a franchise that counts as one of those. A series that doesn’t get adapted often. But when it does, it usually runs for a short while, and then quickly gets rebooted after the last project ends. Any watch order is never given a damn, given the regular recasting and resetting.
Welcome to what essentially is the official Ghost in the Shell watch order. There isn’t really that much material watch-time-wise, to begin with, so the number of resets shouldn’t feel that many. Still, this isn’t typical of most standard anime series, and you would probably also have to deal with tiny updates reflecting the era of the latest version you are going to watch.
First of all, yes, there is merit in repeatedly watching every major reboot on this list. Of course, if you simply want to learn the story and the bigger world centered around its lore, the default option is to just watch the latest iteration. We’ll include steps to follow this option as well. But do keep in mind that the series was first conceptualized in a much earlier era. Therefore, there might be some themes and developments no longer as prominent as it was in the later iterations.
Chronological Watch Order
We’re going to provide gaps/spaces as splits, that indicate where the reboot ends or begins for each series. You may start at any of these anytime. If you really, really don’t want to bother checking out other reboots, we at least recommend watching the very first 1995 adaptation, and then pick the series of your choice.
It should be noted that while Arise is a prequel series (and should technically somewhat fit with the Stand Alone Complex series), some fundamental parts of the setting are different enough that some fans consider it an entirely different universe. We shall do the same for this list as well.
Lastly, The Laughing Man, Individual Eleven, and Alternative Architecture are just retellings of both seasons of Stand Alone Complex and the Arise series, squeezed into a single feature-length OVA for the first two, and recompiled to a series for the other. You can effectively skip the Stand Alone Complex retellings, but you can watch Alternative Architecture as a substitute for Arise OVAs.
Ghost in the Shell (film)
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (film)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (All 26 Episodes)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig (All 26 Episodes)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society (film)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:1 Ghost Pain (OVA)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:2 Ghost Whispers (OVA)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:3 Ghost Tears (OVA)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:4 Ghost Stands Alone (OVA)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:5 Pyrophoric Cult (OVA)
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (film)
Release Date Order
The dates should recontextualize some of the eras of the series. The rest of the non-recommended films and episodes are also added here for reference.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig (2004)
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society (2006)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – The Laughing Man (2006)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Individual Eleven (2007)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:1 Ghost Pain (2013)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:2 Ghost Whispers (2013)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:3 Ghost Tears (2014)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:4 Ghost Stands Alone (2014)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Border:5 Pyrophoric Cult (2015)
Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture (2015)
Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2015)
Plot of Ghost in the Shell
Set in sometime during the middle of the 21st century (supposed to be the late 2020’s, but…), we are presented with a considerably futuristic Earth and the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, also known as New Port City. This is where Public Security Section 9’s headquarters is located. This organization is a specialized anti-crime task force, comprised of professionals that deal with the ultra-modern illegal incursions and incidents of their day.
The main perspective of each show is usually centered on Major Motoko Kusanagi, a full-body cyborg who was forced into this artificial shell due to an accident as a child. She represents not only the task force’s main activities, but also the series’ society as a whole. This world, after all, is a post-cyberpunk world where brain-to-machine interfaces are simply a regular fact of life…
The ramifications of a cybernetic brain society
Ghost in the Shell has been a pivotal series for the entire anime and science-fiction realms. It has inspired many people within creative industries, and like Akira, provided a lot of artistic influences on Akiba-kei cyberpunk styles.
Surprisingly, for a series centered on the complexity of technology and crime-solving, it is actually also fairly easy to get into. No convoluted timelines or decades-long story arcs to digest. All you need to do is to take a single step into its bigger world, and let each film and episode process the details of its lore bit by bit.
Looking for other non-convoluted and easy-to-watch episodes? Then might we suggest looking into our best short anime series list!