Ghost in the Shell was one of the first manga comics to take off in the West, in part because of the success of the animated film (or animé) that was based on it. It’s also an accessible length – two sturdy but standalone volumes that don’t require an investment of hundreds of pounds on multiple sequels. This book, Human-Error Processor, collects a handful of comics that sat between the two books but haven’t previously been translated into English and collated into a book format.
The three stories follow the characters of Section 9 from the original book on a series of murder investigations, which may be connected. Much of the action is of a procedural nature, seeing the characters nipping from crime scene to crime scene, searching for clues and discussing the case amongst themselves. Sub-plots open up as they go along and things get more complex when their investigations cross the path of another similar unit, while the perpetrator is clearly highly skilled at covering their tracks.
The writing is dense and involved, even more so if you stop and read Shirow’s commentary notes which, as with previous volumes, explain in minute detail why a character is walking a certain way or why a gun looks the way it is. It’s a bit like having the director’s commentary switched on while watching a DVD. We’d suggest skipping them on a first reading because they can break the flow and the story’s already dense enough.
The artwork is a pleasure to behold. Although a few of Ghost in the Shell’s trademark female cyborgs in insanely revealing clothing pop-up from time to time, the story isn’t beholden to them. Meanwhile, Shirow’s ability to create and maintain a coherent and believable near-future world, featuring seemingly telepathic communication and computer hacking, is second to none.
Fans of the previous volumes should certainly enjoy this as it offers much that’s similar to the original book, but the first volume is still the best place to start if you’re new to this seminal, if sometimes variable series.