Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Pyrophoric Cult- Review

Pyrophoric Cult poster

AKA: Kokaku Kidotai Arise: Pyrophoric Cult, Mobile Armored Riot Police: Arise -Pyrophoric Cult-
Genre: Cyberpunk/Action/Crime Drama
Year Released: 2015

Distributor: Funimation (see notes)
Origin: Japan
Running Time: OVA, 50 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: TV-MA
Related Films/Series: Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Ghost Pain-, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Ghost Whispers-, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Ghost Tears-, Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Ghost Stands Alone-, Ghost in the Shell: AAA, Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie, Ghost in the Shell (2017 American Live-Action Remake), Ghost In the Shell: SAC 2045

For Fans Of: Texhnolyze, The Matrix, A Scanner Darkly, The Island, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Live Free Or Die Hard, Serial Experiments Lain, Psycho-Pass
Notes:

-The Japanese version was used for this review.

-This is the final Arise prequel OVA. It is important to watch the prior Arise episodes to know what is going on. This prequel series doesn’t end at Pyrophoric Cult because the story arc concludes with GITS: The New Movie.

-The Pyrophoric Cult OVA never made it to America, so I watched the final two episodes of Arise Alternative Architecture which is a TV recap of the entire Arise series to cover the events in the original version.
Fun Facts:
-Hilarious in Hindsight: When the names are given by all the dead American businessmen on the flight, one of those names happened to be “Michael Scott”. Was this an opportunity for Production I. G. to use generic English names or was that a serious potshot against The Office. Looks like Dunder Mufflin needs to stay away from Japan assuming if they’ll still be in business in the late 2020s.

-In the Japanese version of the Arise prequels, the Major is played by Maaya Sakamoto and does a good portion of the theme songs in this series. Some of her other work consists of voicing Hitomi from The Vision of Escaflowne, Reika from RahXephon, Aura from the .Hack series, and Mari from the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. Interestingly enough, she actually played a younger version of Motoko Kusanagi in the original Ghost In the Shell movie, so her being cast in the Arise OVAs is a callback of sorts.

-In 2015, Ghost In the Shell: Arise actually got a stage adaptation in Tokyo. Yes, one of the biggest anime cyberpunk IPs actually got to be on stage albeit with 3D backdrops. It would be directed by Shutaro Oku who is known for his work on Blood-C. However, Ghost In the Shell wouldn’t be the only time he adapted things onto the stage. Oku actually directed theatre versions of Silver Spoon and multiple iterations of the Persona video game/anime series. I can’t make any of this up.


It’s been way too long since I’ve reviewed anything related to Ghost in the Shell on here, but it’s better late than never. In the first year I started out, I managed to review multiple examples of the Arise series which take place before the original movie. I’ve had mixed to positive feelings about it, but I had the mistake of abandoning reviewing them especially with how hard it was to find the final installment of this prequel series. After finding out that the original OVA version never made it stateside, I had to find an alternative to reviewing it as well as FINALLY being able to finish this part of the GITS IP. I wondered if people were worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish typing my thoughts on Arise, but if you did, then you may worry no longer. The original adventures of the Major and Section 9 in the earlier parts of their career is finally coming to a close on Iridium Eye.

Will the fifth part of this prequel series be just as good as the original movie or will it be a disappointment like some of the other borders or like GITS2? Let’s plug in the Net and find out.



Pyrophoric Cult takes place right after the events of Ghost Stands Alone. Colonel Hozumi escapes with the Fire-Starter virus. However, this gets more dangerous as she’s attacked on an exploding plane. Another plane explodes known as Flight 381 which contained several American businessmen en route to Japan. The explosion was caused by one of the Ariel units. Section 9 gets word of the exploding planes and investigate the scene of an apartment of the fallen Tei Murasaka, but they find US agents already on the scene. Section 9 is forced to work with the American government to find out what went down with Flight 381 while also trying to catch the culprit known as “Pyromaniac” who is a virus/data broker with access to the Fire-Starter virus. Things get more complicated when Major Motoko Kusanagi is forced to work with one of her enemies Hozumi who is now just a severed cybernetic head and spine after her body was destroyed in the previous blast. Hozumi is the only one who knows about Fire-Starter and is a witness to these catastrophic events, so she is reluctantly used as bait to get Pyromaniac (all while making several overt and low key digs at Section 9 in the process). Pyromaniac is able to hack into so many systems as well as numerous cyberbrains which makes him a huge threat as they try to apprehend him. How will Motoko and her crew deal with this adept hacker while also dealing with the bureaucracy of the American government or her boss Aramaki?

While it’s been a long time since I watched Ghost Stands Alone, this was a good extension and I can see how the stakes were raised compared to the previous Arise chapters. The body count increases and Pyromaniac becomes so elusive while also being dangerously savvy in this storyline. He could’ve been some maniacal mustache twirler, but he is eerily calm in his plan even to the point where he lets himself be captured where he ends up being an even bigger threat to both Section 9 and the US Army after doing so. Motoko has trouble dealing with his hacking abilities and his forced to get more help from the Logicomas as well as the rest of her crew in order to stop him hacking people’s cyberbrains. Hozumi becoming an unlikely ally was a nice plot twist. The previous two Arise OVAs kind of built her up to look like she’d be the big bad of the whole prequel, but the plot twist of her in the exploding plane really shakes things up. Even though she’s working with Motoko, she is straight up about not being friends with her as she makes these little comments about how Section 9 isn’t all powerful or effective as they should be when it comes to cyber-crimes or how people have died under their watch. This becomes even more of an indictment when you consider that the beheaded colonel has nothing to do with Pyromaniac even though she wanted to use Fire-Starter for her own purposes, so nothing is her fault in this storyline despite doing bad things in the earlier installments. The fight scenes are well done with the rest of Section 9 having their own time in the limelight as well as the fights on the Net with Motoko and the Logicomas trying to stop the hacking or interrogating people online to lure Pyromaniac. The visuals were very creative with the data shields and the virtual fight scene where Motoko and Pyromaniac see each other in a war-torn background that looks like someone’s watching the whole thing with night vision goggles. While I wouldn’t call it Production I. G.’s best work from a production standpoint (GITS or otherwise), they did pull off some of the most creative images in the Arise series which I do appreciate. The plot was quite fascinating and I do want to see what happens next in The New Movie.

Pyrophoric Cult does feel like a small ember than a raging inferno at times. Going back to the animation quality, it is good most of the time, but the CGI gets choppy especially during the driving or chase scenes. This felt inconsistent like a processor loading something that takes more data or bandwidth which got distracting at times. The characterization got a bit repetitive at times like how Section 9 was constantly complaining to their “ape face” boss (Aramaki). I understand that he is a very bureaucratic guy and it’s a part of his character, but it did get over-emphasized with everyone on Motoko’s team bringing it up so much. I get it. You don’t agree with him all the time and there’s government red tape between two different countries, but you don’t have to make it so obvious about your issues with him, Section 9! While the plot and action still kept me intrigued, I won’t lie that I called one plot twist that happens in the 2nd half of Pyrophoric Cult. I don’t spoil what happens, but I knew Lt. Kurtz was up to something the whole time since Ghost Pain. Sure, I may not have known how this would’ve played out later on, but the fact that she was too eager to watch or even supervise the Major was a big tip-off that she would do something under the 501 Organization’s nose and get away with it. Ghost in the Shell, at least TRY to be more unpredictable in your plot twists because I saw that coming from a mile away that she would do some villainous things in the future. I’m trying not to be specific here in what she does, but I think some people who know about GITS and watch the Arise prequels will call that plot twist in how things play out. GITS fans tend to be very intelligent and don’t have to deal with fandom schisms as much as certain other sci-fi franchises (Oh hi, Star Wars! I’m looking at you!), so I know I’m not going to be the only one who saw some predictability in this part of the story.

This concludes my reviews of this prequel pentalogy for this beloved cyberpunk series. About time, I say and I apologize again for the long delay. Pyrophoric Cult wasn’t a high point of the Ghost in the Shell series, but this was still a good watch. The higher stakes of the plot was well done and I liked how legitimate of a threat they made Pyromaniac for Section 9. The fight scenes are well done in both the real world and the Net, so they get points on that. I do wish the animation production was more consistent all across the board and for that plot twist with Kurtz to not be so obvious. Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Pyrophoric Cult- wasn’t the best part of GITS, but at least there was lots of effort to make this worth watching. I’m sure this would still be better than that Scarlet Johansson remake.


Adjustable Point Scores:

-Add 1-2 points if you’re a diehard GITS fan.
-Add 1 point if you like cyberpunk or action in your sci-fi.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you want Production I. G. to be all sakuga all the time.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you want more consistently cerebral elements in your sci-fi.




Pros:

-Great fight scenes
-Very good progression of the plot
-Pyromaniac is a dangerous antagonist to everyone



Cons:

-Inconsistent animation quality
-That plot twist with Kurtz was too predictable since the first Arise border
-Some repetitive dialogue and characterization with the issues between Section 9 and Aramaki

Final Score: 7/10 points

Content Advisory: Like the rest of Ghost In the Shell: Arise or other parts of the series, this is for mature audiences only. The fight scenes get quite bloody and there’s a considerable body count in Pyrophoric Cult. Characters get shot, die by brain-hacking (it’s more disturbing than it looks), and the plot involves a giant plane crash. There’s even a scene that shows charred bodies in a picture which gets horrifying despite how brief the scene is. Hozumi spends 99% of her screen time as a severed head and is hooked up to a machine. The language gets very strong from multiple characters and Motoko is wearing a skimpy light pink outfit in the final battle on the Net. She looks naked at first with the coloration and digital lights until one sees she’s actually wearing something in the digital world.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Pyrophoric Cult- is property of Funimation. The poster is from IMDb and is property of Funimation.

12 comments

  1. I have still yet to see the Ghost in the Shell Arise series, so I’m skipping this post for now, as I want to avoid any potential spoilers. I’m a huge fan of Ghost in the Shell in general, so once I find some time to watch them myself, I will get back to this post😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh man, I had no idea that this existed. I’ve seen all the other Arise things, but why didn’t this make it over here? Ok, I’m going to have to check this out at some point because it’s Ghost in the Shell.

    Oh, I finally watched Madox-01 last night. It was pretty fun. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup. I had trouble finding the final part of the Arise prequels. The only way I saw it was watching the final two episodes of GITS: AAA on Google Play since AAA is the whole Arise series in TV form with each movie split into 2 episodes apiece. I wonder why the actual film didn’t get licensed of all things like the rest of them.

      Nice! That was a fun anime. I can’t wait for the review.

      Liked by 1 person

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