While S.A.C. occurred in the `near' future, 2nd Gig, and the annotated film, Individual Eleven takes place in 2032. Prior to the dissolution of Section 9, and the resignation of Major Kusangi, the world experienced two `world' word from 2000-2015, and 2015 to 2024. The use of nuclear weapons marked the end of WWIII, and the consequent threat by the American Empire to do so again had kept the global forces in Japan at bay. As Section 9 winds down, a new threat rises. The increase in independent states and sovereign regions that grew from the chaos of the last 30 years has led to a divided planet with major questions on sovereignty and administrative jurisdiction.
As the director said in an interview, "In other words, we simply couldn't ignore the way society had evolved since the events of 9-11 That was the approach we decided to take, and I tried to illustrate a 21st century (near-future) war. But to tell you the truth, I couldn't avoid feeding back into modern reality." Given the war torn climate in Section 9 and the circumstances the Japanese people find themselves in a complex discussion of the reactions and actions of both the military and militants was the only possible scenario for the series.
The complexity of the 26 episodes, 2nd season, is simplified in the motion picture, "Individual Eleven". While the original episodes contain a more dynamic, more in-depth plot flow than the 160 minute film, the full 700 minute presentation is equally spectacular. With such a complex storyline, the editing and directoral decisions required for the short version must have been hellish. The resulting 160 minute `short' is riveting, and leads viewers through a nightmare world of politics, survival, semantics, and loyalties. As in any time of war, there are aggressors and defenders, and the forces led by the Togusa struggle with suicides, random acts of violence, and seek to uncover the "Puppet Master".
Amidst the intense plot driven "Individual Eleven" and "2nd Gig", several sub plots wind through the main tapestry.
With Section 9 investigating the machinations of the "Puppet Master", the Tachikoma's appearance adds another layer to the story. Similar to the Q Collective in Star Trek, they are robots endowed with sophisticated AI with a little free will and philosophical discussion thrown in. Ultimately, their sacrifice paves the way for the successful conclusion of the conflict that Kuze controls.
That brings us to another interesting plot line. Kuze, the lone survivor of the Eleven, fled to the refugee camps and soon became a magnet for other survivors. His silence, and ability to make cranes with his left hand, served as therapy and those around him offered their life stories. He disappeared from view, and his relationship with Kusangi was resurrected as both were cybertized.
There are so many themes and plot threads running through this series that a book can be written on them. Intelligent animation has the power to inspire, and SAC is very intelligent! The animation style is worthy of an Academy Award, and should be recognized as such.