'Ghost in the Shell' Viewing Order: Where Does 'SAC_2045 Sustainable War' Fit in Timeline?

Ghost in the Shell is one of the most iconic franchises in anime history, as well as one of the most influential works of science fiction ever created.

So much so, that even if you don't watch anime the chances are that you've heard of Ghost in the Shell, even if it's the 2017 Scarlett Johansson-led live-action film.

And on Monday, May 9, Netflix released a new film within the franchise titled Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War.

But, given the franchise has a number of spin-offs, reboots, prequels and sequels, it might seem a little confusing where, exactly, this new film fits into the story. Here, we provide a helpful guide to the franchise.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War
Motoko Kusanagi in "Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War." Netflix

Where Does 'SAC_2045 Sustainable War' Fit in the 'Ghost in the Shell' Timeline?

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War is part of the Stand Alone Complex timeline of the franchise, and it is set in an alternate universe to the 1995 classic and its sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

The film is set in the year 2045, as the title suggests, and it follows Motoko Kusanagi and Section 9 as they prepare for battle against a dangerous new threat.

While it is being advertised as something new, the film is actually a feature-length recut of the first season of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, which is available to watch on Netflix as well.

Season 1 of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 consists of 12 25-minute episodes, whereas the movie is a two-hour recut of the same story.

'Ghost in the Shell' Franchise Viewing Order

Despite how many films, TV shows, and Original Video Animations (OVAs) there are in the Ghost in the Shell franchise there is no set viewing order, because they are all based on the same source material: Masamune Shirow's iconic manga.

Of course, the original 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie is the optimal place to start the franchise simply because it's so iconic. This film is then directly followed by Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which was released in 2004 and continues the story set up in its predecessor.

This version of the story has its own prequel, titled Arise, which was intended to also act as a reboot and can in itself be hard to keep track of.

First there was the OVA series Ghost in the Shell: Arise, which consisted of five episodes, then there was Ghost in the Shell: Arise - Alternative Architecture that recompiled the first Arise series into a new TV show, which set up the film Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie.

While Arise is a prequel, it doesn't quite have the same feel as the original movies and as a reboot it is not as well-regarded as the others, so even though it comes first it shouldn't be watched before the original movies. Still with us? Okay, now it's time to discuss Stand Alone Complex.

Stand Alone Complex acts as an alternate timeline to the original series, because while its main character is still Motoko Kusanagi, it's a different story, and the timeline overlaps with the original movie's sequel.

At the very least, Stand Alone Complex does follow an order of sorts, with the first two seasons of the original show leading onto the film Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society.

This is then followed by the SAC_2045 TV series and the Sustainable War movie, both of which feature the same storyline, and the show will have a second season that is set to be released on Monday, May 23.

The Timeline of the 'Ghost in the Shell' Franchise

The Ghost in the Shell franchise has two distinct timelines, and they follow an order of a sort, though there is some overlap between the alternate universes.

To help make it simpler to understand, here is a list of all the productions and the exact year they are set in the universe.

Original 'Ghost in the Shell' Timeline:

  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise - Set in 2027
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise - Alternative Architecture - Set in 2027
  • Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie - Set in 2027
  • Ghost in the Shell - Set in 2029
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence - Set in 2032

Alternate 'Ghost in the Shell' Timeline:

  • Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex Season 1 - Set in 2030
  • Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG (Season 2) - Set in 2032
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society - Set in 2034
  • Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Season 1 - Set in 2045
  • Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War - Set in 2045

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War is out now on Netflix.

10 Ghost in the Shell
Motoko Kusanagi in the 1995 original film "Ghost in the Shell" Manga Entertainment