Motoko enters into an online chat room devoted to the Laughing Man to see if she can find any new information on him. What she discovers is a spirited debate among the self-proclaimed "fans" of the Laughing Man, but very little hard evidence.
Public Security Section 9 is an elite special ops unit that works directly under the control of the Prime Minister. They've been called in to rescue a high-ranking government official from a hostage situation. But something doesn't seem right to Major Motoko Kusanagi. After some investigating, Section 9 uncovers a major espionage plot, and it's up to them to prevent a major international incident.
Kenbishi Heavy Industries has built a state-of-the-art multiped tank. There's only one problem--it's gone haywire and started moving on its own. Section 9 is called in to stop it, as the Self Defense Force will not get involved. Now, it's up to Motoko, Batou, and the rest of Section 9 to stop the tank and figure out what made it go berserk in the first place.
Across Japan, a number of old JRL type Androids (called "Jeris") are destroying themselves. Section 9 is called in to investigate this mass "robot suicide" because of a potential link to another, more dangerous case. The clues lead them to a jealous owner who may have taken his Jeri too much to heart, but what is his ultimate plan?
While working late, Togusa gets a call from one of his colleagues from his days on the police force. It seems that he's uncovered something strange happening with the investigators in the Laughing Man Unit, a special task force formed to catch the infamous cyber criminal known only as the Laughing Man. But before he can meet with Togusa, he's killed in a car accident. Now, Togusa only has an envelope full of seemingly random photos to go on--can he put the pieces of the puzzle together?
The Laughing Man, having returned after a six-year absence, threatens to assassinate the Superintendent-General of the police. Everyone is in an uproar over his return. Aramaki, however, thinks it's a cover-up. He briefs Section 9 on the prime suspect, Nanao=A, an incredibly gifted programmer who developed the micro-machines that are currently the foundation of Serano Industries. Still, it's just too perfect. The team splits up and investigates.
As Togusa and Bato track down Nanao, Motoko and Paz are attempting to protect the Superintendent-General at a press conference about the police misuse of interceptors. When the virus does hit, Motoko and Paz have to act fast to save the intended victim. Meanwhile, the road to Nanao=A hits a dead end.
Section 9 is on the trail of Marcelo Jarti, a South American revolutionary hero who has arrived in Japan. However, Jarti is a hard man to catch because he employs look-alikes to deceive people. Nevertheless, Section 9 is convinced that the one they're tracking is the real thing, and after a rather out-of-control gunbattle in an upscale hotel, they track him to an old warehouse. When they split up, Togusa, Batou, and Motoko each encounter Jarti--at the same time!
Motoko's friend Courtin asks her to come to the hospital where she works. It seems a little girl just received a heart transplant, but the donor's family doesn't remember ever agreeing to donate the heart. Seeing the little girl reminds Motoko of her own past. When she mentions this story to Aramaki, he tells them to determine if this is tied to a ring of black-market organ smugglers supposedly run by the mafia.
The Prime Minister is alerted to the existence of "hub cyberbrains," while Ishikawa returns from the peninsula to report on what he found out about Kuze's past.
The Major heads to Taiwan to investigate a lead on Kuze, and ends up getting involved with local gangs and a troublesome kid.
Batou and the Major are sent to Berlin in an international effort to help track down the terrorist Angel's Wing.
While tensions rise in the Dejima refugee camp, the Major hacks the refugee cyberbrain hub to determine Kuze's location.
After being ambushed by Kuze's followers at a false location, Section 9 is alerted to his true location, and his intentions of purchasing nuclear materials from the Russian mafia.The Cabinet Intelligence Service and Gohda are involved behind the scenes.
The tables seem to be turning in favor of section 9, but the nuclear missile is still being prepared for launch. The Tachikomas take control of the AI satellite, and take out the nuclear missile.
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