Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #06 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2005
What They Say
Togusa finds himself in the hospital after being shot, but is desperate to impart what he’s learned to the rest of the group. It seems other clandestine groups have become aware of Section 9’s investigations and are determined to make their move against them. Major Kusanagi seeks to repair her prosthetic body after incurring severe damage in a battle against the government’s latest prototype weapon. When she discovers that someone is out to get her, Aramaki learns that this conspiracy goes deeper than even he expected. Meanwhile, the cyber-terrorist known as "The Laughing Man" re-emerges and abducts the president of Serano Genomics just as he’d done six years earlier. Is history about to repeat itself?
The Laughing Man story heats up in three of the best episodes of Stand Alone Complex to date.
The Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track was used for my primary viewing session. From the opening theme to the ending theme, the track is rich and vibrant providing action throughout the entire soundstage. Whether it is the echoes of footsteps or the staccato of gun fire, it resounds with crystal clarity from the speakers. There are no noticeable distortions, dropouts, or other problems. Music, dialogue, and action are balanced well and do not overshadow each other. It is a superb audio track that makes the title even more enjoyable.
Superb also describes the video transfer for this title; the colors are solid, deep, and lush. From dark alleyways to a sun-light highway, the world of Ghost in the Shell is highly detailed and stunning making for a visual feast. Cross coloration and other problems seem to be non-existent; this is a gorgeous transfer that immerses you in the story's world.
Japanese credits during the opening and ending are replaced with English equivalents. Subtitles are yellow for dialogue and green for the song translations; both are quite readable without taking away much screen real estate.
On the front cover, Kusanagi stands in on the street at night with the neon lights of the city buildings behind her. The series title is at the bottom with the volume number in the upper right corner. This is one of the more eye catching covers for the series, especially with the look in Kusanagi's eyes.
On the back cover, the requisite screenshots, synopsis, and disc specifications are rendered with a mechanical feel. The insert contains no chapter listings containing a summary of what the series is about along with a brief description of the concept of a "Ghost".
The menus are rendered as the net interface the characters use; the main menu features a loop of the opening theme song with scenes from the episodes playing in the center of one of the menu controls. The menus are sharp and help immerse one in the world of the series. The main menu does have one minor flaw, as it does not use a consistent color for highlighting a selected menu item. It is a minor nuisance but does not detract much from a beautiful and functional set of menus.
Your extras are two interviews with the various screenwriters for the series broken into a group of three and then a group of two. Both interviews were very enlightening on how the series was written and how it compares to other anime series they worked on.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There are only three episodes in this volume... only three. But, these are three complex episodes and are the best episodes of either style the series has produced to date. While the opening, ending, and Tachikoma sequences break up the episodes, they flow so well together that they could easily be a movie if the sequences were removed.
Togusa's investigation leaves him in critical condition in the hospital but not before he can tell Kusanagi to grab his memories for critical information. Section 9 literally sees the events through Togusa's eyes and discovers that the Laughing Man incident involves a vast political conspiracy.
Their only lead is Imakurusu, the scientist that denied the Murai vaccine's approval as a legitimate drug to combat cyberbrain sclerosis. And it just so happens that Imakurusu is listed in the secret file of people actively using the vaccine. Section 9, the DEA agents that ambushed Togusa, and even the Laughing Man converge on Imakurusu's location.
The end result leaves Kusanagi wounded, Imakurusu dead, one of the DEA agents turning into a stool pigeon for Section 9, and the actual vaccine file turned over to Section 9 by the Laughing Man. The DEA agent's testimony leads to the arrest of a very high ranking official in the Ministry of Health. As repayment for his daughter's rescue in a previous case, Assemblyman Kanzaki warns Aramaki that the official has very powerful friends. Aramaki should have heeded this warning more closely.
The DEA manages to pull a clever ruse that has Aramaki looking for clues about his long, lost older brother. The trail leads him to a shanty town where a trap is set for him; in a rare lapse of judgment, Aramaki fails to foresee this trap and is only saved by the sheer luck of Ishikawa getting the right pieces of data in time. The DEA also targets Kusanagi for termination as she prepares to switch into a new cyber body.
However, the Laughing Man has other plans for Kusanagi; in exchange for rescuing her, he gives her all of his memories that explain the Laughing Man events from six years ago until now. All he asks is that he be allowed to finish his job without interference from her.
The final episode slows the pace down and finally begins to reveal how the whole Laughing Man phenomenon began and what is motivating the Laughing Man. While not action oriented like the previous two episodes, the narrative does not drag at all and manages to suck you into the whole mythos. Finally, you are getting some solid details about what this complex tale involves; one gets so wrapped up in the storytelling that the twist at the end comes as a bit of a surprise even though one should have seen it coming.
Everything the series has built came together and blended seamlessly in these three episodes. There are too many memorable scenes to list them all, but each one shows the great care and effort the writers put into each script. Most notably, when characters like Kusanagi and Aramaki do something out of the norm for their character, it does not feel forced upon them as if the writers were struggling for a plot. Their behavior fits the circumstances and serves to deepen their characterization even more.
Aramaki is the best example as he struggles between his duty and the possibility that his older brother is still alive. When he visits the hospital, you can see the conflict raging inside him as the guard refuses to let Aramaki see his brother. Part of him knows that he should stay out of it and retain his code of personal detachment. Yet, in the end, we see that sentiment can cloud the judgment of even the smartest and most experienced person.
And Kusanagi's unusual loss of her cool in a situation also proves to be quite memorable. She is definitely one lady you do not want to anger. While the highlight of the series is the complex Laughing Man story, you can see that the events in the stand alone episodes help shape how the characters react to the events unfolding around them. No plot, piece of action, or dialogue is something that can be dismissed or considered irrelevant; it all affects the characters and how they deal with their jobs from that point.
From the instant the opening theme begins, Stand Alone Complex has me glued to my seat. This volume proves to be no exception as the Laughing Man story gets three straight episodes to really heat things up. Action and exposition are balanced incredibly well allowing the plot to keep building its momentum.
At its core, the series is a phenomenal cop show, but it blends in near futuristic elements in a believable manner. The technological advances are not used solely as convenient plot devices; they are tools that each individual in the story is using to their advantage. And with Section 9, the government, and the Laughing Man using every tool at their disposal, this volume is the best of the series to date and one of the best pieces of entertainment in general.
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Interview with Junichi Fujisaki; Yoshiki Sakurai; Nobuyasu Terato (Screenplay), Interview with Dai Sato & Shotaro Suga.
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex