Ghost in the Shell: Innocence Music Anthology Special Edition (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, July 11, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2005



What They Say
From DreamWorks’ Pictures “Ghost in the Shell2: Innocence” comes the stunningly gorgeous collection of animated music videos from Production I.G. (Kill Bill) presented in anamorphic widescreen and multi-channel surround sound. This DVD is considered as another version of “Innocence” due to its wonderful fusion between the deep and grandiose visuals of Mamoru Ishii and the creative sounds by Kenji Kawaii that imparts the heart and soul to its beautiful imagery.\

► Special Edition Collector’s Embossed Case!

► Special edition also includes Original Motion Picture Soundtrack of “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence CD + Music Anthology DVD!

► 12 breathtaking tracks from the Original Motion Picture

► 7 Anamorphic Widescreen Music Videos Plus 2 Bonus Videos!

The Review!
Combining the better elements from the film, namely the visuals and the music, this music video anthology is a nice showcase of high quality animation and expressive music.

Audio:
With there being only one language track for this release, the real dependency here is what format you listened to it in. They've provided some interesting choices such as the Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes but also something of a Stereo Surround mix with DVX. We opted for the DTS 5.1 mix for our session as I've continuously enjoyed music encoded in that format and this was no exception. The mix isn't a very immersive one for surround channels but when it does utilize them it comes across beautifully and very warm and filling. In flipping through to the other tracks I didn't notice all that much of a difference in the end but it was only some spot listening and not a full through session.

Video:
Using the materials from the theatrical run that was originally in theaters in 2004, the transfer for this anthology is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer here is just stunning, much like the DreamWorks release. The detail visible is gorgeous, the colors beautifully sharp and layered and just a great presentation overall. The look and feel of the transfer is very reminiscent of the theatrical release and it's just so pleasing on the eyes that it draws you in easily enough.

Packaging:
Anyone who paid attention to the solicitation for this release of the special edition is going to come away at least a little disappointed if not outright upset. Solicited as a "Collector’s Embossed Case" and with the accompanying image of what looked to be a tin case as seen on some other releases, what we actually get is an embossed cardboard slipcover over a regular keepcase with a flippy hinge inside to hold the two discs. The embossed slipcover has one of the standard images used to promote the film with the basset hound and Motoko's strewn apart body across a silver background. It's definitely eye-catching and the back of the slipcover is well done in laying out the features and summaries for both discs clean and clearly. But it's certainly not what I expected based off of the solicitation. The keepcase itself is essentially the same but instead of the embossed and glossy silver it's more of a flat gray and far less vibrant colors all around. The interior packaging is very nicely done however; a CD sized front cover is included as a booklet that contains the English lyrics, a bio on Kenji Kawai and an interview. They also included the back cover to the CD jewel case that you can put the soundtrack in. The DVD insert provides a shot of the other standard image of the yellow filtered view of Motoko's body under plastic and opens up to provide both a Japanese and English set of lyrics to each of the music videos.

Menu:
As this is essentially replicating the Japanese release with a few tweaks for English, the menu has a nice and very different feel to it with a topographical grid where lines come up to where the menu selections spin around in dual languages. Moving about is pretty easy and the navigation is straightforward and quick to load. The look and feel of the menus fits the show perfectly and is nicely in-theme. With the disc being somewhat unique in its content compared to normal releases, we didn't bother with the players' presets since we wanted specific language and karaoke options.

Extras:
Listed as extras but I don't see why really, there are two more bonus music videos included in that section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the actual content of the second Ghost in the Shell theatrical film will be something that people will argue about for quite some time in regards to its merits, what's generally not argued is the films fantastic visuals, even if they are overly CG in their nature. The piece was something to behold the first time you see it and when combined with the rich soundtrack that was created for it, the film for many scenes took on the feel of an extended music video.

So why not just clip a chunk of the film, like forty-two minutes worth, and creative a series of music videos for it. That's just what the Japanese did and we get essentially the same thing here with this release but with a few changes to make it accessible to English language viewers. One's enjoyment of this is going to be directly related to how much you either liked the visuals or the music from the film or whether you're a completist collector of all things Ghost in the Shell based. The DVD portion of the release has seven music videos done in anamorphic widescreen to seven of the songs from the score in multiple audio formats as well as a couple of different subtitle tracks. You can check them out in Kanji, English or the karaoke version which has the Kanji along the top and the English along the bottom.

In watching this release, it felt like watching a purely shorthand version of the film but one with about 98% of the characters removed from it, leaving us with just the settings and some of the other interesting areas such as the parade scene or lots of flocks of birds flying around in sunset sequences. The visual appeal is definitely there and watching this on a Sunday afternoon certainly put me into a relaxed mode and if it wasn't for some of the more shrill sections of the choral sections it probably would have eased me into a nice slumber. And that's not a slam against it in any way. The score for this film has a definite lulling intent for many of its songs as it tries to get you to feel comfortable in the skin of the city it wants to show you.

The accompanying soundtrack which has an additional five tracks over the main seven of the DVD is essentially a what you see is what you get. If you like the music then this is an easy pick-up since it's basically just ten bucks more than the DVD itself based on the two releases available. If you don't like the CD then that means you're probably not a fan of the music which means you're probably not going to like the DVD much. But I'm glad Bandai gave us a choice since I'm sure a lot of fans of the films score already own the CD so they aren't forced to buy it twice, albeit at a far cheaper price.

In Summary:
There's little to really say about this release other than it's pretty solid and those that love the material from the film done as music videos to the score are going to enjoy it. The packaging is a big disappointment though but I think it's balanced out by the consideration of creating the jewel case inserts as well for those who want to store it with their CDs and not DVDs. This kind of release is the kind that falls under the category of "must have it" from the minute it was announced to the "no interest" category. It's a very limited appeal item but Bandai put forth very well with it overall and those who get it will in the end enjoy it quite a lot.

Features
Dolby Digital 5.1,DTS 5.1,DVX Surround,Japanese Subtitles,English Subtitles,Karaoke Subtitles


Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: NA
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: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 34.98
Running time: 42
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ghost in the Shell