Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Official Log Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, September 29, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005
What They Say
An in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the explosively popular Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Contains 90 minutes of DVD footage and a 148 page book! This is a limited item - only 15,000 copies released.
DVD Features: Interview Archives featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with directors, producers, cast-members and studio executives, a 9th Studio Digital Works featuring report on digital animation productions by Production I.G, and a Full multi-angled analysis of all episodes from Season 1.
Book Contains: An Introduction to GITS - What is Ghost in the Shell? Created by Masamune Shirow, the world of GITS is thoroughly explained, including manga, movies, games and TV episodes; Character profiles, including Kusanagi and the other characters from Section 9 including bios, personality and combat data; Thorough analysis of each episode from the GITS creative team, including technical terms and background information; Interviews with the main character designers, mechanical and background artists and exploration of the artistic world of GITS; Stapa Saito's essay on GITS: SAC, in which he explores the advantages of the Cyberbrain life.
Hardcore fans of the franchise will definitely want to eat up this release especially since it's extremely rare for it to even make it to this region.
The audio for the DVD is in its original language of Japanese and with it being interviews and screen text, there's only English subtitles available for it. This is the kind of thing that while it may be possible to dub it's simply not worth the effort in any real sense. Overdubbed interviews tend to look and sound bad anyway and most anime fans don't really expect it of Japanese interviews and extras to begin with. The audio track is a standard stereo mix and it sounds good here but when watching clips from the show itself you realize how much it pales next to the various 5.1 mixes out there. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released back in 2003, the transfer for this DVD is done in a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio for the content of the show itself but is not enhanced for anamorphic playback. The other sections are all full screen material and basically what we've seen on some of the TV series discs itself such as the interviews archive. The footage from all of the sections looks great all told and just like it was on the TV releases in terms of quality. The animation sections look good but aren't as richly detailed as the TV releases since it's widescreen and not anamorphic but it certainly works in context for the material that's presented with it for the flashback sequences that talk about the show. Overall, there's nothing bad with this release in terms of video quality and it's easy to just press play and get into it.
The packaging for this release appears to be identical to the Japanese release which means we've got an A5 sized book inside of a black slipcover similar to how the first season of the series was presented. The book itself has a plastic dust jacket around it that you open from the back and then take off on the front. The reason you do this is that the front cover has an impression in it where the DVD is located, just above the book name which is also done in that light impression manner. It's a bit awkward but since this isn't a release you take out all that often it's not something I'd actually really harp on.
The menu for the DVD portion of the release is fairly straightforward with a static screen that has the logo in the center with the various with a background of multicolored lines that obscure numbers and basically has that high-tech look. The selections are lined along the bottom with a series of pictures just above them. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is quick and easy to navigate. With no language selection available there's no issues with player presets.
None really, this whole thing can be considered one big extra in a sense.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Official Log books of the Ghost in the Shell TV series are definitely items that I never thought would see the light of day over here. Four of them have been released in Japan with two covering each of the individual seasons. Similar in design to the DVD releases with the slipcover and with a lot of the material, such as the interview archives, coming from the TV series releases themselves, it provides for a great little concise and easy to reference set for the franchise.
The DVD release is really nice though its overall layout is a bit spartan. It's the content that counts and in this manner it really succeeds. The first thing you get is a series of flashback pieces that is accompanied by a subtitled sort of commentary that talks about the various episodes and how they all tied together. This is kept to the range within the first nineteen episodes of the series and provides a way of catching up on details that you tend to forget about over the long term viewing of the series. The interview archive section has what appears to be most if not all of the interviews that was shown on the various individual releases but also new footage and extended interviews with the people behind the series and runs about thirty three minutes in length. The other video piece here is the 9th Studio Digital Works feature which I believe is entirely new to this release and it covers a good chunk of video on how the production was done by Production I.G. and all that went into it. It's heavily subtitled and shows a lot of stills and how the work is done and runs about twenty minutes in length.
The book itself is where I think the real gold mine is with this set. This isn't something we get often here and especially as lavish as this one is unless it's something like a Ghibli art book. The binding for the book is a bit odd with the hard covers and the layout but beyond that the rest of it is fantastic. The opening section starts off with an interview with Dai Sato and moves on to talk about the comics and the movie as well as other aspects of the series. You get some good looking black and white pages with grayscale images and layouts that provides some solid information on the property and where it came from.
The next section is the character study which is in full color. It covers all the main characters from the first season and provides their basic data and what episodes they appeared in and what some of the things they were key to that episode that they did. Aspects of the character are covered in both text and pictures such as personality and their performance. It doesn't read bland like a roster or a dossier but rather in a way that you can reflect on what they did in the show with a bit more color to it. The story section follows from there with a look at each of the episodes through nineteen. They get two pages each and it breaks everything down for it with details and quirks that may have slipped by otherwise.
The rest of the book is done in the same manner as the first portion and covers a range of character designs, evolution of designs and interviews with the staff members. A follow-up section talks about the technology of the world that these characters inhabit and how things changed over the course of time. It's a fascinating look into things that the characters seemingly took for granted and that the viewer had to make the logical leap forward with in terms of understanding the changes. Having it talked about with the reasons behind their decisions is something that I find fascinating and enjoyed reading about quite a lot.
Not only is it rare for a series to get books like this but very few series actually deserve something like this. For that to happen and for it to be released in North America is even more of a surprise but a very welcome one as items like this are relegated to either being admired at online shops or actually bought just for the pictures and the shiny material but not for actual reading. The fact that we do get to read it all is of course a huge plus but also that the material is interesting and builds upon the show, revealing some of its secrets and parts of its nature that were implied before. This is the real essential handbook to most of the first season and a very welcome addition to any Ghost in the Shell TV fans library. Very highly recommended.
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: Mixed
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex