Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, June 09, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2006



What They Say


The Review!
The tensions rise as the Kuze's plans are set into motion as well as the CIS manipulations of them all.

Special Note:
The special edition release of this series features two discs in each keepcase. The first disc is the same as the regular edition release. The second disc contains the DTS edition, which is the focus of this review. This disc is essentially the same as the regular edition in terms of visual content and menus but doesn't have any of the extras, hence the need for the inclusion of the regular edition (which I have to consider something of a failing; the DTS edition should not have to rely on the regular edition to provide all the content. I would rather have seen the extras shunted onto their own disc at the end of the series or something else other than including what's basically a completely unnecessary disc outside of a few extras).

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese which is also a DTS 5.1 mix. This is one of the more active original 5.1 Japanese language tracks for a TV series that I've heard and it feels even fuller and more active and distinct in some areas than the Dolby mix, but that may simply be my hearing playing tricks on me. From ambient sounds to all out action and some brief dialogue, the mix is fantastic and quite encompassing. It's not a track that's active every minute of each episode, but when it kicks in, it's done for a reason and not so much a gimmick. We had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of it. This is a show where you kick back and crank it up and let it all just flow across you.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The 2nd Gig series is one of the most luscious transfers I've seen in a year of gorgeous releases. After taking in the first four episodes I'm hard pressed to find even one tiny thing to truly complain about, never mind even nitpick. Colors are gorgeous and solid, especially all the various areas of large soft colors that look to be amazingly solid and with no visible break-up even during pausing. Cross coloration is non-existent from what I could see, resulting in a smooth and clean transfer that just shines from start to finish. If this keeps up for the entire series, than we're again in for one of the best looking things this year.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is pretty tricky. The overall package is in a thin cardboard box that has the sliced back to show the artwork while the front has an open section so you can see the discs inside. What's inside is another set of the figures similar to what we got before. We've seen these tins in a number of other releases now but this one is different. The front has a wide open section underneath the logo where a clear plastic cover shows the inside where the two discs are. The back of the tin has a full piece illustration of the Major in her civilian clothes going down a dark alley that looks really slick. Inside is where the problem will be for some or a lot of people. Both discs in this special edition sit on top of each other in the mini-spindle. Now, to me, this is not a problem because the discs data sides are not touching each other. It's not as free floating as it would be as a single, but considering all I buy is spindle DVD+R's and stack them in the spindles when done, I've never had a problem. But there will be people who will be sensitive to every tiny particle that may show up on the data side and demand a return. The toys for this volume are a lot of fun as it has a new Tachikoma, a Jamison and a maid figure.

Menu:
Changing up the layout, we've got a faux green letterbox style used here with the new series logo and design along the bottom with the selections mixed into it while very green filtered bits of animation play throughout the center strip set to some of the jazzy upbeat instrumental music from the show. The general layout and design is very good though with quick and easy access and top level access from some of the deeper menus, a real rarity among most menu designs. Access times are nice and fast and my decks defaults were correctly read.

Extras:
All the extras are on the regular edition disc as per usual. While the extras may have a fairly standard feel about them as we get variations on each volume, they're continually solid. This one takes Kamiyama on once again as he goes on about the particulars of the plot as of late as well as the voice actors for Aramaki and Kayabuki. The Archives section makes an appearance here as it includes material from previous interviews that wasn't shown. As with a lot of this stuff, there's the potential for spoilers so it's best to see the episodes first and then watch it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The 2nd Gig continues to mess with my head as it rolls out more of the story as the final set of episodes are almost upon us. We were treated to some really intense action sequences towards the end of the last volume as Batou and the Tachikoma's headed down deep underground to stop the plutonium trade with Kuze but things didn't go well for Batou as the opponents, with stolen mobile armor suits, proved to be just too strong for him to handle alone. The arrival of Motoko and the others as well as some upgraded Tachikoma's starts turning the tables though.

Kuze's escape with the plutonium on board the ship is a quick affair but it's an exciting one not only as the Major tries to stop him before he gets away but because it sets a large scale search for the boat when it finally hits the open seas. The materials being out of the control of the government now puts the entire refugee situation in a far more unstable position, but it's very nicely kept under control due to the way there are some three million refugees that are linked to Kuze and able to know the basics of what's going on, thereby letting him manage their temper. His return to Dejima also shows some of the larger picture of the manipulations that are going on by Gohda and the CIS as they try to get their vision of the future into place by using Kuze. But as Motoko continues to wonder, is it turning in such a way that the standalone nature of Kuze is now the one that's really in control?

A lot of things start to come to a head as the refugees begin feeling empowered by their new status and their demands to be recognized as a self sufficient nation of their own. The obvious side of things is in how they start barricading and arming themselves, creating a perimeter to keep the Self Defense Army out of and at a distance. It's amusing at the same time because you know the commands of those with experience telling everyone else not to fire until Kuze says otherwise just won't happen as there are young men, boys really, who are there on the line with scoped rifles and a lot of fear.

What really gets me interested as this aspect plays out is the political and intrigue side as we start to get a better idea of global reaction, such as the American Empire working more through the Cabinet rather than dealing with Kayabuki directly since they don't think she's worth dealing with, or how certain ministers in the Cabinet are now pushing their own agenda and have no problem in saying out loud that they're going to get things in motion to have her removed entirely. The intent is for a bloodless coup and using the situation at hand to force it, regardless of what their neighbor countries think. It was also very interesting to see the Chinese complaints brushed aside so easily based on the fact that they didn't take in any of the refugees so their opinion shouldn't be headed.

This set of episodes, as short as it is with just three, provide a great balance of action sequences and intrigue but also some great character pieces. The shift in tone from Motoko is slowly explored, Batou gets to some great dialogue against Gohda and even the Tachikoma's get to show off against Sato with their upgraded sniper skills. Much like the previous twenty or so episodes of the series, everything is clicking into place as the puzzle pieces are revealed and it's all coming together beautifully. With some keen references to the first season and the nature of standalones in general, everything has a really connected feeling that's timed when the refugees themselves become completed disconnected.

In Summary:
The excitement really hits on a number of levels with this volume as so many things come together and we get the traditional explanation, sort of, by the "villain" about what's going on and why it's being done. So many people have been manipulated into pursuing an agenda that will lead to radical change but that change itself is subject to the unknown which puts even the most tightly plotted plan up in the air. With only three episodes left, it looks like we're in for a treat of major action and the final rounds of intrigue as everything is up in the air and where it lands could be entirely destructive. These episodes continue to cement the series in my mind as one of the best of the decade so far.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,Interview with Voice Actors & Director,Interview Archives

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Manga Entertainment
MSRP: 49.98
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