Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Release Date: Thursday, October 06, 2005
What They Say
The Laughing Man returns!
Togusa's in the hospital after being shot but he's desperate to impart what he's learned to the rest of the group. Others have become aware of Section 9's investigations and decide to move against them.
After a battle with the government's latest prototype weapon, the Armed Suit, Major Kusanagi's prosthetic body is badly damaged. However, when she goes to have it repaired she finds that someone is out to get her. Aramaki learns that this conspiracy goes deeper than even he expected. And once again, the Laughing Man has appeared. And just like he did six years earlier, he abducts the President of Serano Genomics. Is history about to repeat itself?
As Stand Alone Complex nears its conclusion, the Laughing Man story only gets more, well, complex...
For this disc I watched the episodes with the English 5.1 track. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on either this track or on spot-checking the Japanese 5.1 track, and a brief check of the 2.0 tracks displayed no problem either. The music continues to come across very well indeed, and the effort put into the various sound mixes really pays off. The dub is excellent and has some superb performances from the key actors.
This time, thankfully, I didn’t notice any glitches during playback. Benefiting from a transfer direct from high-definition masters, there are no PAL conversion problems that other series face, and the result is a gorgeous widescreen transfer.
The subtitles change again for this disc, but thankfully for the better! After the travesty that was the subtitles on the last disc, we go back to a font that matches the one on the US release, but is white text instead of yellow. The timing seems somewhat improved and, thankfully, Manga are now including the translations of the Kanji episode titles. Also, in what I believe is the first for the series so far, episode 22 has romaji subtitles.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are my least favourite aspect of the release, though they have started to grow on me. Manga have tried to do something different that fits in the show, but it's not something I particularly like. After a brief introduction the main menu appears, looking interesting with a computer-chip style layout. The menu options are annoyingly named, and while it's obvious what "Run Program X" means, it's a little frustrating that there's no "Play" function to jump straight into the show (and no way of watching all the episodes straight through), and that the Extras and Language menus are annoyingly named ("Explore Components" and "Execute Subroutines" respectively). The main menu has the opening theme playing over it. Those two sub-menus each have different sound effects, are different in style and have bits of motion in the background.
Each of the "Run Program" sub-menus acts as a launch for each of the episodes. Each has the option to play the episode, "View Source Code" (read an episode synopsis) or "Character Profiles" (which are the same on each sub-menu). It's a little odd, and also annoying that there's no scene selection menu. This kind of bizarre naming, while I appreciate that the producers are just trying to be creative, is something that annoys me. But in the overall package it really isn't all that bothersome.
There are two more interviews on this disc, both encompassing some of the writers on the show. The first features Junichi Fujisaki, Yoshiki Sakurai and Nobuyasu Terato while the second is with Dai Sato and Shotaro Suga. I found these interviews very interesting as the writing on the show is superb and one of my favourite aspects of it.
In terms of the other extras, the character profiles and synopses return and can be useful though aren’t really essential. The second disc again has a quiz, which is an interesting (if superfluous) feature, much like the game trailer that is also on the first disc. Overall though, it's definitely a worthwhile selection with the interviews.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this disc, we’re back fully in the swing of the “Complex” episodes, as all three are dedicated to the ongoing case of the Laughing Man, and things get more complicated but no less enjoyable. In a different way to some of the earlier episodes, these ones are excellent because of how well the complexities of the story are unravelled before our eyes. And while it may take a couple of viewings to fully take in all its intricacies, it’s such a great ride that I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t want to do it.
With Togusa having been shot at the end of the last volume, this one picks up with Section 9 having visited him and trying to follow the trail he was on. They nail things down to having to search for a man called Hisashi Imakurusu, the former Chairman of the Central Drug Evaluation Council. Kusanagi and the crew set out to get to him to find out exactly what he knows. Meanwhile, the Laughing Man is still doing his best to try and expose what he sees as the micromachine scandal that was covered up by the people involved, including Imakurusu himself. But it’s soon clear that Imakurusu may not survive, and it won’t be easy for Section 9 to get hold of him.
There’s a lot of early manoeuvring in this episode, as Section 9 is up against time since their key lead, Imakurusu is a target himself and no one really knows exactly what the Laughing Man wants or what will happen with his involvement. It’s interesting to see the different ways the characters react to Togusa having been shot as well, particularly Bateau who shows far more emotion over the whole situation since he also saw what happened to Togusa through his own eyes. Everything is built up really well to the massive action-packed finale which sees the Major get beaten pretty bad, and the Bateau helpless to capture the man they’ve been after for some time.
The next episode sees Aramaki storming in and arresting Bureau Chief Niimi, for instigating murder during an investigation and also for the death of Imakurusu. He’s soon warned by another politician though that Niimi reports to a man who has a lot of supporters. While Section 9 continues their investigation into some key people involved, Aramaki also has to deal with some sudden attention turned on his brother who he’s not seen in some time. The Major on the other hand spends some time having her prosthetic body switched to a new model, since it was so damaged in the last episode. And while the nurse may not have the best intentions, Kusanagi finds help from a surprising source.
The machinations continue here, and it’s just fascinating watching the events in this episode unfold. From the involvement of Aramaki’s brother considering what happened, and how he ended up getting completely set up, to the Major almost getting screwed but then getting saved by the very person she’s been chasing, you just have to sit back and admire how well the story keeps linking the characters and events in pretty surprising ways while still managing to be a cohesive narrative. It’s just riveting stuff and leads extremely well into the next episode on the disc.
Now that Aramaki is in hospital, Kusanagi takes charge somewhat as she leads Section 9 to investigate Yakushima, the man who was Minister of Health at the time of the Laughing Man incident. It all leads them to investigate Serano Genomics, the company that caused the suppression of the Murai vaccine in favour of their micromachine technology that seems to have been the instigator in the whole Laughing Man incident. Mr Serano has been under house arrest for the six years since the incident, so getting to him won’t be easy, but Section 9 has a grand plan to lure him out.
It’s so exposition heavy in the latter half that you really need to step back at the end to see how well crafted this episode is. Given the revelation right at the end (which I won’t spoil, but suffice it to say I was pretty surprised at what had happened) you can see how it all fits together, but it’s a great little ploy that sees the team using the Laughing Man to their advantage. What’s really going to be interesting though is seeing where things go now, and how the really unravel the case now they know so much of the detail of what happened six years ago in the original incident.
Once again I simply can’t wait to see the next volume, even more so since it will herald the conclusion of the Laughing Man story that has been so captivating and enjoyable throughout the course of the series. Stand Alone Complex continues to be one of the most consistent and, quite simply, best series currently being released. Go and buy it. Now.
Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles,Interview with Junichi Fujisaki, Yoshiki Sakurai and Nobuyasu Terato (Screenplay),Interview with Dai Sato and Shotaro Suga (Screenplay),Video Game Trailer,Episode Profiles,Character Profiles,Quiz
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
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