Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG Vol. #1 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, January 23, 2006
Release Date: Monday, January 23, 2006
What They Say
A new beginning. A new threat...
Uprisings over the treatment of a wave of Asian immigrants threaten the political landscape, and the new Prime Minister brings in Section 9 to offer their services - but on a much tighter leash than they're used to. After being reinstated, they must stop an assassin who is killing high-ranking officials, out manoeuvre an incredibly talented thief, and unravel the reason a high-tech helicopter malfunctioned. And all under the supervision of the mysterious and disturbing man known as Gohda...
2. Night Cruise
3. Cash Eye
4. Natural Enemy
After the incredibly successful first season, it all begins again as Section 9 return for another season of Ghost in the Shell.
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 the voice actors finish the season on a real high.
For the second season, we appear to be getting a transfer direct from the high-definition masters, as there didn’t appear to be any PAL conversion problems that most series face, and the result is another gorgeous widescreen transfer. I noticed no problems with the transfer in terms of artefacts or other compression problems, and it did look really good.
As a note, the subtitles for the review disc were not final so I can’t comment on the finished version.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus have a completely different feel for this season, and after an opening animation the main menu has a green feel with the swirling circular logo in the background. Computer style sound effects play over this menu, and the selections each appear in a rectangular box across the middle. You can select each of the episodes, “System Parameters” (the language settings) and “Data Archive” (the extras). Selecting an episode takes you to a sub-menu in the same theme, except clips from the episode appear in the centre circle. From here you can switch episode, run the episode itself or “View Source Code” which displays a text-based summary for the episode. While they’re a nice enough theme, there are a couple of frustrating things. First, there’s no “play all” option, and after each episode you’re returned to that episode’s menu, which breaks the flow of viewing somewhat. Also, you can’t go directly into an episode without going through another menu, making navigation a bit cumbersome. And finally, the IDT Entertainment logo plays before each episode as well, and is unskippable, which is just a bit frustrating and needless.
The extras are much the same as the first season, with more interview instalments. As always they’re informative and interesting, the first with Kenji Kamiyama (Director) and the second with Yusuke Takeda (Art Director) and Hiroshi Kato (Conceptual Artist).
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It may have been the most expensive anime TV series ever at the time, but the people behind it knew they were on to a winner when the first season of Stand Alone Complex was a massive success. In the US it had a hugely successful TV airing behind it, and pretty much everywhere that anime’s been released, it had the name recognition of one of the most successful brand names in anime, Ghost in the Shell. It was almost inevitable, then, that everyone involved would cash in on the success, and the second season, entitled “2nd GIG” followed.
Given that the first season concluded decisively, the second season starts again, but things are quite different this time. The most cosmetic change would be that the series does away with the idea of “stand alone” and “complex” episodes, and replaces that with “individual”, “dividual” and “dual” episodes. We get three dividual episodes here, these being the stand alone stories of the season, while the final episode is a dual episode, denoted as such because it deals with stories surround the Japanese government.
With the outcome of the Laughing Man incident at the end of the first season, Section 9 was disbanded and although they came back together, it was all unofficial. The season opens some time after the first, with Section 9 still working together but not being officially sanctioned so lying low. But a crisis has come up that the police can’t deal with, and so the new Prime Minister calls on Aramaki to bring in his team and sort things out. A group of terrorists have taken hostages at the Chinese Embassy, and they are demanding that Japan stops accepting Asian refugees as well as that they do away with some of the refugee camps that are spread throughout the country. Of course, Section 9 want to take action but have to play a waiting game and then take a big gamble while they wait for sanctions to be passed.
The second episode focuses on a man who currently pilots a helicopter for the chairman a large organisation but at one time suffered through the fourth World War (also called the Second Vietnam War). He has started to spend his days jumping between fantasy and reality, and in his mind he keeps seeing himself kill the chairman over and over without giving it a second thought. There’s also an interesting purple-haired beauty that pops up in his thoughts on several occasions. Then we have Section 9 showing their true skills as Aramaki is asked to help out a businessman whose been the target of the cat thief calling themselves Cash Eye. The final episode takes place in a city’s refugee district, where a joint military operation goes wrong and sees a helicopter pilot dying and an AI taking it over. Other helicopters soon follow, and with Special Intelligence also involved, Section 9 is left to try and solve this problem with the minimum number of casualties.
In some ways these episodes are a little bit by the numbers for Stand Alone Complex, which becomes a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s the only slight disappointment with this disc, but on the other it works pretty well because it allows us to slowly get back in to the swing of things, reminds us of all the characters and what they’re all about and it gives us a chance to take in the change in setting.
The world has changed quite significantly, and while we saw a lot of the changes first hand in the last season, since then we have a new Prime Minister and plenty of changes politically. The public’s opinion of Section 9 is completely different now, with the media looking for any opportunity to use them as a scapegoat, and the politicians unsure of how to tread though they need the team’s help. Also, the situation with refuges has come to the forefront of the political climate, and is a huge focus of the current administration.
That heavy focus carries over to the episodes here as well. There are several references and remarks to the bad refugee situation in the country, and the creators are clearly taking the opportunity to explore some themes rooted in reality with this particular part of the storyline. While the earlier episodes, like the opener, allude to the situation and have it in the background, the fourth episode has a strong focus in this area as we take a look close up in one of the refugee districts and see the effects of the problem first hand.
Though there is some heavy stuff in there, the stories in each of the episodes are good fun and show off some good character moments. With only four episodes here, Aramaki and Kusanagi are really the only two of the core members that get to shine, the latter in particular in the third episode where she becomes a thief and plays a class role in outsmarting the man Section 9 are investigating. Aramaki does deal with all the political machinations in his stride though, and as usual he manages to use most situations to his advantage, and if he can’t then he’ll craft them as much as he can. There was also a welcome return to action for the Tachikomas after their exit towards the end of the first season. With them back it really felt like the whole team was together again.
As always, the action quotient in the series is right up there, and the quality is as good as you’ll see in pretty much any TV series around. There’re guns, heavy duty machinery and all sorts of other instruments used as tools as Section 9 take out the offenders, and the offenders try and take out them (and potentially others along with them). It’s all very well crafted, as we’ve all come to expect, and just adds to the entertainment of the series since the violence is used to move things forward rather than just for the sake of it.
Though this opening volume of 2nd GIG does play it a little safe in a few regards, it still proves to be a series of the highest calibre. As such, it’s easy to recommend since when you watch you can just become totally engrossed in the experience, the setting, the characters and the story. The production values, likewise, are superb and there’s really little to dislike here. Based on this disc, I’m confident this season will live up to the first, if not surpass it.
Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles,Interview with Kenji Kamiyama (Director),Interview with Yusuke Takeda (Art Director) and Hiroshi Kato (Conceptual Artist),Episode Profiles
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: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
Running time: 100
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