Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 14, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2006
What They Say
The Major, following a lead on Kuze, the lone member of the Individual Eleven who survived, heads to Taiwan. There, she becomes involved in some local "trouble" involving a kid and the local gangs.
Then, inexplicably, Batou and the Major are assigned to an international task force to capture the terrorist Angel's Wing. And while they're halfway around the world in Berlin, Section 9 continues their investigation.
Back in Japan, tensions at the Dejima refugee camp are on the rise; a full-scale confrontation looks imminent. The Major dives the net and attempts to hack the refugee cyberbrain to determine Kuze's location and stop them before the violence escalates any further!
This limited edition comes with a collectible tin case, 2 discs (one with Dolby sound and one with DTS), and three limited edition figures: Togusa, the Major, and a tachikoma.
Contains episodes 17-20:
The show hits up the international level again as it travels the world before it settles in to deal with the real growing problems at home.
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).
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.
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.
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 a regular uniform and with her hair doing a sort of virtual representation. 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.
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.
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 pieces as this one is similar to the previous volume in that Kamiyama is up again for an interview and several actors, mostly the leads, get interviewed as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Every time that I think that this series can't get better than it already has before, out comes a new volume and the episodes there simply surpass my expectations. With the fifth volume of the series, the show takes on a more worldly feel again as it spends some time in both Taiwan and Germany before it returns home to Japan where the refugee crisis has grown to be something fare more dire than they could have imagined.
The first half of the volume splits into two standalone tales but there are threads to the overall arc of the Individual Eleven. The political make-up of the world after two more world wars is certainly something that plays heavily into how the series is working, especially after the recent issues with the US/Japan joint security treaty. The first episode does an interesting jaunt over to Taiwan where there's a lead on Kuze having spent a considerable amount of time there. Kusanagi's there on here own doing some simple follow-up investigating with the local police she's been in contact with. The episode doesn't deal with Kuze directly and it does pair her up with a kid whose doing an interesting form of drug running but it does go into some of the myth behind Kuze and how he's able to win people over. The story as it progresses is something where we learn more about how known he is and how widespread the kinds of things he's done is. With Kuze being an influence with the refugees now, understanding how he gains peoples confidence is key to understanding him.
Before Kusanagi can return to Japan she gets sent off on a big international effort where top rated agents are meeting up in Berlin to work together in order to track down a terrorist that they've managed to get key intel on. Batou ends up joining her for the mission and it's focused far more around him as he deals with dealing with a blind girl who is seemingly able to sense him through his camouflage. It does end up tying into the main story and there's a very surprising emotional component to it that you don't normally see with Batou that really strengthens the show. I'm sure some will find it clichéd but the older I get and the more varied experiences I have that certain things like this can definitely have the kind of impact as seen here. The episode is really fascinating to watch from a visual perspective as Berlin looks great here and the outfit that Batou wears along with his stakeout style gives him a very powerful and effective feel.
When things get back to dealing with Japan, the crisis has grown worse as there appear to be events afoot in Dejima with the refugees where Kuze has become a leader among them. While he's been hard to trace and track down, the efforts to do so provide some fascinating dive moments and investigation aspects as Section 9 goes forward. A lot of it is like previous episodes where it's a slow investigation with a lot of tantalizing clues but we do get to see more of things from Kuze's side as he works with the refugees and sets them on the path for what he hopes will be their eventual freedom. His plan is definitely the kind where you have to be radical and think big with and he's got the finances to back it up " even if it's done in an entirely laughable manner. It's a standard plot point in a number of films but it always harkens back to one particular big move cliché.
As slow as some of these episodes get, there is a great tension to them as events play out. They almost all feature some good action sequences as well but it's the last episode where the action queues up both in the individual level and with things like the Tachikomas and other power suits. The show is very much an investigation piece but they punctuate it well with both big action sequences and some quick bursts of action as well. And like most of the other volumes, it ends in a most horrible place where you can't believe you have to wait for another volume. The action and story in this volume is intense across the board, which makes the Tachikoma specials at the end of the episodes all the more important and fun to watch, especially as they learn how to get high and get drunk.
I can easily understand why this show won't appeal to some people but for me it's a piece of storytelling and setting that just strike to the core of what I like. This volume provides more of a global scope on some of the changes in the world in its extrapolated future and it's fascinating to see how these places can shape the events or influence them back in Japan. The visuals, for Berlin in particular, continue to be a really strong piece of the series. Complemented by the fantastic scripting that Kamiyama is doing and Ghost in the Shell has risen so far above what the movies were like and what the manga was like as well. It's rare for the anime to be better than the manga and as much as I love Shirow's works, this is one of those exceptions to the rule.
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,Interview with Series Director
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, 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
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