Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Thursday, August 30, 2007
Release Date: Monday, August 20, 2007



What They Say
The year is 2034; two years after Major Motoko Kusanagi left Public Security Section 9, the elite counter-terrorist and anti-crime unit specializing in cyber warfare. In that time, Section 9 has increased its appointed personnel to 20 operatives, with Togusa taking over as leader of the unit.

Section 9's latest assignment sees the team confronted by a rash of mysterious suicides involving operatives of the disbanded Siak Republic, many of whom had sought asylum in Japan. They manage to track down Ka Gae-Ru, a former Siak Colonel who has taken a hostage in the hope of negotiating safe passage out of the country. Confronted by Section 9, a fearful Gae-Ru issues a cryptic warning that The Puppeteer is coming, before killing himself. Investigations suggest that The Puppeteer is an ultra-wizard hacker who is not only responsible for the recent spate of suicides but is also behind a series of child abductions. But who is the Puppeteer and what is the connection to the so-called Solid State Society? An unexpected encounter between Batou and Major Motoko leaves the former with his own theory, one that is almost impossible to comprehend...

Written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG; Blood: The Last Vampire) and produced by the same creative team responsible for the hugely successful Stand Alone Complex series, this completely new and all-original chapter in the action-packed sci-fi saga is as thematically and visually breathtaking as its predecessors!

The Review!
The story of Section 9 continues in this all new OVA to follow up one of the best anime series of the past few years.

Audio:
For this disc I primarily watched the English DTS track, which was absolutely superb. It has a brilliant range, making use of both the front and rear speakers very well. The action sequences in particular come to life in this mix, with the varied sound effects and use of music making this one of the most excellent experiences I've had.
I noticed no dropouts or distortions on either this track or on spot-checking the Japanese DTS. The dub continues at the same high quality of the TV series, with the major players performing really well, as you'd expect.

Video:
Much like most of the TV series, this appears to be a film transfer 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 superb widescreen transfer. I didn't notice any transfer problems in terms of artefacts or other compression issues other than a couple of moments of compression issues during the most highly moving action sequences, but overall it looked very good.

The subtitles are in a decent sized white font with a thin black border, and are clear and easy to read. Unlike most Manga releases recently, they are also literally translated subtitles rather than dubtitles.

Packaging:
This release is available in two versions, one being a standard keepcase and the other being the limited edition tin case version we received for review. The tin is much the same as other tins released in the UK, giving the cover a nice metallic look. The main image features half of Major Kusanagi's face, with the other half on the back, while the movie's logo is at the top of the cover. Inside there is another wraparound image under the clear plastic, this time of Kusanagi diving into the net. The cover is very striking and the tin helps accentuate this.

Menu:
The menus are straight-forward, with a green theme and looking a bit like the insides of the cybernet we see in the show. The various selections are at the bottom of the main menu along with the logo, while music plays over it. The two sub-menus have the same theme and sound effects, and overall the menu theme is simple and easy to use and looks quite in theme with the movie.

Extras:
The second disc of the set features all the extras, and they're an interesting and varied bunch. First up is a 20 minute or so feature on Designing the Future Car, with footage from Nissan's unveiling of two concept cars that are featured in the movie. Next is a behind the scenes set of English production interviews running ten minutes, featuring comment from Kevin Seymour (ADR Director), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Kusanagi),Richard Epcar (Batou), Yutaka Maseba (Dub Producer) and Haruyo Kanesaku (Dub Producer) on the different challenges of the dub production. Rounding out the interview pieces is a conversation with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, the founder of Production IG.

In addition there's a lengthy feature focussing on the Tachikoma, called Making of a Tachikoma Robot, the English and Japanese trailers, as well as the hilarious Uchikomatic Days short. Finally there's the "World Work File", a great 30 minute piece that shows the origins of the movie with various interviews.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I remember being overjoyed when Solid State Society was originally announced. A brand new story set after the Stand Alone Complex TV series would always be something to savour if done right, and the release has been highly anticipated; indeed it's without a doubt Manga's biggest release of the year. And for the most part, it does deliver.

Set two years after the end of the TV series, Section 9 has undergone some radical changes. Gone is Major Kusanagi, who is now off doing her own thing, and so she doesn't play a significant role in much of the story. When she left Batou was offered the chance to take her place as the group's leader but turned it down; instead Togusa took charge and as such has undergone the most drastic changes. To fill his role he's become cybernetically enhanced, and although he still provides the most human view of things, it does take away part of what made his viewpoint so unique in the TV series.

Nevertheless, Section 9 has been trudging along and has grown considerably under his guidance. Its expansion beyond the core members is one of the most striking differences when the movie first begins. Their most recent investigations have led them to uncover a series of surprising suicides that are apparently connected; all of them were apparently orchestrated by a master hacker known only as The Puppeteer. But investigating him further leads to more and more conspiracies, including a series of child abductions and the use of people for his own means. As if that wasn't all, with no one having heard from Kusanagi in two years, when Batou comes face to face with her, she becomes the number one suspect in the latest case.

As you might expect, things in Solid State Society aren't entirely unfamiliar if you've seen the whole TV series. While Togusa has changed somewhat, becoming more stronger and steadfast in his decisions and proving to be a reliable leader, Batou is very much the same, following his instincts above what the evidence at time suggests. In some ways he is pushed a little to the background at times which seems jarring initially; despite him still being second in command to Togusa, as he was to the Major, his role seems a little reduced. But as the running time moves on, the usual suspects come to the fore and obviously the focus is around Togusa and Batou, and to a lesser extent Aramaki and Kusanagi, as well as the identity of The Puppeteer.

What that does mean is that some of the background characters get a bit shafted. The likes of Ishikawa always did in the TV series anyway, but some of the new faces in Section 9 remain nameless, and although that's to be expected with the running time of a movie to cram everything in to, it's a bit of a shame. It also leads to what is one of the problems with the movie " it suffers from some slightly awkward pacing. Whereas the TV series always managed an intricate balance between quieter character moments, action scenes and focus on the story, Solid State Society doesn't manage it quite so smoothly.

There are some nice character moments; the whole sequence with Togusa and his daughter, once she becomes involved in the kidnappings is nice and manages to bring everyone back together in a nice way, and some of the scenes between Batou and Kusanagi spring to mind. But trying to unravel the story of The Puppeteer at a slower pace, as the TV series would have, doesn't work quite so well and at times the story becomes a bit bogged down in exposition to catch up with itself, and on a few occasions becomes a but confusing for a few moments.

Of course, it's also more of the same, which will either be a good or a bad thing depending on your viewpoint. It plays out very much like a multi-episode arc of the TV series with a slightly more lavish budget; the action scenes are a bit bigger and everything seems a little larger in scope. But given how amazing the production values of the TV series were, it's not too surprising it doesn't go too far beyond its predecessor. It would be wrong to suggest that Solid State Society has major problems, because really it doesn't. The biggest of them all is simply that it has history working against it. The TV series was so amazing in its scope and what it accomplished that this piece would always be met with the absolute highest of expectations, and as such almost anything that was produced would have aspects that felt like a bit of a let-down. Taken into its own context though, as it should be, it's a very good movie with excellent production values, some nice music and most of the good things we came to expect from the TV show.

In Summary:
It was always going to be difficult to produce a movie to continue the legacy of the TV series and maintain such a high level of quality, but for the most part Kenji Kamiyama and his team have succeeded. It has some amazing action sequences, an engaging story that at times isn't paced quite as well as it should be and a cast of characters that I've come to appreciate as one of the best in anime. The Ghost in the Shell franchise has long been one of my favourites, and although it has a few problems, Solid State Society is nonetheless a fantastic addition to it and something that just begs to be watched multiple times to pick up on everything. Do yourself a favour and go and buy it.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles,Designing the Future Car featurette,English Production featurette,Conversation with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa,Making of a Tachikoma Robot,English and Japanese trailers,Uchikomatic Days short,World Work File

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
MSRP: £19.99
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: Solid State Society