Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (also w/limited edition) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.98/39.98
  • Running time: 109
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (also w/limited edition)

By Chris Beveridge     June 08, 2007
Release Date: July 03, 2007


Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (also w/limited edition)
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
A.D. 2034. It has been two years since Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9. Togusa is now the new leader of the team that has considerably increased its appointed personnel. The expanded new Section 9 confronts a rash of complicated incidents, and investigations reveal that an ultra-wizard hacker nicknamed the "Puppet Master" is behind the entire series of events.

The Review!
Section 9 is back in the saddle but without the Major and with several changes to its structure.

Audio:
The audio mixes for this release are quite simply very solid all around. Four audio tracks are included and they take up a fair bit of space which does make things a bit tight in general. Each language is presented in both a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a DTS 5.1 mix. The two DTS mixes are unfortunately half-rate mixes at 755 kbps but still sound very strong while the Dolby Digital mixes top out at 448 kbps. We listened to this primarily in the Japanese DTS mix and it has a wonderful sense of placement and impact to it. A lot of scenes provide for directionality to the rear speakers that expand the moment. The action sequences are punched up a fair bit as well through this as well with the amount of bass used. The strength of this mix makes me long for a fully uncompressed audio mix.

Video:
Originally released to video in 2006, the transfer for this movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With an average peak of around 7mbps due to the audio tracks that are included, the DVD presentation for Solid State Society is pretty solid but not problem free. Most of the problems are however very minimal and not terribly distracting even at 70". The show is done in a similar manner to the TV series with its heavy use of cool colors so certain backgrounds, notably the metallic green corridors, tend to have a bit of noise to them. Some mild mosquito noise shows up in a few areas along certain edges but it's fairly minimal as well. The transfer in general is very good looking particularly with the constraints that it's under.

Packaging:
The Limited Edition release of the series comes in a similar metallic case as the TV series and has much the same look and feel that I loved from those. The front and back cover is actually one piece where each side has half of the Major's face while the background has various techno-net elements to it. The colors are very cool yet sharp looking. The main color is the purple of her hair which is highlighted all the more with the rest of the colors being silvers and whites. The case is well designed and really fits with the content of the release. The back of the case has a small paper insert on it underneath the shrinkwrap with a very light bit of glue that didn't leave any residue. The cover itself is kept relatively text free with only a few necessary logos and warnings along the bottom. The insert on the back covers the technical information and what's included in a clean format and without any sort of plot summary. The limited edition release comes with a bonus DVD of extras plus the original soundtrack for the film which is a huge plus.

Menu:
The menu design is handled by Nightjar and the quality certainly shows as this feels like a next-gen menu. Utilizing the CG from the show and overall design elements that are related to it, the menus have a great flow and ease of use to it. With some of the music from the film playing along to it, the motion sets the stage just right while still keeping things simple. Access time are nice and fast and the layout is very easy to navigate. The disc did read our player's language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
Main Disc:
The main disc has a couple of extras on it that are certainly worthwhile checking out. The first is a storyboard feature where a small series of storyboards plays along in the main feature. It's nicely done and has a lot of shots to it so as it plays back it doesn't hang much on any particular storyboard. The other extra is a priceless piece that runs about four minutes and deals with the Tachikoma's. It's basically a Tachikomatic Days special that deals with the Mark 2 generation in a highly amusing manner.

Extras Disc:
The second disc that contains just the extras has some really good material to it. The first is the "World Work File" which runs about thirty minutes. The feature covers what went into the production of the storyline and the world from which everything has been created. The story basics are covered and there's lots of material with the films creators that really flesh out what went into all of this. There's a Making Of feature that runs about seventeen minutes that shows what went into the creation of the actual Tachikoma promotional robot and some of the other things that the robots' builder has worked on. Seeing a Tachikoma of even this size simply makes you want to see a true to scale one come into reality.

Another neat feature that shows the forward looking nature of the franchise is a behind the scenes look at what went into the collaboration with Nissan to design the "Cars of the Future" that populate the series. Mixing in animation and real world concept cars, it's a fascinating look for both car enthusiasts and the casual fan. Another interesting featurette comes from Production IG with an interview with the companies founder, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa. This runs just under nine minutes and talks about the evolution of the show with them and the who and why of what went into it.

The English production isn't ignored here either as there is a ten minute interview piece with the people involved on this side of the ocean. From the ADR director to the cast members themselves, they get to provide their insights into the show and what draws them to it. Rounding out the extras is the inclusion of both the English language trailer for the film and the Japanese language trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success of the two TV seasons of the Stand Alone Complex series, it's little surprise that the franchise hits up a movie form. Originally planned as a couple of OVAs but then reconfigured to be a feature length direct to video movie, it takes the style and design of the TV series and makes it bigger and somewhat flashier. Unlike the theatrical movies, this one doesn't have the same kind of ostentatious feel in terms of the animation and CG mix that dominated it, particularly the second one.

Taking place two years after the 2nd Gig series, Section 9 is a fairly different place. Major Motoko Kusanagi has been gone since the end of the incident that 2nd Gig revolved around and has since been working through her own investigations and jobs. After being so involved in an organization for such a long time she started to feel that she couldn't accomplish anything substantial there and opted to try things alone for awhile. Section 9 on the other hand has decided to expand its organization in order to deal with the future. That future is one where Aramaki has to set the course for as he knows he won't be around forever. The complexity of the crimes that they investigate and attempt to stop are only going to get worse as society changes and becomes even more connected to the net.

While the expansion of the personnel involved in Section 9 is one of the bigger changes, the biggest change revolves around Togusa. After Batou turned down the job of being the squad commander when the Major left, Togusa took up the role and has really grown into it during the two years. Though he wasn't exactly a rookie during the TV series material, he was the one who wasn't quite as advanced or technically connected as the rest. That's all changed as he's taken to the implants and has cyberized a good part of himself in order to it. Togusa's become a bit more intense and dedicated in his work and even has the backing of his wife over it as she's learned some of what Section 9 is all about. Under Togusa's guidance and his own growth, Section 9 has evolved into a bigger yet more capable organization.

It still has its issues though as some of its members are more interested in the old days, such as Batou. With the loss of the Major he hasn't quite had his heart in things the same as before but he still works through the investigations as thoroughly as ever. The main difference is that he's not quite the team player that everyone else has become and provides that sort of black sheep of the group feeling. There's a bit of tension between him and Togusa over the chain of command but it's very restrained and not overplayed. The other issue that isn't dealt with too much but does impact how the show plays out is the loss of the Tachikomas. The second generation machines do get some use here after we initially saw them at the end of the 2nd Gig storyline but they lack the charm and personality of the first generation that won over so many people.

Not unlike the main storyline of each of the first two seasons of the series, the storyline for Solid State Society takes some time to be unearthed and teased out. Unlike those seasons however it has to be done in just under two hours which leads to some odd pacing. The lingering quiet moments that populated the series aren't as prevalent here. Initially revolving around a series of suicides by a group of tattooed men that may be related to the refugee issue, the show diverges into something far more disturbing as it deals with twenty thousand kidnapped children and a large coterie of Noble Rot Senior Citizens who have a plan of their own within the net. Mixing in a plotline about a Puppeteer and the Major's own investigations that are fairly elaborate, Solid State Society has a lot going on as it ties the various plotlines together into something cohesive and altogether creepy.

As engaging as Solid State Society is, the film does have some problems to it. The main one is the pacing as it does try to bring so many different things together. If it was done as two ninety minute OVA/movies it would have had the time to flesh things out and provide the pacing that the TV series is generally able to offer. The other problem is that it does feel like it's cobbling together parts of the different films and the TV series into something new. The use of the tag of Puppeteer alone brings back memories of past storylines. Familiar thematic elements aren't a surprise here since even the TV series brought in things that carried over from previous storylines but in this form, with the shorter overall runtime and the scope of the plot, it doesn't retain the same kind of feeling. Stretched out across thirteen or twenty six episodes with some world building material mixed into it would likely have given it the same overall impact as the two TV seasons.

In Summary:
In the end, after watching this in the dark with the sound cranked up nicely, Solid State Society does deliver in spades. The action is quick and brutal, the plot is convoluted but engaging and the characters dominate across every spectrum. This is a cast of characters in a setting that I've loved for quite some time and seeing them in a new storyline that has brought some growth and change to all of them makes it all worthwhile. Though there are certainly flaws to be found in the film, the end result is one that has left me very pleased and eager to see more. Bandai Entertainment's release of the film is solid throughout though there are areas where I hope to see improvements upon someday in another form. Solid State Society isn't the TV series nor is it the first two movies. It's an interesting hybrid of both that succeeds on some levels but fails on others. It is however another gem in my collection that will get some solid replay value.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Uchikomatic Days,Storyboard Subtitles,LE: English Trailer,LE: Japanese Trailer,LE: World Work File,LE: Making of Tachikoma Robot,LE: Anime and Car Design,LE: English Production Interview,LE: Mitsuhisa Ishikawa Interview,LE: CD Soundtrack

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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