Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #1 -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • 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
  • MSRP: 49.95
  • 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

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     September 16, 2005
Release Date: September 20, 2005

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #1
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
Section 9, Japan's high-mobility anti-crime unit, is back in action! The Major's got her work cut out for her as she leads her team on a series of new cases now that the Laughing Man case has been closed.

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, outmaneuver 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.

Comes with Limited Edition Exclusive Collector's Tin and Original CD Soundtrack.

The Review!
After a highly successful first season, Section 9 returns to service in the 2nd Gig series and slowly delves into the new major arc.

Special Note:
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. Right from the opening moments of the episode itself with the helicopters flying by, highly reminiscent of the movie sequence itself, you know you're in for a treat. 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 the CD soundtrack, some filler material and then the tin for the release itself. 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 and two other characters likely to be key in this series. 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. The extras are pretty decent for those wanting to know more about what's going into this new season as it starts off with an interview with the series director and then a second set of interviews with the art director and the conceptual artist. Combined, they run about twenty-eight minutes total.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Being an admitted Shirow fanboy that's been getting pretty much everything I ever wanted in animation form from him in the last year or so, getting even more of the Ghost in the Shell TV series in the form of this second season entitled 2nd Gig is essentially a dream come true. The first season was pretty much one of the best series that I can think of both in terms of individual episodes and the overall arc that didn't try to dumb things down or go with simple or easy explanations. Looking at the first four episodes of 2nd Gig where only one is part of the main new arc, it's looking once more like we're in for more of the same. And that's a great thing.

The end of the first season left things in an interesting setting as the Yakushima administration had been forced out of power and Section 9, while still alive in terms of its members, still didn't get back into operation proper due to what happened via the Special Forces bill changes. It's at least several months later and the Section 9 folks have been getting their new house in order, continuing to train and establish themselves but they aren't any better than a terrorist force right now because they still aren't legal. Aramaki's continuing to push for this and get the paperwork done – a hallmark of any massive advanced society – but it's not there yet. In that time, a new prime minister has come into power and she rode a wave of criticism over the previous administration as well as promising that her administration would stem the flow of Asian refugees into Japan and deal with the near crippling tax issues.

Refugees and taxes. It's given plenty of time over the first three episodes here in order to establish the setting of what the social unrest in the country is like. While the Laughing Man storyline focused on a particular criminal and what he was up to, we saw a lot of what Japan is like in 2031 and the implications of cyborgs, cybernetics and all sorts of other scientific advancements. The corporations and their control and balance of power with the government was explored and exposed. For this arc, it's looking very much to focus more on the social and individual level of things. The result from the fourth World War, or the 2nd Vietnam as it's called, has left a massive amount of refugees coming into Japan across five wards where they seem to live in slums or decomposing cities. With a lot of very cheap labor around they're taking up a number of jobs that people would do otherwise and it's causing all sorts of unrest.

This shows up in a couple of episodes in different ways. One episode brings the focus of the refugee cities to light when some errant AI supposedly takes on a life of its own inside of a helicopter when the pilot suddenly dies. It then gains control of several other helicopters and a refueler and heads to one of the wards and they fly around a radio tower for several hours and shoot down anything that's near. Through this we're able to see how the people are living there, the kind of anger that they have and how it can boil over but also the state of how some in the military are currently living. The Cabinet Information Security division finally shows its disturbing face as well and the Section 9 people go along with what he instructs but it has such a staged feel to it that you know there is much more to come. Aramaki's words at the end of it as he describes the refugee's situation make it all so clear.

The episode also has one of the most unintentionally funny lines. When the pilot dies, the support AI asks him, "Your heartbeat has stopped. Is there a problem?"

While there is once more a big element of political and social movement going into the show, it is filled with plenty of action sequences. The opening episode goes back to basics as they deal with a hostage situation and go through their prep and setup, which is fascinating enough by itself, and then the eventual fast break into action so they can take down the group. It's plenty violent with headshots, blood and bodies being twisted every which way. Nothing is really given the short shrift here as there's an episode where one former soldier keeps having these daydreams of what he'd like to do and imagines over and over the kinds of justice killing sprees he'd go on. With the restraints of reality removed from him he doesn't go over the top but he does kill and kill easily.

If there's anything I miss over the first season it’s the opening song. I really like the new opening sequence and the new song, but it just doesn't quite have that oomph and power of the first one that so completely had me hooked from the first beat. The new ending song is pretty much in the same boat in that I like it but it doesn't resonate as strong as the first seasons. In addition, the closing sequence for the second season doesn't provide the more relaxed and various character shots but instead goes to doing just data screens and the like.

But seriously, best of all, Tachikomatic Days returns! I feel like a child for laughing so much at such simple and obvious gags but these guys kill me, repeatedly.

In Summary:
If I hadn't known that the 2nd Gig was coming at the end of Stand Alone Complex, I probably would have gone into a depression. This series just calls out the true inner geek in me and feeds it heavily with what it wants. I watch so many series and have seen so much in the last few years alone but a very precious few actually get me being a complete fanboy over but this series is one of them. This new storyline has me from the word go and I'm once again in love and would gladly sign my soul over to Production I.G. to do more of these.

Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,Interview with Kenji Kamiyama,Interview with Art Director

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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