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



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Info:

  • 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. #2

By Chris Beveridge     November 28, 2005
Release Date: November 22, 2005


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


What They Say
On her first visit to one of the refugee areas, the Prime Minister receives a bouquet of flowers with a death threat in it. Section 9 is called in to provide round-the-clock security for her as they work to catch the would-be assassin. As they do their legwork, more and more links to the mysterious "Individual Eleven" are uncovered.

Meanwhile, Togusa is trying to unravel the reason for a man's suspicious death, and it leads him into the bowels of Tokyo and a government cover-up. Then, Section 9 is ordered to transport some dangerous plutonium out of one of the refugee districts, and the creepy Gohda is once again given command of the operation.

When it's all over, the Major and the rest of Section 9 try to figure out exactly how all of these things are linked together. These strange happenings can't all be coincidence.

Contains episodes 5-8.
Inductance
Excavation
Pu239
Fake Food

The Review!
Section 9 continues to investigate elements of the Individual Eleven incidents as seemingly unconnected events sprawl across the country.

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).

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
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 mouse pad and a deck of playing cards, 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 Goda. 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. In terms of the actual extras in the package, the mouse pad is pretty standard fare with an illustration of Kusanagi and Batou together against a blue sky. The deck of playing cards is a neat inclusion but the artwork used from it with the scenes from the episodes in this series just doesn't have quite a consistent feel or layout to it. Some of the pieces look good and I loved the Tachikoma's being jokers but it just feels like it lacks some real cohesion to it.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
All the extras are on the regular edition disc as per usual. The extras for the series have been good overall and this one has a two part video interview with the two character designers for the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The 2nd Gig arc of the Ghost in the Shell TV series is running in an interesting manner since it follows the Laughing Man storyline and while completely unrelated, it references it a surprising number of times. The Laughing Man storyline made some significant changes in how the operation order of the special forces, government and other sections have worked and now that at least some of them have learned from it, when something new comes up it doesn't play out in the same manner and it makes some intriguing deviations because of what's happened.

The role of Section 9 in this new world where they aren't operating as they were before has left them doing things that they don't like. Whereas they used to be an anti-crime unit that would go on the attack first and take out the enemy quickly, they're finding themselves seemingly becoming more and more the "lapdogs" of the Prime Minister but it's not being done in a really overt way. Aramaki is finding himself being called to her offices quite a lot and after she gets a death threat over the refugee status, things are decided to have several members of Section 9 become her bodyguards. This goes against Batou strongly since he doesn't feel that's their job but he does it. While Aramaki continues to do what he has to in order to keep the Section running as he wants it, he's not beyond calling in other favors and working with other groups. Curiously, Section 9 now finds itself having more luck and communication with the military than the National Police.

The storyline with the Prime Minister brings some new avenues that open up the storyline fairly wide. The death threat that she receives contains a symbol that turns out to be tied to a number of other recent crimes but there's no similarity or connection between the cases. While one group manages as the bodyguards the others begin the research side of the mission and through that we get some detail on what the Individual Eleven may really mean as we find out about a series of essays that were written that detail revolutions and what's required and necessary for them. It covers various historical situations and an interesting one in Japan in the 1930's that led to the country becoming a very nationalistic state ripe for entry into World War 2. This gets tied into the last war in the country as well and the refugee situation in general which is one of the main themes of this season.

Spread across this investigation there's the obvious attack on the Prime Minister that we get to see the group defend against and this leads to some new angles to be investigated but there's also a seemingly standalone tale that takes Togusa into old Tokyo. This is fascinating since we get to see how the reconstruction there has been going since the war thirty years ago and some of the fears that still exist about it, such as Togusa worrying about radiation. This story opens up into a tale that feeds to the larger storyline as there is discovered a pre-war relic in the form of a new active nuclear generator. So many little things are going on that have small tangents to each other that it feels like the Laughing Man arc is repeating itself, but as mentioned before there are more aware groups now like the National Police that can see these things and not take it for granted like they once did, which in turn leaves the Section 9 folks a bit more on the outside.

The four episodes on this volume have some key moments of action to them that really makes it shine but for the most part this material is very heavy on the mythology building aspect where we get to see a lot more of what makes up this country at the time. The refugee storyline is hammered home in a number of ways while the political side is playing out very different from before. The Prime Minister is a very different person from the other politicos we've seen in the past and as Aramaki notes, she doesn't seem like she's actively trying to use or abuse Section 9 but there are others in the government that may be pulling the real strings that are causing them to end up in the situations they're in. The thing that feels like it may be involved in this part is when we get to deal with Goda and his Cabinet Intelligence Services group. His distorted features alone point to something very different about him but as we start to dig into his background this time around it only opens more cans of worms that are needing to be exposed. There are simply so many different things going on in this series that if you miss a minute or two you can miss something really important that will be built upon for the next several episodes.

In Summary:
The batch of episodes we get here do a fantastic job of not only building upon the first four episodes of the series but also the entire first season which is well referenced and touched upon as it does mean a significant number of things will be different this time around. While the cast has managed to survive to this season, the world they live and operate in is not what it was before and things are far more dangerous for them and their attitudes reflect it. This series continues to be something that simply appeals to me on so many levels that I'm typically sitting on the edge of my seat literally for the entire time with a silly grin on my face because it just does so many things right. I cannot get enough of it and I cannot recommend it enough to people.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,Interview with Character Designers

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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