Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #3 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

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: 49.98
  • 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. #3

By Chris Beveridge     January 20, 2006
Release Date: January 24, 2006

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #3
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
After their prior confrontations with Gohda, Section 9 continues their investigations into the man and his mysterious background. At the same time, they must stop a wave of suicide bombers who threaten the peace and safety of Japan. And even when they're off duty, trouble manages to find them, as Togusa finds himself brought up on charges for actions he took while off duty.

The Major has troubles of her own as well. On a routine mission to field test some new recruits, she finds herself hacked and recalls a story that seems somehow familiar. Section 9 uncovers a suspicious file that they think is the Individual Eleven virus, and they begin tracking the man who attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister.

The Review!
As the Individual Eleven's plans become more apparent and those orchestrating it apparently stepping out of the shadows slightly, Section 9 gets deeper as the noose around their neck tightens.

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. 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 a pair of action figures you can put together in the form of Kusanagi and one of the Tachikoma, 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 entire Section 9 team in their black coats as seen in the opening sequence and it looks gorgeous here. 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 has a video interview with the animation directors as well as the overall series director. All of these are illuminating as they touch on pieces of the storyline that are in their "bible" for the show and from the manga but not always quite so readily apparent in the show itself.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With each new volume this series it brings so many new things that are built upon what's come before that you get a storyline where it's all evolving naturally and very rarely feels like it's forced or taking some strange creative leap in order to get to the next major plot point. Much like how the technology and gear in the show is evolutionary from our present time and not revolutionary, the story operates in the same way as it progresses.

This volume gives us an interesting progression of events as it works over both the larger storyline and some of the smaller pieces where even those tie in when you least expect it. The opening episode pushes further into the realm of the refugees and how public opinion is split in so many ways. Opinion sways more when refugees are apparently performing suicide bomb terrorist attacks on various locations that seem to have implications about the kind of business is conducted there. Those who have made money off of the refugees, even if in a positive manner, are being targeted by people with nothing to lose. There are some brutal moments as this is explored and we see what kind of people are being brought in to give their lives for the cause. The revelations throughout it provide some interesting leads that move the overall investigation forward in a few different areas.

A couple of episodes on this volume go with storylines that work to build the world and characters up as it explores the way things work. They don't seem to be part of the larger storyline, but much like in the first season, the things they provide and the way they can angle the perceptions just a bit to show something new is what makes them as good as they are. The first episode deals with an almost "Law and Order" type storyline as it follows Togusa going home after work where he runs into a girl being chased by a ruffian with a mostly prosthetic body. He manages to stop him by shooting down his joints before he can use his gun against the woman but Togusa screws up by not properly disarming him and the woman dies. The case turns more towards Togusa being at fault, being prejudiced and more inclined to kill cyborgs based on his work environment and a number of other variables. It covers some interesting laws that came into effect about discrimination of those with prosthetic bodies as well as the legal system in general but it showed an interesting angle that those who are working to change the world are using to handle Section 9.

The episode that proved the most interesting is also the one that's the most telegraphed unfortunately but it didn't detract from the story at all. During one of the tests given to a couple of the potential new recruits for Section 9, the guys are supposed to tail the major as she moves throughout the city. She ends up losing them but not by her choice as she finds herself in a different version of the city that doesn't feel quite real and could be simulated. It's all left to the side though as what it focuses on is a place called the Memory Shop where people off-load their memories and keep them safe. Inside an old style car are two full prosthetic bodies of children that apparently have a lot of meaning for the shopkeeper and she invites Makoto back to hear the tale when she has more time. As the story of the two children is explored, we learn a lot more about the prosthetic side of things in its history and it's fascinating to see how it reveals itself. The end isn't terribly surprising based on what we're given from the start but it's such a compelling piece. Stories involving children seem to take on a feeling much closer to home since I've had some of my own and ones like these where the kids have tough choices to make on their own only resonate more strongly.

One of the best things about this volume though is a couple of the Tachikoma pieces where Jameson makes appearances. Jameson in general is a character that should be used at least a little more in the main show but at least he does get used here. This time around he's ready for a fight with the Tachikoma's and it's just priceless. After the seriousness of some of these episodes having a brief bit that makes you laugh out loud so easily is very welcome to have.

In Summary:
The 2nd Gig storyline continues to be just as fascinating as the first season has been but in many different ways as it goes through a far more complex socio-political storyline. The first season did a fantastic job of laying out the world as it works and working with an enemy whose use of the net and technology helped to really understand the mechanics behind everyday life in this brave new world. This season simply feels more personal in a way since while they are chasing a group of what you could call evil doers, there's less consensus on each side about what's really right and what should be done since it deals with a very complex issue. When you add in some of the elements that become apparent in this volume by the people who are taking on the role of "producers" it becomes even more complex but even more enticing. This is great stuff and one of the best anime series ever made.

Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,Interview with Animation Directors,Interview with Series Director

Review Equipment
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.


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