Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #4 -

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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: 49.98
  • 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. #4

By Chris Beveridge     February 28, 2006
Release Date: March 21, 2006

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #4
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
While on the trail of Kuze, Section 9 tracks down the person who made his one-of-a-kind prosthetic face. There's only one problem - the designer is dead. And the person who killed his is Paz, or someone who looks exactly like him!

Meanwhile, Section 9 has some downtime, which they put to good use. During a friendly poker game, Saito recounts his first encounter with the Major, when they were both looking down the barrel of each other's guns. But there's still a lot of work left to he done, as everyone tries to unravel the mystery of the Individual Eleven and discover the whereabouts of Kuze.

This special edition includes a collectible tin case, and two figures.

Contains episodes 13-16:
Make Up
Poker Face
Another Chance

The Review!
While the Individual Eleven storyline and the refugee crisis continues to build, this volume takes a few side steps to do some more personal stories.

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 Batou, Jameson (which is just a hoot) and a maid android. 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 in the foreground with Paz and Saito behind her done in a red filter. 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 voice actors for Paz and Saito as well as a new continuing interview with series writer Kenji Kamiyama.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This section of the 2nd Gig series takes a bit of a turn away from the build-up of the tensions among the population and the individual eleven themselves a bit in order to let the secondary members of Section 9 shine a bit more on their own. The main storylines do continue through of course and there are some very strong growing concerns over the course that the world is taking but when combined with the history we get through the other stories it all meshes together beautifully.

Section 9 has continued to undergo some changes since being moved after the first season and one of the things that it follows-up from the previous volume is the addition of a few new rookies to help flesh out the ranks a bit. These guys are still pretty much faceless at the moment but there are some amusing moments with them as they get ridden by Togusa and the others for their nature. What was most amusing was during one of the scenes where Saito is playing poker with them while on a stakeout of some sort, the Tachikoma's try to give them a light bit of grief only to get more in return and they just get flummoxed by it. The new guys certainly have a long way to go to fit in with the main crew of characters, especially since right now they really don't seem to have much in the way of personality or a particular skill set that sets them apart from the rest.

The two episodes that delve into the character stories are quite good here though each works very different angles. The opening episode has Paz being targeted by someone who is appearing as him killing someone who may be connected to the Individual Eleven case which in turn sets him to be a potential suspect. There are some really good moments here as the local police try to avoid giving up their case and it has a mix of reactions from the Section 9 folks over it. The ties to the current case are interesting and it certainly helps to push the storyline forward but it provides such a good simple yet effective look at who Paz is, you realize just how much of a cipher he's been for so much of the show to date.

The best story here though is the one that drops back to 2020 as Saito talks about when he had signed up with a Mexican group that was involved in the war. The tale centers around the one person who caused him as a sniper to be afraid and it follows the situation as it unfolded in the bombed out town where he was sniping at the group that was going by with a tactical nuke in hand. Naturally, this group is made up of several international folks including a "Rambo" type leader from the Imperial America, but it also had an interesting team of Kusanagi and Ishikawa along with a fresh rookie named Batou. The first meetings among these guys and seeing how they operated in the war itself is vastly interesting though the actual incident itself is essentially something we've seen many times before. What makes it work is the solid characters and the way the show takes the premise and builds upon it with the kind of technology that makes up the world at the time. Saito's just like Paz in that we don't know him well but this does a really good job of showing why he's so quiet and almost blank faced most of the time.

As good as all of this is and as intriguing as all the revelations we get about what the Individual Eleven means and the past we see of the one man who escapes the broadcast beheadings, the piece in this volume that had me completely hooked is the episode that focuses mostly on the Tachikoma's. The first season had a controversial episode in that it was a love/hate episode and this season does it again almost as the Tachkioma's are dealing with their views on life again. They've gone through a number of changes since their first existential moments which was apparently fueled by their use of natural oil but it appears they're still quite individual even without that. They've been allowed to keep this individuality but have some intriguing ideas about it that tie into how they've been changed, such as a view from above and plenty of discussions about where they belong in the scheme of things. The way these machines talk and try to figure out if they're truly self aware is blunt and blatant in its own way but it's also fascinating since the method with which they approach it as a group in cyberspace is like a communal voice in motion.

In Summary:
While this volume is overall a very laid back piece compared to the high tension of the series overall, it serves a great purpose in being a break from things where it can delve more deeply into the required background knowledge that we need of both the characters involved but of the world in general. So much of the previous war is covered and the way that the super powers are acting and why help to flesh things out that this world is even more fully realized and fascinating. When all is said and done, both series definitely need to be done in a marathon viewing session to find all the little quirks and nuggets that have been hidden along the way. This series continues to be one of the best things out there that simply gets me more excited than just about anything else.

Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,
Interview with Voice Actors,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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