Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #7 -

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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: 75
  • 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. #7

By Chris Beveridge     September 12, 2006
Release Date: September 26, 2006

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) SE Vol. #7
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
The Prime Minister has been taken into custody, but her removal from office is being kept secret. Aramaki and Togusa work to get to her so they can prevent a nuclear attack. In Dejima, the military begins its assault. The Major and some of Section 9 try their best to defuse the situation, and the injured Ishikawa tries to deliver the rest of the plutonium to the authorities to prove their case.

During the fighting, the Major and Kuze become trapped beneath the rubble together. The Tachikomas inform her that there is a nuclear submarine just out of sensor range. Batou, meanwhile, gets the rangers who are pursuing them to stop fighting and listen to him. Things are starting to go Section 9's way, but the nuclear missile is still being prepared for launch!

Contains episodes 24-26:
Nuclear Power
This Side of Justice
Endless Gig

The Review!
Taking all the elements of the series so far and taking them up several notches while mixing in the concept of Adam & Eve, Ghost in the Shell tackles fascinating material without flinching but comes off a bit anti-climactic.

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 front of the tin 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 Batou along with a Tachikoma in a firefight. 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. The only issue I have to take with the packaging is that on the tin itself and on the paper insert taped underneath the wrapping that lists all that's inside, the runtime is listed as 100 instead of the actual 75 that's inside. If they're including extras, they shouldn't be with a 75 + 25 format.

With this being the last volume in the series, the special edition has a box with it and comes at the same price as the previous volumes which is a bit of a surprise because it also comes with a new soundtrack. I'm actually really surprised with the tin box that holds the entire series because it's better than I expect it to be. It's basically set up the same as the single release tins but expanded to hold all seven. Instead of an open circle on one either the left or right side of it, there's one in the front so it you have it facing out you can choose to show the artwork from the reverse side of an individual tin. Or you can use the other side which has the series logo and slotted sections like the earlier cardboard sleeves which has face shots of various cast members. The flat side panels are done in the same manner as the tins where you had the illustration on the back side; one panel has a shot of just the Major by herself while the other has the great shot of the entire Section 9 team walking along in their black coats. What impressed me more is that inside the tin box, it's slotted with soft material so you can firmly place in each individual tin without them scraping each other. There's even a paper sleeve on the side the opens telling you which slot to put which DVD in with artwork. I wasn't expecting anything bad but I wasn't expecting to like this tin as much as I do.

The special edition release is also rounded out with a pair of goodies. We get another of the figures in this set which is of the Major in her minimal skintight suit with the cables but we also get the third soundtrack release. A number of instrumental and vocal pieces from the previous soundtrack releases are on my regular playlist so having a new CD to go through and discover is very welcome especially considering all that we get with this package that's priced the same as previous ones.

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 interviews for this series have been interesting to watch throughout its run, though I continue to dislike how the Japanese format for them has all the text thrown up on the screen and the "teen/pop" kind of method to it. The actual discussions and information that comes from the interviews is top notch though and this final one has us dealing with Kamiyama once more as well as various voice actors including the man behind Gohda. His view of the show and of Gohda himself is the most interesting I think since we get the view of the villain from the inside and from someone who I don't believe has participated in the earlier sessions.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The 2nd Gig storyline comes to a close with the final three episodes and it does its best to wrap up a number of storylines and events that have been going on for awhile. These episodes have a lot going on in them between the action and emotion of what's happening. It's easy to overlook some of the details during the mad rush to stop a tragedy from happening.

Similar to the Laughing Man storyline, the final ending to everything before the epilogue does feel somewhat anti-climactic and a bit flat, particularly considering all that happens before it. This season has revolved heavily around the refugee crisis and Kuze's efforts to bring it to a resolution in the series is something that has made it fascinating to watch. But the fact that this area is the one thing that's really left on the table when all is said and done leaves you feeling like nothing really progressed. Which in some ways is true but a situation like this is admittedly something that isn't quickly or easily resolved nor done in a way that does not create further problems and issues.

The refugee crisis is a situation where there are a number of possible solutions but politics will cause the majority, if not all of them as we see here, to fall through or simply become gridlocked. Where the 2nd Gig story went was to try and use this situation as a way to achieve something more through those who have the most to gain. The weakest part of the series to me is that when we first meet Gohda, it's completely obvious that he's the bad guy in all of this. It's an artistic choice to go with a character that looks like this and it could conceivably go either way but first impressions will almost always paint him as a bad guy. Sometimes it's good to know who the enemy is but part of what has made the first season of the series so interesting is that you were never sure who the Laughing Man was. And that's probably why it was a bit more obvious this time.

But even with knowing who the bad guy is, the plot is much more layered than that. Gohda's efforts of deception and counter-deception have worked out well in the show and as we see him manipulating events at the end here, from the Metropolitan Police up through the American Empire, it's entirely believable that someone with the connections and information at his disposal will be able to achieve such things. In particular I liked how the American Empire was brought into this season at first with the Security Treaty and how it impacts the country and then to rework things so that a powerful nuclear submarine becomes from there becomes such a threat to everything. Kayabuki herself has some good moments in these last episodes as she deals with her frustration about being caught up in events like this and how she refuses to play along to Gohda's script. Aramaki and Section 9 have been key in this regard and the payoff for them is beautiful in the long run. A group like them can definitely be dangerous to have around but sometimes the positives outweigh that.

Two things in these last episodes especially moved me. The first was the unfortunately obvious and blatant religious symbolism used as we learned about Kuze's real intentions with the nuclear material. His actual plan I think is an amazing thing and in that kind of culture that is so incredibly wired very believable. I even had no problem in believing that the Major, faced with the situation she was in when trapped with Kuze, would agree that it would be something worth trying as an alternative to certain death. Where the symbolism was too overt but at least not as completely over the top as say certain scenes in Neon Genesis Evangelion is that as the end is almost near, she and Kuze are holding each other and she realizes she's holding a green apple in her hand. At the same time, you have Batou above ground hammering away at it with a cross shaped steel beam section from the rubble. The Adam & Eve aspect of it I loved considering what Kuze was trying to achieve, but they hammered it over your head even further with what Batou was doing.

The other thing that really moved me is how full circle the entire Tachikoma experience came with this volume. We've had intriguing bits about their development throughout both seasons with their artificial intelligence and move to sentience but it was less pronounced in this season but still present. Their focus is pretty strong in these episodes since they're the eyes through which all of the subplots are tied together as they watch over everyone and they also have a grasp of other events going on that are affecting the overall storyline. Seeing how they react to what the Major and Kuze have planned and coming up with their own plan " which is beautifully executed and with the perfect song no less " and the impact it has on everyone around this is just profound. If anything, it lets you be disappointed in the human characters because of how they react " or don't react may be a better choice.

As a side note to sort of cap things off, one of the best things about this season has been the Tachikomatic days. They've been great but these last three are the best I think there is. Having one of them paint themselves up in a Spider-man like color scheme and performing "Tachiko-man" while spinning webs and using very similar music is beyond words to me. I could not stop laughing and wished they did a million other parodies. If any show deserves a short form spin-off series, it's the Tachikoma's and their parodies.

In Summary:
The 2nd Gig storyline punched up the action over the first season while still doing a number of intriguing side stories that expands on the world at large as well as the technical side of everything. The franchise in general is something that really appeals to my tastes and just about every element of the series is appealing. While there may be some slower paced episodes, they all introduce something fascinating in the long run that helps to build up the overall mythos of the series. Similar to the end of the first it feels like things may not have been wrapped up in the way you expect, but the secondary plots take on more importance in the long run. 2nd Gig is a series that has plenty of strengths to it and view few real weaknesses. Looking back at this season, there's nothing that I can really find fault with that wouldn't seem like incredible nit-picking. With a great replay value and top-notch production values, this show is one that has plenty of mass appeal as well as strong hardcore fan leanings. Highly recommended on all fronts.

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 & Director

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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