Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • 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 Vol. #3

By Dani Moure     June 12, 2006
Release Date: May 15, 2006


Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Vol. #3
© Manga UK


What They Say
After their prior confrontations with Gohda, Section 9 continues their investigation into this man and his mysterious background. However, at the same time, they must stop a wave of suicide bombings who threaten the peace and safety of Japan. And even when they're off duty, trouble manages to find them as Togusa is brought up on charges for actions he allegedly 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. As Section 9 uncovers a suspicious file that they think is the individual Eleven virus they begin tracking the man who attempts to assassinate the Prime Minister...

Episodes comprise:
9. Ambivalence
10. Trial
11. Affection
12. Selecon

The Review!
Big revelations abound in the latest volume of one of the best series currently being released in the UK...

Audio:
For this disc I watched the episodes with the English 5.1 track. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on either this track or on spot-checking the Japanese 5.1 track, and a brief check of the 2.0 tracks displayed no problem either. The music continues to come across very well indeed, and the effort put into the various sound mixes really pays off. The dub is excellent and the voice actors finish the season on a real high.

Video:
Once again with this volume, we seem to be getting a transfer direct from the high-definition masters, as there didn't appear to be any PAL conversion problems that most series face (and the runtimes for each episode are shorter than their US counterparts), and the result is another superb widescreen transfer. I didn't notice any transfer problems in terms of artefacts or other compression issues, it just looked excellent.

The subtitles are in a decent sized white font with a black border, and are clear and easy to read. My only frustration with them is that, unlike the US release, the UK subtitles do not translate the Japanese portion of the episode title.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menus have a completely different feel for this season, and after an opening animation the main menu has a red feel this time, with a swirling circular image of a Tachikoma in the centre. Computer style sound effects play over this menu, and the selections each appear to the left (episodes) and right (setup and extras) of circle. You can select each of the episodes, "System Parameters" (the language settings) and "Data Archive" (the extras). Selecting an episode takes you to a sub-menu in the same theme, except clips from the episode appear in the centre circle. From here you can switch episode, run the episode itself or "View Source Code" which displays a text-based summary for the episode.

While they're a nice enough theme, there are a couple of frustrating things. First, there's no "play all" option, and after each episode you're returned to that episode's menu, which breaks the flow of viewing somewhat. Also, you can't go directly into an episode without going through another menu, making navigation a bit cumbersome. And finally, the IDT Entertainment logo plays before each episode as well, and is unskippable, which is just a bit frustrating and needless.

Extras:
The extras are much the same as past discs, with more interviews. Here we get an instalment with Animation Directors Kenichi Takeshita and Toshiyuki Kono, as well as another piece with Director Kenji Kamiyama, where they discuss their thoughts on the series. For a fan of the show, these are great extras giving us an extra background to the creation of the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the main plotline of this second season of Stand Alone Complex really beginning to hit its full stride, the stories continue to build on the past two volumes as the ongoing story just gets more and more intriguing with each revelation, while there's plenty of time for some excellent stand alone stories as well.

It's the season's overall arc that takes the focus of the first episode here, as Section 9 begin investigating a series of bombings throughout the city, but every time one goes off they arrive just too late. They start to combine the data on the bombings so far, and try to stop anymore. Meanwhile, Kusanagi is set on finding out more about Gohda, the new protagonist introduced in the last volume. She infiltrates the Intelligence Agency's supercomputer, managing (with the help of the Tachikomas) to evade their defence systems long enough to come face to face with an avatar of the man himself...

And for me, that was the most interesting encounter of the episode. Despite being a relatively long exposition scene, the face to face between Kusanagi and Gohda in the computer reveals a lot about his plans, such as the involvement of the refugees and what he's doing to try and incite them, and gives hints at some of the things he's planning. The great thing is, as well as providing a lot of information it also raises a huge number of questions. The backdrop of the episode really helps cement the revelations about Gohda's schemes, especially as the refugee connection becomes clear with the bombings. This was one of my favourite episodes of the season so far if only for the possibilities it introduces.

The second episode on the disc takes us back to a more stand alone story, as the focus is shifted to Togusa (who seems to get quite a few episodes built around him) after an off-duty encounter. He finds a woman being chased by her boyfriend, who's in a full prosthetic body with a gun in hand. Togusa tries to stop him from threatening her, but he's turned off his pain receptors, and despite several shots from Togusa the man murders his girlfriend. But it's Togusa that ends up on trial for using his gun off-duty, as the man hires a defence lawyer who's well known for taking high profile cases that show some discrimination against people in prosthetic bodies. Togusa is up against the wall in fighting his case, but the rest of Section 9 soon find out that the case isn't as clear cut as it seems.

Once again Togusa manages to get a strong episode centred around him, and I really enjoyed the way this trial played out. We're often reminded that Togusa is the most human of all the members of Section 9, seeing his wife and daughter a lot, and they're shown here just enough to keep that connection up as we see him stand trial. He's really up against it but it's easy to get behind him because we know he's a family man and has high moral values, which really adds an extra dimension to the episode than what we might get with another character who it's not so easy to relate to. The way the trial goes back and forth is exciting, and the involvement of the other members of Section 9 really works and shows the camaraderie amongst them all as well. It all adds up to some strong characterisation.

In the third episode, we get a rather intriguing and quite unexpected look into the past, as Section 9 is training for new recruits. Batou and Togusa are evaluating them as they track Kusanagi, but as you might expect her tricks are a bit too much for them. But as she's evading them, she comes across a memory store that contains many items of little worth to anyone but their original owners. She comes across two prosthetic bodies of children that give her a distinct feeling of nostalgia, and when she returns to the store to hear the story of the two children involved in an accident, it hits quite close to home.

This is probably the weakest episode of this volume, although I found it quite interesting especially as the backstory of the children was revealed. It was no real surprise, given the likeness of the girl's prosthetic body, that it was actually Kusanagi all along, but it gave a nice look into her past and showed a more vulnerable side. The final scene of the episode, with Batou and Kusanagi in the café, and her reaction and comments when Batou says he thinks the tests are a bit too difficult for their recruits shows an interesting change in her outlook.

In the final episode for now we return to the Individual Eleven story with a vengeance. Section 9 is investigating some files they've discovered on the Individual Eleven, when Kuze, the man that attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister, is spotted on camera. Kusanagi and Batou are sent out to find him, while Ishikawa, Borma and Togusa stay behind to continue to search for clues. Togusa attempts to find an original copy of the Individual Eleven essay, but to no avail, and when we catch up with Kuze and some of the other members of the Eleven it seems that even they may not have a copy themselves. But while Kusanagi and Batou are hot on their trail, they're unable to catch them before a sickening stunt takes place on live TV.

This was probably my favourite episode of the disc, as it really turns up the Individual Eleven story and even brings it crashing into the public eye with a real bang. Seeing Kuze interacting with the rest of the guys in the van was interesting, and how they seem to follow the ideals of an essay it would appear some of them, if not all, may never have seen shows how they're devoting themselves to a cause they don't even really fully understand. The revelation that it may never have existed in the first place is a bit of a shocker, but then the events on top of the tower broadcast to all on the news is something that will definitely have serious repercussions. It was definitely intriguing to see that Kuze clearly managed to get away amidst it all. This episode really does heat things up and I can't wait to see the fallout of the events here.

In Summary:
2nd GIG continues at a blistering pace in this volume, with some episodes focused more on deeper characterisation while others focus on developing the story. But one thing that's clear throughout all four episodes is the undeniable quality of writing and rich atmosphere that is present. In many ways so far this season is surpassing the first in my view, which is no mean feat indeed. With how things develop here, I'm immensely looking forward to the next volume, and I continue to give this series my highest recommendation. It's easily one of the best currently in release.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles,Interview with Animation Directors Kenichi Takeshita and Toshiyuki Kono,Interview with Director Kenji Kamiyama,Episode Profiles

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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