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

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  • 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. #4

By Dani Moure     July 27, 2006
Release Date: July 31, 2006

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Vol. #4
© Manga UK

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 him 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 be done, as everyone tries to unravel the mystery of the Individual Eleven and discover the whereabouts of Kuze...

Episodes comprise:
13. Make Up
14. Poker Face
15. Pat
16. Another Chance

The Review!
Stand Alone Complex continues with some of the most gripping and intelligent anime stories you will find on DVD today.

For this disc I watched the episodes with the Japanese 5.1 track. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on either this track or on spot-checking the English 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 continue to really fit their roles well.

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. For the last two episodes, we even get translations for the Japanese portion of the episode title.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

The menus have a completely different feel for this season, and after an opening animation the main menu has a green 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.

The extras are much the same as past discs, with more interviews. Here we get an instalment with Director Kenji Kamiyama, Takashi Onozuka (Paz) and Toru Ohkawa (Saito), where they discuss their thoughts on the first two episodes. One of the most interesting points I thought was that the Paz episode was originally supposed to focus on Batou! The second interview contains some interesting insights as well, and this time Kamiyama is back with Sakiko Tamigawa (Tachikoma) and Yutaka Nakano (Ishikawa). 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)
The last volume of 2nd GIG really impressed me with its mix of great character stories and plot development. This volume just continues that trend, cementing for me this series' place on the mythical list of great anime television series. While the focus is slightly more on the characters in this volume, more so than the first season the ongoing Individual Eleven plot is always looming at large in the background, and we get some really, really good stuff here.

In the first episode on the disc, the focus is given over to one of the Section 9 members we haven't really seen much of " Paz. It all starts as the team is trying to find out more about Kuze, the man who ran off after the Individual Eleven's group beheading that closed out the last disc. They find out that only a skilled face sculptor could've created a face like his, and with only two possibilities the team hunts the pair down. But one of the men has been killed by the time they arrive, and when he appears the police on site recognise Paz as the killer.

This turn really drives the story to focus on Paz, and it allows us to get to know a lot more about one of the characters who has always been a part of Section 9 and yet we've never really found out much about. With the way the story goes as well, since both we and the characters all know Paz is innocent, the focus can be on his search for the culprit rather than the other characters fighting to prove his innocence. So while Section 9 are behind him and get the police off his back, Paz tries to find out who from his past would want to frame him, and it turns out there are a lot of possibilities. Paz is apparently a bit of a love-machine, and never sleeps with the same woman twice, and so naturally one of his lovers is hell-bent on revenge. She's quite freaky and it all becomes quite disturbing, but just getting to find out more about Paz and what he is like make this episode a real keeper.

The second episode follows in a similar vein, focussing on Saito, one of the other characters we haven't seen much about. Section 9 are assigned to guarding the Prime Minister as she welcomes the US foreign secretary for some negotiations, and Saito and some of the police officers assigned to protect her are passing the time playing poker. While the Tachikomas begin debating Japan's role in the world following the last war, everyone gets angry at their chatter as they play their game. But the machines do bring up some interesting points about Saito's game as he is winning nearly every hand. As the officers wonder whether he is just bluffing his way through every hand, Saito recounts a time when he was working as a sniper in Mexico and came head to head with some familiar faces from Japan.

What I liked so much about this episode is that not only does it show us more about Saito and how his mind works through the poker game in the present day, it also shows us his a piece of his past and integrates it with a look at a young Major, Batou and Ishikawa before they were a part of Section 9. Seeing what he thought of the Major in particular when they faced of one on one was particularly revealing as it explains why he agreed to join the team in the first place, and also gives an incite into why the team respects her in the way they do. It's always great to delve into the team's past and this is really no exception, especially since unlike the more tender episode with the Major as a child on the last disc, this time the team is in all out action mode when we see them.

Next up is what will probably be the season's token Tachikoma episode, as all of them are undergoing maintenance so they start to try to piece together parts of the Individual Eleven case. Naturally their group discussions lead to more pressing and diverse topics, like discussing their consciousness and how they think. Batou and Kusanagi take one of the Tachikomas out to investigate an explosion at an AI research lab, and it turns out that one Professor Asuda was inside at the time. But the Tachikomas begin to experience a strange feeling that they know this man, and they want to find out why they are experiencing these strange feelings.

While this episode is perhaps a little weaker in some ways than the first two here, I always enjoy seeing the Tachikomas and their different take on things. They're almost like children discovering new things, and the writers use them really well to parallel events and invite the opportunity to discuss some more involved topics. In this episode it's fun to watch as they gradually unravel their link to Asuda, and then explore their "feelings" once they have uncovered the truth. His story is also an interesting one, both for how it relates to the Tachikomas and also because of the views it brings up regarding working for the government and how, in some ways, it's almost as if when you do, you give up many of your rights over anything you do or create.

In the final episode on the disc, Kusanagi and Chief Aramaki have a meeting with the Prime Minister that sees them discussing the current national situation, especially the refugees and also how some of the politicians close to her are becoming corrupt. Meanwhile, Ishikawa brings Section 9 some new intelligence on Kuze, and it gives us an opportunity to delve into his past. Apparently, Kuze once served in one of the first Cybernetic Units in the Japanese Self Defence Force. In 2024, they were sent to assist a country in civil war, and on their travels they came across a refugee camp where the inhabitants were being slaughtered. The carnage that ensued would change the lives of the unit's members forever. While it's a bit heavy going at times, especially with some especially long scenes that are really dialogue intensive, I really liked how this episode showed us the history and a more personal side of Kuze, who thus far has come across as the season's main villain. It goes a long way to making him a much more rounded and three-dimensional character, and the story itself is a really emotional one in itself.

In Summary:
This volume slows things down a little and spends much of its time focussing on specific characters, a couple of whom we've never got to see a great deal of before. The quality of writing and characterisation in Stand Alone Complex continues to be of the highest calibre, and this volume just re-iterates exactly why this is one of the best show's in current release. Not only that, but it gets better with each volume and this season, in my opinion, has surpassed the first which is a major achievement. I continue to wait for the next disc with baited breath; go out and buy this series now!

Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles,Interview with Director Kenji Kamiyama; Takashi Onozuka (Paz) and Toru Ohkawa (Saito),Interview with Director Kenji Kamiyama; Sakiko Tamigawa (Tachikoma) and Yutaka Nakano (Ishikawa),Episode Profiles

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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