Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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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: 106
  • 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: The Laughing Man

By Bryan Morton     April 01, 2008
Release Date: March 31, 2008


Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man
© Manga UK


What They Say
The year is 2030 and six years have passed since a criminal known only as The Laughing Man swept through top medical nanotechnology firms committing acts of cyber-terrorism, kidnapping, extortion, and corporate espionage leaving no known suspects. New information is revealed to Japan's top homeland security force, drawing Major Kusanagi and Section 9 into the hunt for a suspect capable of hacking the eyes of every operative, obscuring all details of his appearance and leaving behind a trail of copycats and hacked cyborg citizens.

The Laughing Man tells the story of the entire first season of Stand Alone Complex as a 2-hour film.


The Review!
Take one 26-episode TV series (nearly 11 hours of anime), edit it down to around 2 hours, and this is what you get. While Stand Alone Complex had some filler to it, there wasn't that much - so has the spirit of the series survived intact..?

Audio:
Audio is provided in English and Japanese, with both languages sporting 5.1 and 2.0 versions. Unlike the TV series, there's no DTS track this time around. I listened to the Japanese 5.1 track for this review - it's an impressive piece of audio, with full use made of the available channels to draw the best out of both effects and music.

While I didn't listen to the English track myself, dub fans should note that this movie uses a new dub cast, and not the Vas used for the TV series dub, so don't be expecting more of the same if you stick to the English track.

Video:
Video is provided in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and is just about flawless. There are a lot of dark scenes throughout the movie, which can sometimes be problematic, but not this time - there are no obvious flaws that I was able to see. Apparently, a number of scenes were re-animated for this release, although I wasn't able to pick them out - animation quality is consistently high throughout the movie. A visual treat.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The main menu is represented as a futuristic computer screen (strangely reminiscent of an old green-screen monitor - old fashions always come back), with options for Play Feature, Audio Setup, Scene Selection and Bonus Features. There are no transition animations, making the menus quick and easy to use. Submenus feature clips from the show, but in a very washed-out and hard to see green.

Extras:
Extras comprise a new episode of Tachikomatic Days (in English or Japanese with substitles), the animated shorts that accompanied the TV series, this time featuring Batou's happiest memory, and the Stand Alone Complex Archives, a 32-minute behind-the-scenes special, with Atsuko Tanaka (Japanese VA for Motoko), director Kenji Kamiyama & others from the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Togusa receives a late-night 'phonecall from an old colleague, Yamaguchi, who's been working on a special investigation into what's become known as the "Laughing Man Incident", the largest ever case of corporate blackmail. His inquiries have uncovered some unusual activities by the investigation's senior officers, and he's looking for Togusa's advice on what to do next - but on the way to meet him, he's killed in a road accident. When Togusa learns of the "accident", he's convinced the timing was a little too convenient, and takes his concerns to Aramaki, who allows him some time to try and figure out what happened.

In the meantime, the Laughing Man has reappeared, and seems to be targeting those connected with the investigation. With the special investigation team having failed to uncover who the Laughing Man was or is, Section 9 are called in to work with the police to uncover his identity. Aramaki's got his own idea of what's going on, though: that the Laughing Man's reappearance is a setup by the police themselves to draw attention away from the scandal surrounding their improper use of surveillance devices, one of the issues that Yamaguchi had been so concerned about. Trying to uncover enough evidence to prove that theory, S9 launch a surveillance operation of their own, and it's not long before the Major discovers Aramaki may be onto something - but while the Special Investigation Unit does appear to have been up to something, there's also evidence that someone else is working behind the scenes - and with them apparently having the ability to hack directly into peoples' cyberbrains, no-one can be trusted...

As mentioned above, The Laughing Man takes the original Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex TV series, removes anything not related to the show's main Laughing Man arc, then edits the remainder down some more to create this 2 -hour-long movie. That's a long movie, for a start, and perhaps this edit's biggest problem - with this sort of edit, there's a fine line between removing too much to get the running time down, and leaving the movie too long to watch comfortably in one sitting. The Laughing Man ends up too long - every scene you need to make sense of the story is here, but it's really something I thought would work best split across two sittings, especially as some of the talkative plot-exposition scenes can be very dry going.

That's as close as you'll get to a real criticism out of me, though. The adventures of Major Kusanagi and her team are rightly held in high regard in anime fandom - Stand Alone Complex is one of the few series that fully lives up to the hype that comes with it - and this movie has all the elements that made the TV series as enjoyable as it was. It's beautifully-animated, the action scenes are fast and detailed, the political scheming that underlies the story is complex but understandable, and the core cast - the Major, Batou, Aramaki and Togusa get most of the focus here - are a believeable and varied bunch that are very easy to connect with.

The only question is, who is this aimed at? First up would be people who have so far managed to avoid the TV series, as this release gives you a way of trying the series without springing for the full 26 episodes - as an accurate sample of what the TV show provides, if you enjoy this, you'll enjoy the bits that have been removed just as much. Secondly, it could be considered a shameless exercise in milking the completists out there - there are some reanimated scenes included, so if you positively must have everything Ghost in the Shell-related (and the Tachikomatic Days shorts are well worth collecting!), this is another title you'll want to add to your collection.

If you've seen the TV series, though, and are happy with the way that played out, there's very little in this release to make it worthwhile picking up, other than as a curiosity. It doesn't improve on the TV series in any way, and without that there's no real incentive to give it a whirl.

In summary:
I've scored this for the benefit of people who are new to Stand Alone Complex - for them, this is a solid release with a very good story that's well worth taking a look at. Otherwise, think carefully before you splash the cash, as there's not enough new here to make this worthwhile to people who have already seen the TV series.

Features
Japanese Language 5.1,Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Tachikomatic Days,Stand Alone Complex Archives

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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