Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex SE Vol. #05 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • 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 SE Vol. #05

By Chris Beveridge     March 18, 2005
Release Date: March 22, 2005


Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex SE Vol. #05
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
The theme of this volume is "Crime is Everywhere," as the officers of Section 9 are taken on a series of cases around the world. Section 9 chief Aramaki Daisuke is taken hostage by thieves and a corrupt police officer in London. His unit is later commissioned to prevent the assassination of the Chinese Foreign Minister. Subsequently, a wave of mass kidnappings puts Section 9 opposite an operative as powerful as Major Motoko.

The Review!
While teasing with only one Complex episode, the series continues to provide some fun and engaging stand alone episodes.

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).

Audio:
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. Right from the opening moments of the episode itself with the helicopters flying by, highly reminiscent of the movie sequence itself, you know you're in for a treat. 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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, this series is presented here in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Stand Alone Complex 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 in for one of the best looking things this year.

Packaging:
Being a double disc release, the keepcase is standard sized but contains a flippy hinge inside that contains the DTS disc. Using the original artwork from the Japanese DVD release, the artwork again proves to be one of the weakest parts of this release. We get another shot of the major on the cover in her military style uniform with a white background that's got large dots across it, but the angle, of the shot and the overall look of it just doesn't work. The appeal of the major in that kind of uniform is obvious but the way it's done just fails here. The front cover and the spine are both clear with the volume numbering while the back cover provides both episode numbers and titles. There are a few very small shots from the show used here while the bulk of the background is just mechanical in nature and not really meaning anything. There are a couple of paragraphs of basic premise summaries and material to give you the feel of the show. The discs features and extras are all clearly listed. The insert is once more a very text heavy piece with the couple of pieces on the shows creation, some done in a rather colorful way.

The special edition packaging itself is the same as previous volumes but with no extras that require more space since it's just an ID card, the slipcover fits fine all the time unlike the previous ones which had far too much open space to be useable once you take the extra item out.. It's an average cardboard box that's slotted down the sides to show off the keepcase artwork in an interesting way. It's basically an expanded slipcover that's in more of a traditional box mode. The ID card itself is a simple little plastic piece that serves as a Section 9 identification for Batou.

Menu:
The menu layout is very well done by utilizing the virtual menus the characters themselves use to access the net as the central focus with clips from the show playing there while various CG styled images play in the background. The very haunting opening song plays briefly to all of this as well but would have been better served by ending softly instead of abruptly. 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.

Extras:
For the extras on the regular disc, we get a pair of interviews. For this volume, we get a session with the mechanical designer and a separate interview session with the director of photography and the director of the 3D sequences in the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Depending on what you're looking for in this series, this volume may be something of a big tease in a way. For those looking for the Laughing Man episodes, that storyline does kick off again in this volume in the last episode and like previous ones it's very engaging, but if you don't care for the stand alone episodes it's going to be a long volume. Having become something of a fan of the various CSI incarnations in the last few months due to being so entranced by the visuals in the HDTV broadcasts, I've been enjoying the stand alone episodes in this series even more as standard near-future police procedurals so while I do want more Laughing Man I still feel I'm getting a really great release here.

When it comes to the stand alone episodes, there's a slight theme to them in that a couple of them deal with aspects of Aramaki's past, making him something of the central figure in the stories though his place in them is fairly fluid, just like any member of the Section 9 team. The opening episode has a nice change of locale by having him and the major in London for a conference where after its over he goes to visit an old friend who had left Japan some time ago to set up office here where she deals in the wine futures market. They don't delve too deeply into the entire wine aspect of it but they did do their homework to some extent based on a number of shows I've seen elsewhere. The episode plays out in an interesting manner when some low level mafia guys intent on leaving the mafia try to rob the place of some of its secrets with the most expensive wines but end up trapped due to some behind the curtain shenanigans going on with the management, the mafia and the police.

With the way everything goes down as it's Aramaki and his friend with the two criminals, they end up all having to work together to survive the combined assault that comes down on them. We've seen Aramaki in the field before but he really gets to have fun with this one in how he manages himself as well as the people who had taken him hostage. His verbal maneuvers are always interesting to watch as they play out and this episode lets him just have fun in a completely different setting with it. It also plays well into a later episode on this disc in which he has to handle a case where the son of a former war buddy, who is surely much more than that based on what we learn, has his cyberbrain overwritten with the memories and thoughts of his dead father and finds himself being corrupted by the streams of data and now set on course to assassinate a visiting Chinese official.

This storyline gets to be fun in how it deals with the aspect of memories being stored and unlocked as well as what can happen when they get loaded onto another personality. What I also liked a lot about this one is that it touches upon the war storyline again with the Chinese as this brings them into the country for the first time to pay respects at a particular monument where both a number of Japanese and Chinese had died during the war. The war itself is never really given all that much discussion and that's a normal way of dealing with it instead of providing continual exposition and flashbacks on it but it's given its due time with how those who fought and survived deal with it in the present. Aramaki's participation in it comes back in how he and another friend had been in years past with their teaching and training aspects and it helps to flesh out all the characters and the situation in total which is a very satisfying episode.

The Laughing Man episode proved to be my favorite on this release though since it lets Togusa, who is quickly becoming my favorite character, take the lead in the investigation or at least a part of it. With other information and scenarios constantly coming to light, the team is always keeping the Laughing Man case on the burner so to speak and with its widespread interest there's always lots of people trying to figure things out about it. Togusa takes a track this time in using the Salinger angle since part of the Laughing Man's "logo" uses a line from there and we get some interesting translation pieces to this. Togusa's been feeling like he's really failed since the hospital case where he's sure he found the real thing and between the Salinger idea, which everyone and their mother has looked at, plus the idea of cyber sclerosis being something much more key to the case than previously believed, his investigation leads him down a dark path that slowly starts unearthing some interesting parts of the government that have been keeping things secret for years. It's really neat how they reveal so many little bits but manage to avoid making it all one big dues ex machine kind of show where we can't figure anything out simply because we're not part of the time of the show.

In Summary:
With a higher ratio of standalone episodes once again, some may feel disappointed with this show but all four episodes continue to be part of a really engaging and detailed larger picture. This series really does feel like more than just the Laughing Man storyline and is continually growing into the kind of tale that I think the original material really needed to be told as instead of through things like one-shot OVAs or movies. While the show does through around its own amount of technobabble, they manage to keep it well within reason and generally don't use it to completely throw off the resolution of an episode. Just about every part of this property appeals to me and the episodes go by far too fast. This is one of the best series of the last couple of years that really meets a number of cravings in what I like to see.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,Mechanical Designer Interview,Director of Photogray & 3D Director Interviews

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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