Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex SE Vol. #06 - 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: 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 SE Vol. #06

By Chris Beveridge     April 26, 2005
Release Date: May 24, 2005


Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex SE Vol. #06
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Togusa finds himself in the hospital after being shot, but is desperate to impart what he’s learned to the rest of the group. It seems other clandestine groups have become aware of Section 9’s investigations and are determined to make their move against them. Major Kusanagi seeks to repair her prosthetic body after incurring severe damage in a battle against the government’s latest prototype weapon. When she discovers that someone is out to get her, Aramaki learns that this conspiracy goes deeper than even he expected. Meanwhile, the cyber-terrorist known as "The Laughing Man" re-emerges and abducts the president of Serano Genomics just as he’d done six years earlier. Is history about to repeat itself?

Disc one is the original Standard Edition DVD.
Disc two is the Special Edition version with English and Japanese DTS 5.1 Surround Sound.

Includes an exclusive T-shirt and a collector’s card!

The Review!
Though an episode shorter than the previous volumes, there's enough content in here for five or six episodes of any other series.

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, this is simply one of the best pieces we've gotten so far in otherwise very weak covers. This shot of Kusanagi is taken from the ending sequence of the show with the purple sunset sky and the backdrop of the lit city with her in the foreground. It looks really good. 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 the first volume with the large slipcover as there's a t-shirt inside of Batou in work mode. The other included extra is in the keepcase itself which is the next ID card, this time of Togusa. The slipcover is the nice big box size like what we got early on but it's more detailed and colored than that near all-black piece and I'd almost hazard a guess that it could hold a bit more of the keepcases than the first one.

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 some more interviews. This time, spread across the two interview segments, they talk with five of the screenplay writers about the series and their efforts on it. Of interest is Dai Sato who has had some of the better dialogue episodes in the series so far I think.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With only two volumes left to go in this series, the releases shift down a notch to three episodes each and it's practically painful to do so. The fifth volume had some good stand alone story material but it ended with a great cliffhanger of sorts with a Complex episode that demanded you watch more of the show as quickly as possible. This volume helps feed that need as all three episodes are Complex episodes and it's just pure content, revelation and action filled. While the last three episodes will likely have the best payoff, it's just as sweet as can be here.

With these three episodes, it follows up from the events that Togusa recklessly uncovered in the previous episode about the MHWL group and its connections to the Murai Vaccine and how they pushed things in the world of paperwork and bureaucracy so that it would be buried and not approved, allowing others with shakier proposals to get the approval needed so that various connections, favors and other insider items be properly addressed. Piece by piece we learn more of what went on all those years ago about the mad research into finding a cure for the cyber sclerosis problem and while it is disturbing, it's simply not surprising that the better and actually existing vaccine was given the shaft over the one that was patented too early and without any truly working samples.

With the attack on the group that Togusa was investigating, he's able to provide crucial evidence about how the DEA was behind it and this allows Section 9 to start making their moves across the board so they can start tying the noose up a bit tighter. It goes in a couple of phases as Section 9 sets out to protect those that are likely to be targeted in the clean-up operations from the DEA now that they've been exposed and this provides some really engaging action sequences and a lot of visual trickery in order to accomplish their goals. Those who were involved in the approvals and origins of the vaccine are being brought to the surface either as dead bodies or those that the Laughing Man wants to have repent for their sins and he begins to take a firm hand in things himself, sometimes even showing up in person to accomplish his goals.

The exposure of all of what's behind everything that the Laughing Man is after is fascinating as it's given over slowly and in different parts until it all starts coming together. It gets incredibly difficult to actually talk about it because it's so beautifully unwrapped and played out here that giving away any of it is a disservice to those that haven't seen it. In a way, the entire thing is very simple and comes down to a few key areas, but it's a problem that when it happened, others got involved to their own advantage and elevated the stature of others in order to hide their own doings. As exciting as all of this is and it's fascinating me to no end, I can also see it turning away some fans of the series because it's as complex as some of the more recent real-world corporate scandals in the U.S. in how complex it truly is and this is spread across multiple companies. But to those who love the details and the layers, these episodes are an amazing piece of storytelling that is quite memorable.

In Summary:
With these three episodes, Stand Alone Complex has firmly risen to the top ranks of series that will have a lasting impression with me and merit replay time. The detail to the story of corporate intrigue is exposed fully here along with some really good action sequences and character development. These are the payoff episodes and it's paying out in huge bills. This series had won me over early on with it being such a solid police procedural in the future but with a very narrow focused group of specialists but here it just elevates things even higher. This series isn't for everyone, but if this is the kind of material that gets you excited, these episodes will have you screaming out loud as each one ends. Great stuff, one of the best things I've seen in years.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,Interviews with the Screenplay Writers

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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