Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex SE Vol. #07 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A+

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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. #07

By Chris Beveridge     June 28, 2005
Release Date: July 26, 2005


Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex SE Vol. #07
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Section 9’s investigations have started to become a little too successful, and the truths they uncover hit too close to home for some of the higher-ranking officials in the Japanese government. Yet, despite the increasing political backlash the team soldiers on. But even they couldn’t imagine that their own government would turn against them.

The government has declared war on them, and they begin with an attack on Section 9 headquarters! But even with the latest in technology, will the military be a match for Motoko, Batou, and the rest of the team? And will the truth behind the Laughing Man incident ever be revealed to an unsuspecting world? Find out in the final shocking installment of the most aniticipated anime TV series in years!

The Review!
Bringing the first season of the show to a close and wrapping up the Laughing Man storyline, Ghost in the Shell continues to be one of the best series of recent memory that simply gives me everything I want from this kind of show and in spades.

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.

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, we get the interesting imagery of the Major kneeling down and getting close to one of the Tachikoma's. This is even more poignant considering the revelations made by her in these episodes. 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.

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 one final interview for this season. This time it's with Kenji Kamiyama as he covers his role within the show as the chief writer and dealing with the story and other writers as well as the characters themselves.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the last three episodes, the storyline is wrapped up nice and tight within the first two episodes and is followed by a wonderfully languid epilogue episode that spans a few months and cleans up pretty much all of the answers that may have been hanging, at least those that are in the forefront of the mind. The conclusion to the Stand Alone Complex arc of the show is done with the same intensity as most of the Complex episodes but has that extra oomph to it as you see so many things spiraling together.

With as much as Section 9 has been doing and the way they've managed to get all the dirt on Yakushima and have even seemed to have worked with the Laughing Man to get things all set and in place, it's not surprising that it all starts to collapse around them as politics and pressure from those in power comes into play and there's a flat out attempt at destroying Section 9 completely. And rather than just do it internally with a simple hit, it's done through a leak to the media about the group and their actions and tying them to other things as well as skewing the perception of what they do, turning them into a rogue government sanctioned death squad.

Even trickier, things are done so quickly that before those in the government can even condemn what they've been told about Section 9, the special forces have already started storming the Section 9 building and has started their hunt of everyone in order to secure them for questioning and detainment. Of course, Aramaki saw all of this coming as he was bringing the Yakushima material to the highest levels and had made some preparations for it and managed to get a warning off to the team, which leads to all of them hitting the ground running and trying to stay out of sight. Watching them as they do this, each hitting their own safe houses and doing what they can to survive, is engaging to watch as it plays out against the politics and drama that's unfolding throughout the country.

Each of the characters has an interesting angle to go on when they go into this mode, but most fall to the side quickly and even Togusa disappears for much of the critical episode though he makes out the best when the epilogue comes up. A good deal of time is spent with the obvious members of Batou and the Major. Seeing how these two highly seasoned individuals go to ground is a lot of fun to watch with Batou being more earthy about it while the Major ducks out into the net. What's even better is that we get the return of the Tachikoma's in this episode as they see the news reports about their friends and break out of whatever jobs they're doing to go and help Batou since they owe him so much. We learn so much more about these guys from this episode and they prove to be one of the most interesting characters of the show with their dialogue and the way they've grown into truly intelligent creatures with free will.

In Summary:
While in some ways it will feel like the entire Laughing Man arc ends with a soft sound rather than a bang, everything leading up to it is filled with plenty of sound and fury as the action really hits hard here, but it's done very much in service to forwarding the story. I absolutely loved the way this finale played out and that we got so much epilogue material, so much drama and such beautiful visuals all tied together. This series as I've said before is something that really appeals to me on a lot of levels based on my past gaming and reading habits and interests. From the stand alone episodes that fleshed out the world to the complex episodes that wove a creative and intriguing tale, this series has simply been one of the best things I've seen in all my years of watching anime. The ending doesn't disappoint in the slightest.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English DTS 5.1,English Subtitles,Interview with Kenji Kamiyama

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

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