Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #02 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 120
  • 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 Vol. #02

By Luis Cruz     January 15, 2005
Release Date: September 28, 2004

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #02
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
Stand Alone Complex continues to provide a lot of entertainment on a number of levels.

The Review!
The Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track was used for my primary viewing session. From the opening theme to the ending theme, the track is rich and vibrant providing action throughout the entire soundstage. Whether it is the rotors of a passing helicopter or the staccato of machine gun fire, it resounds with crystal clarity from the speakers. There are no noticeable distortions, dropouts, or other problems. Music, dialogue, and action are balanced well and do not overshadow each other. It is a superb audio track that makes the title even more enjoyable.

Superb also describes the video transfer for this title; the colors are solid, deep, and lush. From dark alleyways to a sun-light highway, the world is highly detailed and makes for a stunning, visual feast. Cross coloration and other problems seem to be non-existent; this is a gorgeous transfer that immerses you in the story's world.

Japanese credits during the opening and ending are replaced with English equivalents. Subtitles are yellow for dialogue and green for the song translations; both are quite readable without taking away much from what is on the screen.

Kusanagi reclines against her tachikoma with the sunset against their backs. The volume number and series title are across the top of the cover. On the back cover, the requisite screenshots, synopsis, and disc specifications are rendered with a mechanical feel. No insert was included with this review copy.

The menus are rendered as the net interface the characters use; the main menu features a loop of the opening theme song with scenes from the episodes playing in the center of one of the menu controls. The menus are sharp and help immerse one in the world of the series. The main menu does have one minor flaw, as it does not use a consistent color for highlighting a selected menu item. It is a minor nuisance but does not detract much from a beautiful and functional set of menus.

The extras consist of an eight minute interview with Osamu Saka, Aramaki's voice actor, and a ten minute interview with composer Yoko Kanno. Both were interesting, but Kanno's interview gave a bit more insight in how she approaches her work for a series. It was a bit disappointing to not have textless versions of the opening and ending themes especially when there was an interview with the composer of the songs on the same disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of my favorite TV series is The X-Files; for most of its run, it combined "monster of the week" episodes with a continuing series of stories that built up a larger, alien-based mythology. Stand Alone Complex accomplishes the same thing in the cyberpunk genre with just as much style that made The X-Files engrossing for a number of seasons.

The first half of the volume is given over to expanding the overall mythology of the Laughing Man. The Laughing Man has targeted the Superintendent-General of the police force for death within a few days. Kusanagi and Section 9 delve into the mystery surrounding the reappearance of this hacker after six years. Kusanagi explores his past exploits in some narrative, while the remainder of the crew is busy tracking Nanao=A.

Chief Aramaki is convinced that Nanao is a patsy for a larger conspiracy playing out within the police department. As events progress, Aramaki's suspicions seemed to be confirmed, but the conspiracy is larger than Aramaki or Nanao can imagine. Nanao is not actually the Laughing Man but has been set up to assume the role; he places a virus into the cyberbrain of one of the police chief's guards.

The ensuing chaos has many of the citizens engaging in copycat behavior; some believe they are the Laughing Man while others see his message as a personal call to arms. Nanao receives a bullet in the brain for his troubles from another mystery man further clouding the entire situation. It is the perfect balance of narration, action, and plot progression; we are given no answers but receive many new intriguing mysteries to wait to explore.

We then shift into the "mystery of the week" episodes for the remainder of the volume. The first mystery revolves around Marcelo Jarti, a seemingly invincible general that has come to Japan. Section 9 tracks him to a Japanese drug warehouse where the secret to his longevity is revealed. It is an interesting piece that explores some of the more philosophical aspects of the world's technology. Just what defines and comprises a human individual? How far separated from the flesh does one have to be before they lose their humanity and become a true Ghost?

The episode also features a great piece of action where we finally get to see Kusanagi in dire straits. Normally, she seems to be unstoppable, and this is a refreshing change to see her actually struggle against an opponent. It added an element of tension with a split second of doubt if Kusanagi was going to be able to save herself.

For the final episode, the seamier side to technology's advancement is explored. Kusanagi is called to a hospital by her friend; a six year old girl was fortunate to receive a heart transplant. However, there appears to be some confusion around the origins of the donor heart. Kusanagi follows up on the case and discovers a burgeoning black market for fresh organs in Japan. Having undergone a full cyborg body conversion at the same tender age of six, Kusanagi takes this case very personally.

This was a fun episode from start to finish, as Section 9 figured out what was going on quickly and managed to corner the suspects. It gives all of them a chance to go a bit overboard and really scare the piss out the criminals. Combine this with some great exchanges between Kusanagi and Batou, Kusanagi playing the part of a Mafioso thug, and some cute Tachikoma work, and you have the most fun episode to date. What makes this episode shine is just how personally Kusanagi takes the situation; it gives an insight into what her life must be like having to deal daily with the fact that her tremendous strength and abilities came at the expense of a happy, normal childhood.

It is these touches that give the show its style; the minute details of the world are integral to the events taking place in it. Technology is not merely a tool that people take for granted; each piece has its advantages and disadvantages, and everyone reacts to it differently. The details even extend to the opening title cards as they alter their appearance to inform the viewer if they are watching a mythology episode or a MotW episode. And who can resist those cute Tachikoma shorts? Attention to detail is paid even in these humorous interludes.

In Summary:
Stand Alone Complex is the kind of series that highlights just how deep a story the animated art form can produce. It is violent, dark, and filled with action, but it does what some of the great science fiction series over the year have done. It makes you think; while most of the technology is science fiction, it is not inconceivable that some or most of it will become science fact during our lifetimes. When it does, the same questions and problems the characters face will be posed to us. The series just provides so many layers for one to enjoy it on; you have an intriguing mystery, some interesting moral and philosophical questions, and some great action. From music to visuals to plot, this is just a well crafted series that belongs in everyone's library.

Japanese DD 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Staff Interviews

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable


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