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



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Info:

  • 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. #05

By Luis Cruz     April 18, 2005
Release Date: March 22, 2005


Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 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!
Aramaki takes front and center stage in another solid outing from Section 9.

Audio:
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 echoes of footsteps or the staccato of 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.

Video:
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 of Ghost in the Shell is highly detailed and stunning making for a 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 screen real estate.

Packaging:
Kusanagi stands on the front cover in her dress uniform, her shadow stretching to the top. The series title is at the bottom with the volume number in the upper right corner. On the back cover, the requisite screenshots, synopsis, and disc specifications are rendered with a mechanical feel. There is a small typo on the name of the voice actress listed in the extras listing. The insert contains no chapter listings containing a summary of what the series is about along with a brief description of the concept of a "Ghost".

Menu:
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.

Extras:
Your extras are an interview with mechanical designers Kenzi Teraoka and Shinobu Tsuneki and an interview with 3D Director Makoto Endo and Director of Photography Koji Tanaka. The second interview provides some interesting details on the animation process, something I always enjoy learning more about.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Stand Alone Complex is at its core a good, solid cop show; there may be a larger plot line running through the series, but the focus is on the members of Section 9. The series continues to use the stand alone episodes to develop the individual characters and their personalities. While normally relegated to simply outlining mission objectives, Aramaki is finally given a chance to carry a number of episodes and give the audience a glimpse into just what sort of person he is.

The volume opens up with Aramaki and Kusanagi attending an anti-terrorism conference in London. Aramaki decides to visit an "old friend" who recently left the intelligence business for the business of wine speculation. Kusanagi smirks briefly when the friend turns out to be an attractive woman and then heads off to explore London on her own.

Aramaki's friend has stumbled onto a mafia money laundering scheme inside her firm, but she cannot access the files that would provide the evidence needed to take them down. Aramaki politely refuses to help as it is not only his policy not to use his position for personal reasons but also because London is outside his jurisdiction. However, fate conspires to force Aramaki to help her when two thugs seeking to escape the mafia take them hostage.

The thugs are after some wine and the money laundering information in order to secure their freedom; those controlling mediating between the mafia and the wine business have other plans though and have a plant inside the London police force. The London police quickly surround the building and prepare to storm it; if a few hostages and the thugs should happen to be killed, well, that is the sad price of crime in the city and the price to keep secrets quiet.

Outside of the Laughing Man episode at the end of the volume, this episode is my favorite of the lot. We get to see just how intelligent Aramaki is and get a better understanding of why is the head of Section 9. He quickly and accurately assesses the situation they are all in and formulates a plan to keep them all safe.

Plus, he simply just takes control of the situation; the thugs do not take long to convince as they can see the steel in Aramaki's eyes. The man exudes an aura of determination, intelligence, and leadership. If you do not trust him, you die; it is that simple. Even when he is not on screen, Aramaki's presence is felt; Kusanagi laments the fact that the chief is not available to pull the strings in the background that will allow her access to the scene. After taking matters in her own hand, she has to think carefully and try to determine what course of action she would take if she were in Aramaki's situation.

But where did he acquire these skills and sharpen them? The next episode answers those questions when he visits the grave of a friend on the seventh anniversary of his death. The daughter of the deceased friend asks him to look into the recent strange behavior of her brother since Aramaki was her father's best friend; his reply is that he cannot use his position for personal reasons and that he was only her father's war buddy.

What follows is a good story that touches on what makes a person unique and what can happen when two minds are forced to coexist. The father's memories have been stored in a datapad for years but have begun to integrate themselves with his son's memories. These memories combined with the rashness of youth are leading the young boy to attempt to assassinate a visiting Chinese foreign minister.

While Aramaki takes a back seat in the investigation, Section 9's efforts to track down and stop the youth reveal a lot about Aramaki's past. He was a member of a trio of individuals that rose to prominence during and after the war; all three were very intelligent and considered the best their country had.

The ending of this and the previous episode also show that Aramaki is clearly dedicated to his work and does not allow personal feelings to color his judgment. However, he is keen and shrewd enough to take advantage of any opportunity to help his friends while in the course of doing his job. Aramaki is the master manipulator and strategist, and the third episode caps this fact off as he expertly pulls the strings of several factions in order to rescue a kidnapped politician's daughter.

We end this volume with a great Laughing Man episode; Togusa is still troubled by his failure at the children's hospital and continues to try to track down leads on the Laughing Man and his plans. One of the leads revolves around the quote the Laughing Man used in his emblem. As Kusanagi puts it, Togusa begins to listen to his Ghost and makes some intuitive leaps that put him back on the trail.

Where the trail leads is to a conspiracy by the Ministry of Health to suppress the Murai Vaccine, a vaccine that can effectively treat cyber sclerosis. A key piece of evidence just happened to recently go missing and find its way into the hands of a public group dedicated to bringing the Murai Vaccine's history to light. The investigation takes a nasty turn and leaves the viewer with a dramatic cliff hanger ending.

Togusa is quickly growing to be one of my favorite characters, and this episode is a good example of why. Not blessed with vast cybernetic implants or extensive military training, Togusa is just a beat detective that has been placed into an elite group. This causes him to constantly want to prove that he is capable and worthy to be a member of the team. Yet it also works against why Kusanagi wants him on the team as well.

The strength he brings to the team and that comes to fruition in this episode is his tenacity at trying to solve a problem. He will continue to turn it over in his mind to the point of distraction in his home life. At some point, his mind will make the intuitive connections needed to push him along the right path. However, he still seems to require some prodding in listening to his inner intuition, what Kusanagi calls listening to his Ghost.

This episode was simply an enjoyable detective story; it further expands the Laughing Man story yet manages to only make the mystery murkier. And having Togusa take the lead in the situation just feels right; the interaction between himself, Section 9, his family, and the case balances the plot line and provides a fluid conduit for it to flow. While the near future may contain some amazing technological advances, Togusa continues to show that old fashioned detective work and hunches can be the best course.

In Summary:
At its core, Stand Alone Complex is a solid cop drama that knows how to build up its characters. Aramaki is the focus of this volume which some might think would lead to rather dry story lines. Quite the opposite happens, and we get three entertaining stories that flesh out who Aramaki is and why he deserves to be the head of Section 9. The volume ends on a great cliff hanger as Togusa resumes the Laughing Man investigation. Stand Alone Complex continues to fill the need for a solid cop drama and continues to deliver great stories and continues to be one of the best series being released to the market.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

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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