Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #7 -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • 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 Vol. #7

By Dani Moure     December 19, 2005
Release Date: November 14, 2005

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. #7
© Manga UK

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 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 instalment of the most anticipated anime TV series in years!

Episodes comprise:
24. Annihilation
25. Barrage
26. Stand Alone Complex

An incredible roster of creative staff have been assembled for this project. Backed by the biggest budget ever for an animated TV series, composer Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Escaflowne, Macross Plus, Earth Girl Arjuna), director Kenji Kamiyama (Blood: The Last Vampire, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade) and the talented crew of Production I.G. (Ghost In The Shell: Innocence, Kill Bill) have joined together to create the ultimate anime series!

The Review!
The conspiracy finally unravels in the final episodes of the first season of one of the best shows to come along in ages…

For this disc I watched the episodes with the English 5.1 track. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on either this track or on spot-checking the Japanese 5.1 track, and a brief check of the 2.0 tracks displayed no problem either. The music continues to come across very well indeed, and the effort put into the various sound mixes really pays off. The dub is excellent and the voice actors finish the season on a real high.

This time, thankfully, I didn’t notice any glitches during playback. Benefiting from a transfer direct from high-definition masters, there are no PAL conversion problems that other series face, and the result is a gorgeous widescreen transfer.

The subtitles continue in the same vein as the last disc, and are all the better for it. The font matches the one on the US release, but is white text instead of yellow. The timing seems somewhat improved and, thankfully, Manga are now including the translations of the Kanji episode titles.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

The menus are my least favourite aspect of the release, though they have started to grow on me. Manga have tried to do something different that fits in the show, but it's not something I particularly like. After a brief introduction the main menu appears, looking interesting with a computer-chip style layout. The menu options are annoyingly named, and while it's obvious what "Run Program X" means, it's a little frustrating that there's no "Play" function to jump straight into the show (and no way of watching all the episodes straight through), and that the Extras and Language menus are annoyingly named ("Explore Components" and "Execute Subroutines" respectively). The main menu has the opening theme playing over it. Those two sub-menus each have different sound effects, are different in style and have bits of motion in the background.

Each of the "Run Program" sub-menus acts as a launch for each of the episodes. Each has the option to play the episode, "View Source Code" (read an episode synopsis) or read "The Science of Stand Alone Complex". It's a little odd, and also annoying that there's no scene selection menu. This kind of bizarre naming, while I appreciate that the producers are just trying to be creative, is something that annoys me. But in the overall package it really isn't all that bothersome.

The final interview of the season takes the form of a chat with Kenji Kamiyama, the series’ Director, running just over 15 minutes. It’s really interesting in that it goes behind the scenes at one of the script meetings and also discusses the inner workings and thoughts behind a lot of the show. It’s a very nice extra to round the season out with. On Disc 2 there’s also an interesting featurette with TERRATAG, the designers of the Laughing Man logo, which is pretty interesting and exclusive to the UK release.

In terms of the other extras, the character profiles and synopses return and can be useful though aren’t really essential. The second disc again has a quiz, which is an interesting (if superfluous) feature, much like the game trailer that is also on the first disc. Overall though, it's definitely a worthwhile selection with the interviews.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of the show finishes on a high as the “Laughing Man” story arc comes to an interesting and dramatic, if a little subdued, conclusion with the final three “Complex” episodes. Though the last episode plays out more quietly than the rest, there’s plenty of action and drama to go around throughout the course of this disc, and the intensity of it all is undeniable.

The first episode begins with the fallout of the Laughing Man incident having been revealed to the public. The press is all over Section 9, pretty much wanting their heads, since they have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. The Home Affair’s Minister is less than happy at everything going on and the ensuing public outcry. Aramaki is called to the Prime Minister’s residence, and Togusa drives him there, as Prime Minister and his staff calls for the disbandment of Section 9. It’s not long before Aramaki’s car is attacked and Togusa is arrested as Aramaki goes freely. Section 9’s headquarters then comes under attack, and its members are left to fight for their lives.

This is real gripping stuff, as the attack on Section 9 unfolds, given what’s happened to Togusa and that Aramaki looks like he’s turned on his members, you really don’t know which way things are going to go. There’re so many twists and turns, and ups and downs, and it really looks like this could spell the end of the group. While Aramaki does come off as a traitor, you can’t help but feel that deep down it’s a little out of character for him to turn on the team he spent so long building, but the world is now changing around them and people like Aramaki always have something up their sleeve.

With Section 9’s HQ attacked, and its members having all gone underground, it’s not too long before the majority of them are rounded up. Batou eludes capture though, and heads off to find the one member who has managed to keep out of sight of pretty much everyone – the Major. In his search he goes to an old favoured hideout of hers, only to come under attack having been set up. But it’s not over yet and help comes from an unlikely ally. Following the raids, the Tachikomas escaped and rallied together to have one last shot at helping Batou. But when he does eventually reach his goal, a shock cliffhanger awaits…

Again, this episode is just thrilling stuff with more action and intensity as the remainder of Section 9 are rounded up one by one. You always had a feeling that Batou would be one of the people to elude capture, and sure enough his resilience pays off and he goes looking for the one person he knows will still be roaming around – the Major. I really liked their scenes together and how everything in that respect played out. The inclusion of the Tachikomas was a really nice stroke as well, because it felt so natural to have them come and give Batou the helping hand he needed in a time of crisis. As if all the action here wasn’t enough though, the end of the episode is pretty shocking and comes completely out of nowhere. It’s a real masterstroke and had me on the edge of my seat to watch the final episode…

…Which I really don’t want to spoil. I’m going to avoid discussing it too much, but suffice it to say it skips forward three months with Togusa having been released from custody in a rather random way, and searching for the rest of his team mates as he tries to get to the bottom of what really happened. He can’t believe the Chief would actually betray Section 9, and he works to unravel the conspiracy.

While it plays out in a far more subtle manner than the previous episodes, with little action and a more relaxed, epilogue type feel, it’s nonetheless a really interesting finale as all the pieces finally come together and the truth is uncovered. There are some pretty wild surprises to boot, such as Aramaki’s proposition to a certain protagonist, but it all fits and you can’t help but feel at the end of it that the world has changed significantly and things just won’t be the same for Section 9.

If anything, the way things end just have me eagerly anticipating the arrival of 2nd GIG, the show’s second season, because I really can’t wait to see the direction the creators take the story in. Things are quite different now to how they were when we picked up the story at the beginning of the season, so it looks like Section 9 will have a pretty rocky road ahead of them.

In Summary:
Stand Alone Complex doesn’t disappoint with it’s finale, providing, action, intensity and a gripping story to conclude the first season of one of the best shows to be released in some time. The characters, setting and story are just so appealing that the series is a joy to watch, and I absolutely can’t wait to see how the second season builds on the events of the first. With the first season now available in a ridiculously cheap box set, there’s just no excuse not to own this show. Buy it now.

Japanese Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Language (2.0; 5.1; DTS),English Subtitles,Interview with Kenji Kamiyama (Director),Interview with TERRATAG: “Designing the Laughing Man”,Video Game Trailer,Episode Profiles,Character Profiles,Quiz

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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