Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex-Volume 1 (2002)

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Released 21-Oct-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Crew-director Kenji Kamiyama
Interviews-Cast-voice actress Atsuko Tanaka
Alternative Version-textless opening (1:32) and closing (1:32)
Trailer-Madman Propaganda (4)
DVD Credits-Madman
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 100:09
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kenji Kamiyama
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Atsuko Tanaka
Mary McGlynn
Akio Τtsuka
Richard Epcar
Osamu Saka
William Knight
Kτichi Yamadera
Crispin Freeman
Yutaka Nakano
Michael McCarthy
Toru Okawa
Dave Wittenberg
Sakiko Tamagawa
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Yτko Kanno


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Titling
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Tachikoma Days

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ghost in the Shell was a spectacular success. That moment, early on, when a woman plunges off the side of a skyscraper and vanishes, sticks in the mind. It was the introduction, for many people, to the world of anime. It was inevitable that there would be a sequel one day, and there is. This is not it! The sequel to Ghost in the Shell is called Innocence, and I hope we will get to see it soon. This, on the other hand, is not exactly a sequel. Ghost in the Shell was set in 2029AD, and ended with (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Major Kusanagi being fused with the Puppet Master, ending her individual existence. This series begins in 2030AD, one year later, but (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Major Kusanagi is still part of Section 9. Think of it as an alternate universe, or a slight twist in events. I like to think of this series as providing much greater depth to the characters we came to know in the film: Motoko Kusanagi (our heroine), Aramaki (the leader of Section 9), and Batou and Togusa (colleagues in Section 9).

    If you haven't seen the original film, I should introduce the main characters. The central character is Motoko Kusanagi. She is a full-body cyborg — about the only part of her that remains flesh is her brain. Although she looks like a film star (beautiful, busty), she's a strong, intelligent, officer in Section 9 — she's second in command, but not averse to getting personally involved. Aramaki, head of Section 9, is clever, devious, and capable of pulling strings throughout government. Batou is another full-body cyborg; he has an interest in weight-training equipment (which makes no sense for a cyborg!). Togusa is the only fully human member of Section 9, with a fondness for an old-fashioned revolver (a Mateba — unusual in that the barrel is aligned with the bottom of the cylinder, not the top, and it is an automatic — the Mateba is Italian, not Japanese).

    We get to meet many more members of Section 9 than we did in the film: the series format gives more time to explore them. There's Saito (sniper specialist — his eyepatch covers a telescopic eye, and he has some huge sniper rifles), Ishikawa (computer hacker), Paz and Borma (generalists), amongst others.

    And we meet a character who was omitted altogether from the film: Tachikoma. Well, not exactly one character: the Tachikomas are the AI-driven mini-tanks that Section 9 uses for certain kinds of mission — a Tachikoma can hold a single person, or run unmanned — they are cheerful, enthusiastic, not too bright, and rather fun to watch (there is only one voice actor for all of the Tachikomas). This series does not have "next episode" previews at the end of each episode; instead the Tachikomas get a short segment (usually funny) called Tachikoma Days — sometimes it emphasises a significant point from the episode.

    Section 9 has a fairly broad-ranging mission — it seems that they get involved when there is a hint of any kind of cyber-terrorism, but they don't limit themselves. The very first episode shows them intervening (forcefully) in a hostage situation involving geisha robots that have been subverted. In this world, almost everyone has some level of brain augmentation using computer hardware, so hacking has far greater implications than in our world.

    Many TV series (not just anime) have story arcs that are longer than a single episode. And many have a variety of episodes — some which advance the longer story arc, some which don't. But generally you have to decide for yourself whether a particular episode is contributing to the larger story line. This series is an exception. The title page for each episode specifies if it is "standalone" (no longer story elements) or "complex" (part of the longer story line). That's an interesting idea. It's also one of the explanations of the series' title (it is not the only explanation).

    It may sound odd, but the standalone episodes of this series remind me of The Professionals: read Section 9 as CI:5, Aramaki as George Cowley, and Batou and Kusanagi as Bodie and Doyle, although Kusanagi is a lot easier on the eyes...

    It seems odd that Kusanagi's outfit is so sexist: it looks like a bustier, underpants, and stockings, often with a leather jacket — I prefer it when we see her in combat gear, perhaps because it looks more respectful to such a capable woman.

    The episodes on this disc are:

1 standalone Section 9 Public Security Section 9 A straightforward hostage rescue leads to something more sinister
2 standalone Testation Runaway Evidence A new design of multi-ped battle tank runs amok during testing
3 standalone Android and I A Modest Rebellion Androids of a particular model are committing "suicide"
4 complex Interceptor The Visual Elements Will Laugh A six-year-old case suddenly becomes important

    There are two titles shown above for every episode. The one on the left is part of the title panel. The one on the right is a translation of the Japanese on the title panel

    Note that the last episode on this disc is the start of the Laughing Man thread. It took me a couple of viewing to realise that the Laughing Man image is not just being hacked into the TV picture, but into the cyberbrain of everyone watching — that's an awesome idea, and yet it fits. This kind of concept is one of the things that make this series stand out — the mind boggles at the processing required to achieve something like that.

    I've seen the first two volumes of this series so far, and I am very eagerly looking forward to more. This is one series I will be watching the moment I get it.

    The opening credits show over a 3D-rendered sequence of Tachikomas and Major Kusanagi (it's really quite beautiful). The show itself does not use 3D animation for any of the characters; some of the car sequences might be 3D-rendered, but it's hard to tell — this is not like Blue Submarine #6, where the 3D rendering was quite obvious.

    If you haven't watched the original film, you really should (it's well worth seeing). This series is perfectly capable of standing alone, but the film enriches your understanding of the world. The series is more approachable, though, and has even better music (Yoko Kanno at the top of her form — enough said!). I have no hesitation in describing this as the best anime series I have seen this year (OK, so I'm writing this on New Year's Day, but it's true!).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. As far as I can ascertain, this was broadcast in widescreen, so this is the correct aspect ratio.

    The picture is, put simply, gorgeous! It would be overwhelming if it were all done like the opening credits (maybe another series?), but as it stands, this is high quality animation presented well. The image is razor sharp. There is no trace of film grain. There is no low-level noise.

    Colour is perfectly rendered. There are plenty of unnatural colours, but that's part of the mise en scene — this world is changed from the one we know.

    There are no film artefacts — it is quite possible that this was transferred digitally to video, rather than from film.

    There is some aliasing (that's the only visual artefact), but no moirι. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are the two standard subtitle streams in English: one for signs / lyrics, and one for (Japanese) dialogue. They seem accurate enough, well-timed, and easy to read. I spotted one minor error: "loud-out" instead of "load-out" early in the first episode.

    The disc is single sided, dual layer, possibly RSDL. The layer change is at 75:22, concealed between the third and fourth episodes — it is invisible.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks, in English and Japanese. Both are Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps — this is one show that really justifies a 5.1 soundtrack.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear enough. It is hard to spot mismatches between dialogue and mouth movements, because we often see people talking with their mouths shut — they are talking over the Net, using their cyberbrain augmentation. There is one tiny touch of distortion at 67:24 in the third episode.

    Yoko Kanno has provided an extraordinary score. Her usual work is top-notch, but this is off the scale. The opening theme is marvellous, and is sung in Russian (!), with snippets of English and, I think, Latin — the lyrics are by Origa and Shanti Snider, and it is sung by Origa (she's a Russian living in Japan, I gather). The closing song, lithium flower, is in English (lyrics by Tim Jensen, sung by Scott Matthew) — it has a good walking bass line. Yoko Kanno provided the music for both themes. There are songs in the score — there's a song in the second episode that's in English, too. I have the OST CD (it came with the Region 1), and I've been playing it a fair bit.

    There is plenty of surround activity — some of it is score, but there are directional sound effects, too. Your subwoofer will lap this one up, too — sound effects and music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The main menu is animated with music, but it's still easy to operate.

Interview — Kenji Kamiyama (11:37)

    This is a good start: an interview with the director. It starts with a press conference, then moves into a separate interview.

Interview — Atsuko Tanaka (10:23)

    This lady is the seiyuu for Major Motoko Kusanagi. She played Kusanagi in the movie, too.

Textless Opening (1:32)

    I've played this many times — it's very cool.

Textless Closing (1:32)

    While not as cool as the opening, this is still a good strong theme.

Madman Propaganda

DVD Credits

    A single page listing the Madman people responsible for this disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this title is available in a regular or special edition. The regular edition is much like this Region 4 release: a single disc — it has the same episodes, same soundtracks and subtitles, the same extras, even the same artwork — the only difference is the menus, which are a bit twiddly (I prefer the simpler menus on the R4).

    The special edition includes two more discs. It has the regular edition disc, so you can get the extras. It has a second disc with all the episodes again, but this time with dts sound: both English and Japanese 5.1 dts, but no extras. And then it has the Original Sound Track album: a CD with the music. The two DVDs are packed in a regular size keepcase (same artwork), with the dts disc on a flap in the middle. The OST is in a CD jewel case, and there's a cute cardboard slipcover over the keepcase and jewel case — it looks nice, but it's just thin card — not particularly durable. There is also an 8 page booklet tucked into the keepcase.

    The dts soundtrack doesn't sound significantly different to me. It sounds good, but then so does the Dolby Digital.

    If you want dts, or the OST, then the R1 special edition is for you. If you are only interested in the regular edition, then the R4 is just as good as the R1. I'm unlikely to bother buying the rest of the special editions — I can't convince myself that it is worth it. I will be happy to buy the Region 4 disc.

Summary

    A new anime series that may well become your next must-buy, presented rather nicely on DVD.

    The video quality is very very good, with just a little aliasing to hold it back from excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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