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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society Blu-ray Review

10 min read

Two years after the major has resigned from her post, Section 9 finds itself in a new mission that proves far more dangerous than other missions, which is saying a lot.

What They Say:
A.D. 2034. It has been two years since Motoko Kusanagi left Section 9. Togusa is now the new leader of the team that has considerably increased its appointed personnel. The expanded new Section 9 confronts a rash of complicated incidents, and investigations reveal that an ultra-wizard hacker nicknamed the “Puppet Master” is behind the entire series of events.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty strong as it features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix for both language tracks that has a lot going for it. While the music is an area where it really shines the most with the amount of bass and the overall enveloping feel, it also makes out very well with the action sequences with solid impact and a lot of directionality to the rear channels that helps to drive it home. It also knows how to work the quiet scenes just right as well with little movements here and there, the clicking of shoes or the flow of data across the screen. It’s definitely a very enjoyable mix that shows off just how much attention went into the overall production with its design. We didn’t experience any dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the Japanese language track.

Originally released in 2006, the transfer for this movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With this being an original movie and a runtime of just under two hours, it takes what we saw before and builds on it without looking radically different. The encoding here is really quite good as it has a rich, detailed design to it with some great colors and a natural flow. The bit rate tends to spend most of its time in the thirties and it shows in some very solid backgrounds, even in the usually troublesome green hall interiors. The series this originated from was ahead of its time in a lot of ways when it aired and this show simply takes it to the next level. The big action sequences look fantastic and the quieter moments are well handled as well. The transfer avoids the usual problems and in general has a very clean and sharp look to it.

The packaging for this release is done in a standard size Blu-ray case with no slipcovers to it. The front cover artwork deviates from the previous two installments as it uses a good illustration close-up of Motoko with soft colors for her design. The background brings in a bit of color with the blue data shading there. It’s a serious looking cover that does things right here but without any particular style or definition. It’s an easy sell but in the end it is just a head shot. The back cover goes for darker colors with the logo and movie title along the top while the rest of it has the Individual Eleven logo as the background in shades of blue. On top of that is a fairly text and picture heavy piece that conveys most of the story basics and what the discs features are, including an accurate listing of the audio codecs. The main technical grid breaks things down cleanly and clearly and overall the layout has a good look to it, even if it is a touch busy in how it ties together all the pictures. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is pretty nicely done in-theme as the main menu features a blue hued widescreen style border while clips from the feature play within through the filter. Most of it is CG based so it works well in creating an otherworldly techno-feel while the strong instrumental music plays along that gets the mood working even more. The navigation strip along the bottom is simple with the usual top level items there and a very easy to access series of submenus that makes it all a breeze. The layout is good but the disc didn’t read our players’ language presets and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles. We also had iffy luck on restarting the feature as to whether it would go back to where we left off or start up from scratch again.

The extras for this release are essentially a port of what the DVD was with one major exception. The missing piece here is the storyboards feature, which looks like it may have just been a victim of being a bit more complicated to create for Blu-ray than DVD probably. It’s unfortunate to lose extras when putting out a new release, especially one that offers a lot of material like that. However, one of the best features included in the extras here is a priceless piece that runs about four minutes and deals with the Tachikoma’s. It’s basically a Tachikomatic Days special that deals with the Mark 2 generation in a highly amusing manner.

In addition to this, we get a lot of goods that appeared on a second disc with the DVD release before. The first is the “World Work File” which runs about thirty minutes. The feature covers what went into the production of the storyline and the world from which everything has been created. The story basics are covered and there’s lots of material with the films creators that really flesh out what went into all of this. There’s a Making Of feature that runs about seventeen minutes that shows what went into the creation of the actual Tachikoma promotional robot and some of the other things that the robots’ builder has worked on. Seeing a Tachikoma of even this size simply makes you want to see a true to scale one come into reality.

Another neat feature that shows the forward looking nature of the franchise is a behind the scenes look at what went into the collaboration with Nissan to design the “Cars of the Future” that populate the series. Mixing in animation and real world concept cars, it’s a fascinating look for both car enthusiasts and the casual fan. Another interesting featurette comes from Production IG with an interview with the companies founder, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa. This runs just under nine minutes and talks about the evolution of the show with them and the who and why of what went into it.

The English production isn’t ignored here either as there is a ten minute interview piece with the people involved on this side of the ocean. From the ADR director to the cast members themselves, they get to provide their insights into the show and what draws them to it. Rounding out the extras is the inclusion of both the English language trailer for the film and the Japanese language trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success of the two TV seasons of the Stand Alone Complex series, it’s little surprise that the franchise hits up a movie form. Originally planned as a couple of OVAs but then reconfigured to be a feature length direct to video movie, it takes the style and design of the TV series and makes it bigger and somewhat flashier. Unlike the theatrical movies (not the compilation SAC movies), this one doesn’t have the same kind of ostentatious feel in terms of the animation and CG mix that dominated it, particularly the second one.

Taking place two years after the 2nd Gig series, Section 9 is a fairly different place. Major Motoko Kusanagi has been gone since the end of the incident that 2nd Gig revolved around and has since been working through her own investigations and jobs. After being so involved in an organization for such a long time she started to feel that she couldn’t accomplish anything substantial there and opted to try things alone for awhile. Section 9 on the other hand has decided to expand its organization in order to deal with the future. That future is one where Aramaki has to set the course for as he knows he won’t be around forever. The complexity of the crimes that they investigate and attempt to stop are only going to get worse as society changes and becomes even more connected to the net.

While the expansion of the personnel involved in Section 9 is one of the bigger changes, the biggest change revolves around Togusa. After Batou turned down the job of being the squad commander when the Major left, Togusa took up the role and has really grown into it during the two years. Though he wasn’t exactly a rookie during the TV series material, he was the one who wasn’t quite as advanced or technically connected as the rest. That’s all changed as he’s taken to the implants and has cyberized a good part of himself in order to it. Togusa’s become a bit more intense and dedicated in his work and even has the backing of his wife over it as she’s learned some of what Section 9 is all about. Under Togusa’s guidance and his own growth, Section 9 has evolved into a bigger yet more capable organization.

It still has its issues though as some of its members are more interested in the old days, such as Batou. With the loss of the Major he hasn’t quite had his heart in things the same as before but he still works through the investigations as thoroughly as ever. The main difference is that he’s not quite the team player that everyone else has become and provides that sort of black sheep of the group feeling. There’s a bit of tension between him and Togusa over the chain of command but it’s very restrained and not overplayed. The other issue that isn’t dealt with too much but does impact how the show plays out is the loss of the Tachikomas. The second generation machines do get some use here after we initially saw them at the end of the 2nd Gig storyline but they lack the charm and personality of the first generation that won over so many people.

Not unlike the main storyline of each of the first two seasons of the series, the storyline for Solid State Society takes some time to be unearthed and teased out. Unlike those seasons however it has to be done in just under two hours which leads to some odd pacing. The lingering quiet moments that populated the series aren’t as prevalent here. Initially revolving around a series of suicides by a group of tattooed men that may be related to the refugee issue, the show diverges into something far more disturbing as it deals with twenty thousand kidnapped children and a large coterie of Noble Rot Senior Citizens who have a plan of their own within the net. Mixing in a plotline about a Puppeteer and the Major’s own investigations that are fairly elaborate, Solid State Society has a lot going on as it ties the various plotlines together into something cohesive and altogether creepy.

As engaging as Solid State Society is, the film does have some problems to it. The main one is the pacing as it does try to bring so many different things together. If it was done as two ninety minute OVA/movies it would have had the time to flesh things out and provide the pacing that the TV series is generally able to offer. The other problem is that it does feel like it’s cobbling together parts of the different films and the TV series into something new. The use of the tag of Puppeteer alone brings back memories of past storylines. Familiar thematic elements aren’t a surprise here since even the TV series brought in things that carried over from previous storylines but in this form, with the shorter overall runtime and the scope of the plot, it doesn’t retain the same kind of feeling. Stretched out across thirteen or twenty six episodes with some world building material mixed into it would likely have given it the same overall impact as the two TV seasons.

In Summary:
Going into this movie after watching the two compilation movies, I do feel a bit odd in talking about the pacing considering the issues I had with those features. But this plays it from a different angle where it also has to deal with the time leap forward and the change in dynamic of the team with Motoko not directly involved ikn Section 9. Even with the changes, this is a cast of characters in a setting that I’ve loved for quite some time and seeing them in another storyline that has brought some growth and change to all of them makes it all worthwhile. Though there are certainly flaws to be found in the film, the end result is one that has left me very pleased and eager to see more. Solid State Society isn’t the TV series nor is it the first two movies. It’s an interesting hybrid of both that succeeds on some levels but fails on others. It is however another gem in my collection that will get some solid replay value in beautiful high definition.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, ,Uchikomatic Days, English Trailer, Japanese Trailer, World Work File, Making of Tachikoma Robot, Anime and Car Design, English Production Interview, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa Interview

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: June 21st, 2011
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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