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Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society UK Blu-Ray Anime Review

11 min read

The OVA to Stand Alone Complex is intriguing…especially to someone who is admittingly…not a fan of the series…*runs and avoids backlash*

What They Say:
A film that has spawned a thousand imitations but never been bettered Mamoru Oshii’s legendary anime film GHOST IN THE SHELL returns in a stunning new edition remastered by Oshii himself. For this definitive Version 2.0 release, all the original animations are re-produced with latest digital film and animation technologies, including 3D-CGI. Set in a re-imagined Hong Kong at a time when cyberspace is expanding into human reality, the story follows top cyberwarrior Major Motoko Kusanagi as she hovers on the border of total immersion in the digital world. This 2 disc addition will contain DVD and Blu-ray and plethora of extras!

The Review:
Two things I need to mention with the audio on this test disc for the Blu-Ray. The sound overall is superb – it has English and Japanese 5.1 Surround Sound (I listened to the movie in Japanese, but switched to the English to check for quality and found no lapses), the audio during the movie really comes out so alive (especially with any of the sound effects such as the gun shots and the driving, I actually had to look outside my window a couple of times to see if it was actually cars going down), no problems in linking with the subtitles at all.

However, I was going through this disc twice (once for the movie, and once for the extras) and the sound for some reason seemed to cut off whenever it went back to the menu, and also right at the beginning of the movie (which I had to skip – it was pretty much the Japanese trailer so I watched that in the extras instead). I’m really hoping this was just an issue on the Blu-Ray tester as everything else was audio glitch free.

Blu-Ray menus always seem to be top-notch and GITS is no exception (aside from the above glitch, it didn’t affect the selections). All selections are available from the menu with clips from the OVA showing above them, the selections being play movie, scene select, set up and extras. On selections that need more than just pressing the menu, they come instantly without needing to go to another menu – the set up has English and Japanese 5.1 select and the options to do full subtitles or just the signs. The scene selection as well scrolls through each scene where you can select by pressing left or right up to the credits scene, and the extras has all the selections on the right when you pick extras, where you navigate your remote control just down to get to the one you want. Quick and easy, another good Blu-Ray menu.

Oh boy…the OVA I reviewed took me 1 hour and 40 minutes. The extras took me 2 hours and 10 mins, so yes, there is a lot.

The first extra is what was called the Work World File, which in retrospect if I knew what it was first, I would have watched first, because it’s like a history of the Ghost In The Shell franchise, which is perfect for someone like myself who hasn’t watched the series in a while. We get short interview segments from a lot of the staff Kenji Kamiyama (writer/director), Shinobu Tsuneki (Mechanical Designer), Takayuki Goto (Character Designer), Yusuke Takeda (Art Director) and even legendary music composer Yoko Kanno. It’s basically an abridged story of the GITS universe and how it links with the OVA, with each of the staff pitching in their thoughts, explaining briefly everything ranging from the Cyberbrains, Cyborgs, Hacking to the characters of Motoko, Batou and Togusa among others. It’s really interesting not just as it gets you back into their world, but also how they used the OVA with real-age problems in Japan, and how the plot links in with everything.

Next big extra is the Making of the Tachikoma Robot. A lot of my friends are fans of this so they’ll love this extra – it is during a conference joint between Nissan and GITS (Nissan being partly involved in the project due to some of their then new cars being used in the OVA) where in a promotional item, robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi made some actual Tachikoma robots, proper working ones about the size of a tortoise. We see some of his accomplishments in the past to show his work, his policy for creation, research in making them, deciding on size, the motors, vocal work using the original seiyuu, and how accomplished he was to make the features as close to the original as possible. This was a real nice little extra and anyone who is a fan of design, robots, or just tachikoma in general, highly polished extra.

The next extra is Anime + Cars, as just mention, this was a co-promotion between Production I.G and Nissan as two of their cars were used in the movie, so we get representatives from both (Mitsuhisa Ishikawa from Production I.G and Takashi Nakajima from Nissan) – it discusses how cars and anime interlink with each other, how to try and make a car a character in a show, and how each influences the other, especially how real world designs are used in anime. Again, it’s interesting how it links so it’s more of a plug for the Nissan product but if you’re interested in cars, still good to watch.

For dub fans, we have an English Production Interview with Kevin Seymour(ADR Director), Yutaka Maseda (Producer), Haruyo Kanesaku (Producer), Richard Ecpar(Batou) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn(Motoko) who were all involved from the TV series as well so we get to hear their thoughts on their experiences as questions are asked, ranging from casting, to what Kevin thought when he first saw the original GITS, the challenges involved, and the potential future of the franchise. It’s quite light hearted but also informative in their thoughts, whether about the layers of characterization, or the amount of other languages used in the show. Varied, but fun.

Next up, there is an interview with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa from Production I.G, where similar to the dub interview, there are questions on the screen which he answers albeit quiet briefly in comparison (feels like a quick-fire interview), ranging from how the original series came about, the choice of director and what he brought to the project, how American audiences may feel about the OVA, the Japanese reaction to it, and how the social questions asked in the OVA are represented. Again, it’s very quick fire and not as in-depth, but there is still some good insight and thoughts.

Coming to the end of the extras, we have an animated short called Uchikomatic Days, which is basically the Tachikoma’s animated, with their ‘ugly duckling’ counterparts the Uchikomas (Tachikoma’s being blue, Uchikoma’s being green). It is basically a tongue in cheek ugly duckling story, as the Uchikomas wait for weeks, months, 3 years to get recognized and get work combining with clips in the movie, as they finally get a job…as a dance and song group, plotting their revenge against the Tachikomas. Yes, it is as silly as it sounds…in both languages.

Lastly, we have various trailers – one for the English Trailer for the special limited edition, one for the Japanese trailer which goes through the timeline of the franchise before showing basically the first few minutes of the OVA, and then trailers for other shows – this time for ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ and ‘Ghost In The Shell 2.0’. We also get some BD Credits and the English End Feature Credits. Overall, there’s a lot they packed into here, and it definitely worth the price overall.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ghost In The Shell is one of those franchises which is well known amongst anime fans, which does have a real fanbase out there as a very thought provoking, action packed series with complex characters. Personally, whilst I like it I am not particularly wowed by it – it keeps my interest, it does have some good characters, but overall there are some things about it which don’t make me a huge fan of the series or even the original 1995 movie. That said however, it’s a good job I did watch the Work World File extra because it got me back into the groove and was able to remember a lot more than I thought, making this OVA overall a pleasant experience to watch and observe.

Set 2 years after the TV Series 2nd Gig, we see Motoko has left Section 9 to basically become almost a freelance anti-terrorist officer. Section 9 meanwhile are investigate a series of strange suicides, now led by Togusa, learning from various people they arrest that someone or something called ‘The Puppeteer’ is involved. Section 9 soon locate that it may be caused by a micromachine virus infecting certain people, so they send out Batou who is nearby a known operative of the virus, to intercept him.

Here however, we see that the Major Motoko Kusanagi and Batou have an impromptu reunion, where after they deal with the operative, she warns him not to get involved with the Solid State Society.They discover that the operative was killed by a cyberbrain hack, so that brings in a clue to what has caused. But strangely, in the Society, there have been quite a lot of children being kidnapped. They conclude that they could be used as test subjects for the cyberhacking, being adopted by members of the Noble Rot Senior Citizens(this is well done because it raised the social issue of the aging population and their role in society combined with Japan’s lower birthrate). They begin investigating this, with the key issue being Togusa rescuing one of the children as the old man in question says not to do so, as the government will take his benefits, and if he does, he will regret it. At first, it seems strange why this would be the case, but it is dealt cleverly when he asks himself why he did it when most likely would have been adopted elsewhere. This makes things worse when his daughter has apparently gone missing…

The key issue is when the three (Bato, Togusa, Motoko) are together at the same time. Togusa’s daughter wasn’t captured but when he takes his daughter ready to go to school, Togusa himself is cyberbrain hacked by the Puppeteer, and forced to drive to a cyberbrain hospital, as he realizes how and why the kidnapping occur as the Puppeteer explains his motives, linked to the above about how human resources should be used, that the children will grow to become the future of Japanese society under their will. He gives Togusa a choice, let his daughter become one of them, or to kill himself. Togusa chooses death, in a powerful scene where he tells his daughter to run and not look back, where Batou sees him but appears too late…only to see Motoko in stealth mode manage to save Togusa at a very nerve-wracking moment. Up to here, most of the story has been very psychological and complex, really edgey but not very action packed, so depending on what you prefer of the GITS franchise, you’ll love this or be not so into it.

We do get some action parts though as Section 9 infiltrate the Puppeteer’s base, bringing in the Tachikomas for some fun scenes. The end story is with them finding the apparent boss, who kills himself so Motoko hacks into the dying cyberbrain to get as much information as possible. It’s actually a really good part with the apparent boss, a designer named Tateaki Koshiki who apparently died a few years ago, was part of Motoko’s consciousness as she navigated between cyberbrains in the past, which allowed him to move between consciousness and consciousness. It’s surprisingly intense as Motoko actually gets angry, both on his part and on the fact that she was unconsciously part of it. It ends rather ambiguous as whilst the Puppeteers and their plot is dissembled, we don’t know if Motoko and Batou are back together, if she is back with Section 9, or what the future holds. It definitely sets up for a sequel, that’s for sure.

This OVA is held back by the fact it is quite short (it’s movie length, but about 1 hr 40 minutes and they cram a lot of stuff into it), and needs a lot of knowledge of the GITS franchise because there’s no specific introduction to the plot or the characters, you have to know it. Of course, if you buy it, I’m assuming you are a GITS fan, and fortunately the excellent extras help you out in that regard as well. Despite that though, I enjoyed it. I really like the complex analogies and how much thought was put into this plotline, considering the restraints it had. I’m definitely more of a fan of this part of GITS than the action side (though I am a fan of the tachikomas) and seeing the relationship of Batou and Motoko now they aren’t partners is still interesting, as one of respect but never grudgingly more as everything as mentioned is kept quite ambigious. The character of Togusa is much more developed than I remember now that he’s in a position of more authority, but also shows that despite him being away from his family due to his job, is still a caring family man, and his part during when he chooses death over reprogramming his daughter is perhaps the OVA’s key scene, and the one most memorable as it gets all three main members of the cast together.

Because of this, most of Section 9 outside of those three doesn’t get that much air time, though there is some good action scenes from some during sniping some of the terrorists. The action scenes, whilst muted, are still enjoyable, and the twist at the end when the role of who they think the puppeteer is, really shows what GITS is about. Whilst personally I enjoyed the series, I never seemed to adore it as a lot of people seem to do. The OVA confirms that, though what I liked about GITS is pulled to the forefront in this OVA, which makes this a lot more enjoyable and interesting than what I expected.

In Summary:
Fans of the TV series may feel this is quite a bit rushed, but overall should enjoy it. Fans like myself with more than a passing interest can also take quite a bit on board, if you enjoy the psychological intelligent side of GITS, you’ll be in for a treat. If you prefer the action side that focuses on the Tachikomas, you could be disappointed. Overall though, it’s a fine edition to the GITS franchise line that follows continuinty in this single story whilst still developing the main characters well enough to know they haven’t lost their edge. Recommend to fans of the franchise.

English/Japanese 5.1 Surround Sound, The Work World File: History Of The Ghost In The Shell Franchise, The Making Of The Tachikoma Robot, Anime And Cars: The Future Car, English Production Interview, Interview with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G, Animated Short: Uchikomatic Days, English and Japanese Trailers.

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

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 21st May 2012
MSRP: £17.99
Running Time: 108 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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