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Ghost In The Shell ARISE Set 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Ghost in the Shell Arise Set 2 HeaderIt’s all drawn together.

What They Say:
Border 3: Ghost Tears
A terrorist bombing and the mysterious death of a detective trigger a deadly investigation involving prosthetic legs and members of a rebel group leftover from an international conflict. When all signs point to a master of cyber warfare known as Fire-Starter, phantoms from the past come back to haunt Major Motoko Kusanagi as she struggles to keep her personal and professional life separate.

Border 4: Ghost Stands Alone
Motoko Kusanagi is closing in on the dangerous hacker who created the false memory virus. After a mass shooting leads to the capture of a key witness, the team finds themselves in a race against the clock to unravel the secrets she’s keeping. With enemies appearing all around them and the stakes growing higher by the minute, it’s time to find out once and for all: Who is Fire-Starter? And how can they be stopped?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid all around as we get the original Japanese language track and the new English track in 5.1 using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that works well with the surround mix between the overall warmth of the music and instrumental pieces throughout it and some of the decent ways it uses the virtual sequences to provide a greater illusion of things. The bigger action moments certainly come across well and there’s a lot of good bass to be had in some of the explosions as well as the way the weaponry works. Dialogue is well placed throughout and there’s a very well designed forward soundstage here for incidental sounds and movements as well as dialogue in general. We skimmed the English track and didn’t notice any issues there, enjoying what we heard, but largely listened to the Japanese track since the tracks are locked and doing comparisons on the fly is problematic.

Originally released in 2014, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The episodes are given separate discs here to maximize space alongside the extras and the end result is a very, very appealing show with some very rich colors. The show works a number of different locales as it plays out while also working the virtual space well and what we get is a very detailed and fluid looking show that really shines with the work put into it. The blending of the animation and CG material definitely fits well and there’s a good smoothness here that makes it look all the better. The transfer brings things to life in a very good way as there’s a good vibrancy and pop where appropriate while the darker areas maintain a solid feel and avoid issues such as breakup or noticeable noise. It’s definitely a great looking presentation.

The packaging for this release gives us two Blu-ray cases inside of a slightly thicker than thin cardboard box. The box itself has a beautiful image on the front with Motoko in a red dress and some great heels with the straps that gives it some really excellent design elements. With the blue of the virtual background, the skin tone and the dress color, it all comes together in a visually striking way. It’s done with a different kind of paper that gives it a nice metallic look without being overdone or standing out too much. The back cover uses the same thing with select pieces of artwork while the rest is given over the a look at the show overall and breaking down the two episodes. The extras are detailed in their layout and the technical grid covers everything well for both formats in a clean and easy to read form with the color selections and placement used here.

Inside the box we get the two Blu-ray cases where each OVA has its DVD and Blu-ray release associated with it. The covers are really good animation style pieces with the first one showing off the team in full Reservoir Dogs style while the second has a big in-action sequence for some of the players and one of the Logicoms. The back covers provide their own images in a similar style which works nicely to show off the cast while one is given over to a fanservicey version of Motoko. The covers for both volumes have artwork on the reverse side with different looks at the city in full color. Each case also has a small booklet inside of it that’s full color which breaks down aspects of the episodes with the terminology, the character designs and who is who as well as interview pieces and some exploration of how this world and country work in 2027.

The menu design for this release is… interesting. What we get is essentially a solid gray background with some shading to it while the right side has the logo with its mix of Japanese and English about it. That’s done in a different shade of gray while inside of it we get the clips from the show playing throughout it, mostly noticeable in the ARISE portion. It’s something that you may not even notice at first, which can be a little disconcerting when you do recognize it. The layout is certainly straightforward for the navigation along the bottom with white text on a black segment with selections highlighted in red and moving around is easy and natural. Submenus load quickly and the navigation aspect works well as the pop-up menu during playback.

Similar to the first set, this release comes with a slew of extras. The familiar things are naturally included as we get the various promos for the home video releases, some of the promos and TV spots for the show and even a look at the theatrical trailer for the property. We also get the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences. There are a couple of really nice, if short, behind the scenes on the Japanese side production and more of the Logicoma material that’s just cute in letting these guys show off a bit. The big extra is the behind the scenes English language side that delves into the shows with the production team behind it. It clocks in at thirty minutes or so and lets them really expound on it in a good way. There’s almost 90 minutes worth of extras combined between the two OVAs here that really lets you get into the show in a good way.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Ghost in the Shell: Arise franchise is one that’s still somewhat controversial among fans for what they want since prequel stories aren’t what a lot of folks are looking for. The first two episodes of the series were definitely interesting and I liked digging into the origins of Motoko a bit and expanding on it. Since she’s somewhat uncommon to say the least with her origins by being a full body type since a very young age, that has its own challenges. Those get touched upon a bit in this set in a couple of different ways, but it’s not the kind of deep and immersive storytelling that it really needs to be if it wants to get into it. The series is still far more focused on the political thriller side with bursts of action to keep it lively. And that holds plenty of appeal, though it’s also a frustrating thing.

That frustration mostly comes in that it’s hard to really pin down the politics and details of the individual stories in the fifty or so minutes that it runs. Unlike the TV series where it got to spread the cast, their motivations and the affiliations with some solid exposition and time to dig into it, here it’s a bit more superficial. This is more problematic in the second episode here where it deals with some larger world problems, notably the coming difficulties with drinking water accessibility in a lot of countries, and how it will impact businesses around the world and the view of wealthy countries where it’s less of a problem – and not being dealt with to try and minimize the overall impact. There are some really good moments that could become so much more such as when you have refugees or those that have come to protest going on about how this land of the wealthy is oblivious to the hardships so many others are facing around the world. There are two very good sides of the story to explore there, but it becomes little more than window dressing here.

It’s mostly done to provide a strong international impetus towards the formalization of Motoko’s Section 9 as they can work outside of the system to root out the corruption that Motoko is so intent on doing. She’s very driven and intense about it and that has a lot of appeal as we see the way she’s so focused. She’s drawn together her team and we’ve seen them on a few assignments so far, performing well in that kind of really easy military/mercenary way so that there’s an understanding and trust between them to get the job done to the best of their abilities without questioning things. This also brings in something that’s wanted from the higher-ups in that they need an outside element to provide a little more context to the situation since a completely hardened group would lack that kind of heart. We know it’s going to be Togusa, but it’s great to see him drawn into everything and work as an active player independently to show his own skills. Still, it’s worth it just for the sequence where Motoko makes the offer and he has a delayed reaction.

The third OVA is one that I really feel like it needs to be watched a couple of times and dug into in order to look at the greater context. The focus is on a terrorist organization that’s operating out of Japan now but is using the symbol from Scylla. This has them dealing with the threat of what’s going on because of them and whatever they’re up to, which is a series of feints and shadows before it gets to the real thing. What it digs into deep is two-fold; the first is that we get a relationship between Motoko and her engineer that shows her now in a relationship that’s lasted longer than three months. It’s interesting to see her open up like this and reveal more of herself to him as she’s found herself able to trust him. He’s got his own reasons for being into her, but there’s a real ease between the two that’s definitely engaging to watch play out on both their parts.

Where the show leaves me uncertain, and part of this is in trying to reconcile it with the original series that I haven’t seen in over a decade, is the exploration of Motoko’s past here through the original Scylla organization and how that played out. I like the idea that she spent a lot of years body hopping and talking about the impact that has on a mind, though again, like a lot of this series it’s more a superficial exploration than something meaningful. Having Motoko a part of this and such a leading part of it at that isn’t exactly uncomfortable but it puts a new spin on things that I’m not sure how it really stands. Still, it’s an interesting angle to play and you can see how it makes for a compelling episode as everything becomes much more personal because of it.

In Summary:
I continue to love the Ghost in the Shell franchise even though I’m far more an Appleseed (manga) fan. The original TV series for this is one of my favorites for what it does and how it executed it, taking advantage of the episode count it had and really building a story. The Arise franchise is one that works in essentially two episode chunks to tell its tale while drawing the larger themes of the formation of Section 9 and the various events that gave them the power that they have. It’s really well animated and it plays to some big ideas and a lot of detail to the events, but I kept feeling a step or two behind as though I had come in late to everything. There’s a lot to like here and some great echoes to the past works, TV and film alike, that should make for a grin or two. The release is decked out beautifully and will most definitely please any fan of the show and it will stand out well in general.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Inside the World of Ghost in the Shell Part 1, Logicoma Heart, Logicoma Root, border:less project, Blu-ray & DVD Spots, Memory of GR Making of Arise, Textless Openings and Closing, Promotional Videos, Commercial, Theatrical Trailer, Ghost in the Shell New Movie Teaser, U.S. Trailer, Trailers

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 13th, 2015
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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