Case Number 11707

GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX: SOLID STATE SOCIETY

Manga Video // 2007 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // July 18th, 2007

The Charge

It's a real illusion.

Opening Statement

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society is a complex title with a complex lineage. The first feature anime was based on Masamune Shirow's manga "Ghost in the Shell." One of the spinoffs from this anime landmark was the series Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex by Production I.G. Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, is a feature-length anime which is based on the show which was based on the anime feature which was based on the manga.

Complexity aside, what you probably want to know is this: Solid State Society features cyberpunk intrigue with explosive battles and all the elements we've come to love about Ghost In The Shell over the years.

Facts of the Case

At the end of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig, Major Matoko left Section 9 to find herself. In the two years since, Batou has developed a mild case of depression and Togusa has taken command of an ever-expanding roster of field agents.

When a super-wizard class hacker (possibly known as The Puppeteer) forces loyal followers of an exiled dictator to commit suicide, Section 9 gets nervous. Could Major Matoko be working against them as a rogue agent? What of the government's involvement in child abductions? How does a network of nursing equipment tie in?

As it always does in Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the plot thickens and culminates in one big-ass battle. Hold onto your wetware.

The Evidence

There are two ways to approach a critique of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society: from the perspective of one who has followed the franchise every step of the way, or from the perspective of someone casually familiar with the franchise and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

For the latter, Solid State Society is an excellent encapsulation of the series and its police procedural spin on the cyberpunk story. A mystery is introduced, one that mixes cutting-edge technology with large-scale social and political themes. Lots of moody, tense legwork follows. Just when you think you know who is who and what is what, the game changes and there is a race to a nebulous finish line. Our favorite curvy Major dishes out punishment while tanks blast large holes in stuff. The mystery wraps up in enigmatic fashion; Motoko goes swimming and ponders deep existential themes.

By the end of the 109 minutes, you're treated to great imagery of whizzing bullets, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, cyber attacks, and other stylish hallmarks of the series. Yoko Kanno's haunting vocal stylings layered over the staccato blasts of gunfire and deep explosions will have your house trembling. If you're paying close enough attention, you'll be thoroughly confused. In short, Solid State Society is an excellent introduction to the show and the franchise. If you enjoy this movie, I highly recommend that you seek out the series sets and invest some time in its rich world.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

As a member of the former camp, one who can follow a sentence like "feature-length anime directed by Kenji Kamiyama which is based on the show which was based on the anime which was based on the manga," I have more to add. Given the immensely positive reaction to Solid State Society, this take probably won't be popular either: Solid State Society is more of the same, and not as good.

Given my love for Ghost In The Shell and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, that's an odd complaint. In terms of sheer quality, everything is up to snuff. But Solid State Society didn't grab me. It was like an extra-long episode with unnecessary layers of detail thrown in. Each image, sub-theme, and plot twist felt recycled from previous plotlines. How many times has Matoko walked away from it all, with a plaintive Batou staring at her back? How many face-to-face confrontations has Chief Aramaki had with haughty politicians? How many times have the "Uchikomas" taken on dudes in heavy tanks/uniforms? How many times has Matoko rushed to the side of a dying superhacker who was trying to reach her, plugged into its neck, and had a metaphysical conversation while Batou spewed lead at adversaries over her back? How many times have we watched in fear as Togusa walks into a trap? How often has Section 9 pursued an assassin wearing thermoptic camouflage?

I'm not insinuating that a franchise must reinvent itself with each new entry. Yet some shaking of the tree would have been welcome in Solid State Society. There is one intense moment where it seemed a major character had been killed off; that kind of risk leads to a dramatic payoff. But it was not to be; back to Square One.

Ghost In The Shell was an excellent translation of the manga. Startling images from that anime have welded themselves to the collective anime unconscious: Matoko diving off the building, swimming in water that would kill her if something went awry, or ripping her arms out of their sockets while trying to get inside a tank. Its themes resonated, particularly that of a non-corporeal entity seeking asylum. Ghost In The Shell had a lot to say and said it with unmatched style.

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex did the impossible and interpreted that interpretation for the small screen. It established a simple, but rich, expansion of the universe. Almost any given trilogy of Stand Alone Complex episodes rivals most anime features in terms of action, complexity, and style.

But as the interpretations continue, the self-reference is getting stale. After the Puppet Master and The Laughing Man, The Puppeteer simply doesn't stand out. The Solid State Society doesn't adequately distinguish itself either. Though Solid State Society is different because it introduces the possibility that Matoko was working against Section 9 (and possibly even against herself), this spin is not a fundamental shift beyond anything we've seen before in the show. Just because this feature shows Matoko squaring off against a tank (or swimming while thinking deeply, or jumping off a building) doesn't mean the images have the same impact as they did the first or second time. The plot is also far too subtle and convoluted even by Stand Alone Complex standards.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps I've been spoiled by the stellar quality of the show. All I know is that Solid State Society is like one long episode arc, and there were better episode arcs in the series itself that took more risks and had more action.

Whether you're a casual fan or a nitpicker, Manga has provided a decent DVD for this release. Slight artifacts in the backgrounds are the only visual flaw; otherwise the image is fluid, detailed, and rich with bright colors and moody blacks. Both 5.1 tracks are dynamic and expansive, with pinpoint accuracy during chase scenes and fights. The English dub is slightly stale but competent, while English subtitles cover lots of real estate and will have your eyeballs racing to keep up.

The special edition of this set is comprehensive; the extras on this release are adequate if not overwhelming. Storyboard subtitles feature storyboards that have been greatly compressed to fit into the bottom corner of the screen. The result is a highly pixelated, but unique, use of the subtitle feature. "Uchikomatic Days" lacks the frantic chaos of "Tachikomatic Days" from the first series but is similar. The best feature is the English production interview which features the cast and crew discussing their takes on the characters and the world of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It is well worth a look.

Closing Statement

My main complaint is that Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society is more of the same. But it's more of the same of a show that kicks all kinds of ass, so take that criticism with a grain of salt.

The Verdict

As usual, Section 9 is free to go -- and probably isn't even under the jurisdiction of this court in the first place.

Review content copyright © 2007 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 95
Audio: 97
Extras: 70
Acting: 84
Story: 82
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile
Studio: Manga Video
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Uchikomatic Days
* English Production Interview
* Storyboard Subtitles
* Clean Credits
* Trailers (Japanese and English)

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0856797/combined