Bandai // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // March 9th, 2006
Ghosts of the past.
In the third installment, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig takes a bit of a dip, but still manages to pump out the political intrigue and high-tech action the series has become known for. If you haven't been watching, you have some catching up to do!
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig (Volume 3) picks up right where the previous volume left off, with Section 9 deep into investigations into Godha's mysterious role in the rash of violent terrorist attacks sweeping across the country and trying to pin down the enigmatic Individual Eleven group claiming responsibility for the carnage.
The incriminating evidence towards Gohda increases exponentially in Volume 3; he appears to have been setting events in motion to ignite the discontent refugee population into actions of violence and chaos for reasons yet unknown. We also get some serious revelations regarding the Individual Eleven, which appears to be a political manifesto, a terrorist organization, and a computer virus at the same time.
As with previous installments, each disc features four episodes:
"Episode 9 -- Ambivalence"
Section 9 is kept busy investigating a series of terrorist suicide bombings across the city, credited to the Individual Eleven. Their resources stretched perilously thin, Section 9 begins to doubt their effectiveness in dealing with such random and seemingly unmotivated attacks. Meanwhile, in an effort to gain more information about the mysterious Gohda, the Major infiltrates a heavily-guarded database and goes digging through the man's past, finding disturbing evidence to link Gohda to the bombings.
A heavy-duty episode in terms of information flow, "Ambivalence" moves almost too fast to follow, filling in small details and gaps in information and revealing a chessboard dance involving the refugees and public sympathy, with Gohda in charge of the piece positioning. Viewers may need to watch this one a few times to take it all in; I know I had to. Not the most action-packed episode, but absolutely crucial in terms of plot motivation and character development.
"Episode 10 -- Trial"
On his way home after work, Togusa tries to save a young woman from a pursuing cyborg, but is unable to stop the cyborg from killing the woman, despite disabling him thoroughly with a few well-placed gunshots. After giving his statement to the police, Togusa is held by the authorities to testify at the criminal's trial. Section 9 is none too pleased that Togusa has been caught using his gun while off-duty and a shifty trial lawyer specializing in prosthetic bodies comes up with a cunning defense for the accused.
Another Togusa-centric episode, "Trial" is the first misstep for this season thus far; a fairly trivial episode that fails to accomplish much in the grand scheme of things. I like Togusa as much as the next guy, but he gets a disproportionate amount of episodes focused around his off-duty activities, and "Trial" is not one of the best examples. The only saving grace is the background information about prosthetic body discrimination and civil litigation, which is tantalizing info for those immersed in the Ghost in the Shell universe.
"Episode 11 -- Affection"
Section 9 is hiring! The Major and the rest of the team put some new recruits through their paces to see if any have the right stuff, but the results are less than impressive. Suddenly, the Major finds herself the victim of a hack intrusion, in the presence of a memory collector who guards over psychic imprints from objects and the memories associated to them. Overwhelmed by a strange sensation of nostalgia, the Major finds herself captivated by the life story of two young prosthetic bodied children.
"Affection" gets awfully existentialist with its talk of "psychic energy" and whatnot, a slight change of gears for the serious tone of previous episodes. In fact, the episode is so odd and out of place in the series, it is quite difficult to know how to take it into consideration. The bittersweet tale of two early child adaptors to prosthetic bodies, "Affection" has absolutely nothing to do with the storyline, and utterly serves no purpose whatsoever other than to weave a whimsical heartbreaking story for the sake of it. Though it has an unnatural level of sweetness capable of causing dental decay, if you take it at face value, the tale itself is compelling enough.
"Episode 12 -- Selecon"
Section 9 attempts to track down a computer virus named "Individual Eleven" which may be infecting innocent people and causing the previously unexplained violent actions of unrelated individuals. Borma volunteers to load the file into his cyberbrain in the hopes of observing the symptoms and developing an antigen, at great personal risk, while the rest of the team tries to track down a print media copy of the original Individual Eleven essay. Meanwhile, the Individual Eleven gather and discuss strategy to entice the refugee population into revolution...
Just when you think you have a handle on events in Stand Alone Complex, an episode like this comes out of nowhere and takes your head off (literally). The Individual Eleven finally make their presence to the world known in a shockingly memorable fashion, bound to have serious repercussions in the future for Section 9. Or maybe it just feels especially awesome after the last two lagging episodes.
Though the episodes aren't quite as even this time out in Volume 3, between "Ambivalence" and "Selecon," Section 9 moves much closer to understanding the motives and actions of both Gohda and the Individual Eleven. Unfortunately, it comes with the realization that they may be too late to stop the unfolding events. Judging by the finale in "Selecon," the next volume is going to be a doozy. The entire season of 2nd Gig so far has seen Section 9 a few steps behind both the terrorists and the machinations of politicians thwarting their actions, and now it appears they are far too late to stop the cataclysmic flow of events from reaching critical mass. Exciting stuff.
As a stand-alone disc, however, Volume 3 isn't quite as top-notch as previous installments. Things have been moving along quite nicely up until this point, but feel derailed after the back-to-back misfires of "Trial" and "Affection." A comparison to the previous season of Stand Alone Complex is inevitable, of course. While 2nd Gig has been carving its own niche separate from its counterpart, I am starting to question whether or not the Individual Eleven is as compelling as the Laughing Man storyline. Of course, it bears remembering that at this point in the first season, the show was losing a bit of steam as well...steam that eventually pored over in a rapid boil of awesomeness. I am confident things will play out.
Just like in previous volumes, the audio and video presentations are nothing short of flawless down to the last digitized byte; a veritable masterpiece of fidelity and clarity, sharply drawn edges, and deep black levels, full of pounding bass and immersive atmosphere from the surround sound presentation. It doesn't get any better than this without having your parents sign a consent form.
As always, each episode ends with a short "Tachikomatic Days" episode and the supplementary content is roughly on par with previous volumes, roughly 25 minutes of interviews with director Kenji Kamiyama and animation directors Kenichi Takeshita and Toshiyuki Kono.
A general unevenness in episodes makes Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig (Volume 3) a bit weaker than its two predecessors, but if the first series was any indication, the occasional mediocre episode only lays groundwork for earth-shattering and phenomenal developments.
All in good time, my friends. Keep the faith.
Still incredibly not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2006 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Tachikomatic Days"
* Interview with Animation Directors Kenichi Takeshita and Toshiyuki Kono
* Interview with Director Kenji Kamiyama
* DVD Verdict review of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig (Volume 1)
* DVD Verdict review of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig (Volume 2)