Case Number 09322

GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX: 2ND GIG (VOLUME 4)

Bandai // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // May 25th, 2006

The Charge

Chasing phantoms.

Opening Statement

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig disc review, take four...

Facts of the Case

When we last left Section 9 in Volume 3, things were going badly for the newly-decommissioned elite government agency. The enigmatic Individual Eleven had finally emerged, appearing on national television in order to incite refugees into violence. Oh, also, the fashion in which they chose to go about preaching their message was to behead one another in front of the cameras. Cool, eh?

In addition to this shocking sequence of events, the Individual Eleven was discovered to be also a computer virus masquerading as a political manifesto and infecting Boma. And who is Kuze, the only man to survive the Individual Eleven massacre?

Ooh, unanswered questions aplenty. Now let's get to it.

The Evidence

As with previous installments, each disc features four episodes:

"Episode 13 -- Make Up"
After the televised incident with the Individual Eleven, Section 9 is hot on the heels of Kuze, the white-haired cyborg who had previously tried to assassinate the Prime Minister. The tech lab surmises that his face was constructed by a skilled artisan as a one-of-a-kind work. There's only one problem: the man has been murdered -- and according to the videotape and DNA evidence, it was Paz wielding the knife!

Section 9 do their best to try and clear their teammate's name, but the enigmatic Paz seems unwilling to let his teammates get involved. After all, only somebody from his past would have the motivation to frame him for such an elaborate crime -- but who? "Make Up" is a decent episode, if only for the atypical focus on a previously unknown Section 9 member. It lays some groundwork for Kuze-related events, but the drama surrounding Paz is of mediocre appeal, because Paz himself is of mediocre appeal. Hey, I'm just saying.

Rating: B

"Episode 14 -- Poker Face"
During a poker game, Saito recounts the story about how he first ran into the Major -- at the end of his sniper's barrel! As a member of a guerilla group in Mexico, Saito ends up trying to take out a U.N. convoy carrying a tactical nuclear warhead composed of American, U.K., and Japanese troops -- the Japanese troops being none other than the Major, Batou, and Ishikawa.

Saito manages to take down most of the convoy, but he's never before met an opponent quite like the Major before. In an instant, he realizes he may have met his match on the battlefield. "Poker Face" is a great revealing episode on another neglected character, full of gunfights, tactical sniping, and tension. Plus we get deep into some world history and the fate of the world after the fourth world war. Yikes!

Grade: A

"Episode 15 -- PAT"
While Section 9 tries to track down Kuze, the Tachikomas take it upon themselves to contribute, pooling their individual minds to the cause. However, after heated debate and discussion, the robots start to hypothesize that the stand-alone complex of the Individual Eleven may be something more innocuous than a simple unexplainable event. In fact, there may be a third motivator at work in humanity guiding our actions beyond the mind and the body.

A Tachikoma-centered episode, this one is full of terse, incomprehensible dialogue so thick you could cut it with an arc welder, but for the nerd junkies out there, this is the kind of thing that elevates the Ghost In The Shell franchise head-and-shoulders above all other anime on the market. The implications of the Tachikoma's brainstorms are intense to say the least and it makes for a fascinating (but action-free) episode. "PAT" is the smartest episode yet.

Rating: A

"Episode 16 -- Another Chance"
Ichikawa returns from a fact-finding mission in the peninsula, digging up some information on Kuze's past life as a member of the Japanese Self Defense Army. As Section 9 learns about the man who they believe will lead them into understanding of the Individual Eleven, they find the man being groomed as Public Enemy No.1 to be something far more complex.

It's a talky episode, but a good one. Now that attention is being taken away from Gohda and put onto Kuze, we have much to learn and Kuze's story is a fascinating one. He actually seems somewhat admirable, if not entirely enigmatic. It will be interesting to see where the show goes from here.

Rating: B+

Volume 4 continues to blur the division between political ideology and computer viruses, as if the two entities were synonymous in their capacity to rewire a cyberbrain towards radical action. The Individual Eleven is simultaneously a manifesto, a virus, and a group of terrorists, a concept difficult to envision. The result is Section 9 struggling with an enemy that attacks them on all fronts -- by computer, by political activism, and by gunfire.

As in the first season, the ultimate goal of the Individual Eleven is to engineer and orchestrate a stand-alone complex; a self-perpetrating explosion of events that spiral through society without any clear origin or traceable route. Each individual that participates has been manipulated into performing in an expected fashion, despite the fact that the individual believes themselves to be acting out of free will, but the episode "PAT" stirs the hypothetical pot somewhat, adding a third element in the form of the summation of all human consciousness -- the net. Rather than serving a particular mind or body, the collection of human intellect and will throughout the decades takes on a hive mind, hub-like capacity, guiding the interests of the group as a whole, even though the individual themselves are not always aware of such interference.

For fans of the canon, we are given a great deal of back story into America -- rather, Imperial America -- and its involvement in the previous nuclear wars that fractured the planet. After being humiliated and weakened by fights on the world front, Imperial America became something of a silent partner in Japan's foreign interests over the last few decades, with America being the spear and Japan being the shield, so to speak. As the focus in 2nd Gig shifts to economic and social issues rather than global conflict, America's role in Japan is being reevaluated into something of a neo-conservative ideology.

We also finally get some episodes centered on Saito and Paz, two underdeveloped secondary characters. Of special interest is Saito's recruitment from a guerilla sniper in the battlefields of Mexico during a U.N. operation, which had him on opposite sides of the barrel against the Major, Batou, and Ishikawa. I still love the little details, like characters cleaning off the cables they use to link one another's cyberbrain with each other before handing it back. How polite!

As with the previous volumes, the audio and video performances are as close to digital perfection as one could possibly wish for in anime. If you've been following along thus far with the previous volumes, you know exactly what to expect here -- awesomeness.

The extras are getting a tiny bit stretched by this point, but Bandai still manages to throw in an interview with director Kenji Kamiyama as well as with Paz and Saito voice actors Takeshi Onozuka and Toru Ohkawa. From this point on, the interviews will probably be cast-focused, which is fine by me.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

My only complaint with Volume 4 is that it ended too early. Give me more, dammit.

Closing Statement

Volume Four keeps on keepin' on with the anime goodness. I just wish these came out faster, because four episodes just isn't enough to keep me satisfied. Things are starting to very interesting indeed.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2006 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 99
Audio: 98
Extras: 40
Acting: 85
Story: 96
Judgment: 94

Perp Profile
Studio: Bandai
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

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

Subtitles:
* English

Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Interview with Takeshi Onozuka (Paz)
* Interview with Toru Ohkawa (Saito)
* Interview with Kenji Kamiyama (Director)

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0346314/combined

* DVD Verdict review of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig (Volume 1)
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/gits2ndgigvol1.php

* DVD Verdict review of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig (Volume 2)
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/gits2ndgigvol2.php

* DVD Verdict review of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig (Volume 3)
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/gits2ndgigvol3.php