Case Number 07337: Small Claims Court


Bandai // 2004 // 82 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // August 4th, 2005

The Charge

"The Laughing Man is back!"

The Case

In concluding the review for Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Volume 5) I stated, "it seems like a huge pot is about to boil over." If you consider heavily armed factions of the Japanese government erupting into full-scale war against each other "boiling over" then the prediction is proven accurate. There is so much going on in Volume Six that it will probably take you two viewings just to absorb the basics of the plot.

Volume Six differs from previous volumes of Stand Alone Complex in two key ways. First, it contains three episodes instead of four. Anime fans are used to this kind of math, but it bears pointing out. Second, the episodes have left the Stand Alone concept by the wayside. From here on out, we go full bore into the Laughing Man case.

The summaries below are less spoilerish than those in my previous Stand Alone Complex reviews, but they still give plot points away.

* Episode 21 -- "Eraser"
Section 9 rushes to the hospital to find Togusa. You might be thinking "Aww, how sweet," but not so fast: Their goal is to download his recollections of the Sunflower Society gunfight, whether or not it kills him. That's cold.

"Eraser" makes it clear that Section 9's main enemy is another government organization, which puts everyone in a tricky situation. That situation escalates when yet another massive brawl erupts into the streets. With more than a passing nod to Ghost in the Shell, Matoko confronts an armored tank. The sequence is full of the sound and fury that make this such an exciting show, but the scene feels slightly derivative. At least things are coming out into the open, and payoff for our patience is imminent.
Grade: A-

* Episode 22 -- "Scandal"
Like "Eraser," "Scandal" evokes the original Ghost in the Shell vibe. This time it doesn't seem derivative. Instead, the episode presents a tightly wound knot of action and intrigue that has helped distinguish Stand Alone Complex.

The first round went to Section 9 (barely), so the enemy retaliates by targeting individual members of Section 9. While the old man is drugged and left in an alley to be picked up by the police, Matoko's cyberbrain is in mortal peril from an agent posing as her surgeon (and if I may say so, the lab coat, leather miniskirt, and blue lipstick combined with her rotten nature give this comely agent a freakish eroticism that anime is notorious for). These complementary subplots create waves of tension. It's a toss-up which situation is more dire. Matoko's fate becomes even more clouded when the Laughing Man himself shows up in the operating room for a tête à tête. The major is a proud woman, and their banter masks a serious clash of wills.
Grade: A+

* Episode 23 -- "Equinox"
After reaching an agreement with Matoko, the Laughing Man sets off to visit his real quarry: a former manager who can spill the truth about cyberbrain drug therapies. In the true spirit of Holden Caulfield, the Laughing Man seeks to stamp out phonies, and this man is a prime example. Though he's heavily guarded, the Laughing Man waltzes in easily.

This act sets off a tense kidnapping scenario laden with heavy discussion about truth, justice, history, and moral imperative. It sounds so boring: The Laughing Man and this jaded gentleman sit together in a café while the oblivious world continues around them. Yet not since Quentin Tarantino shot Pulp Fiction has two people eating breakfast in a diner felt so taut. What "Equinox" lacks in action, it makes up for in answers.
Grade: A

What isn't clear from those episode summaries is how dense and intricate the revelations are. Each new fact puts a new spin on what came before, and if you give the spiraling implications thought, you'll reach some very dark conclusions. As a pure action and suspense vehicle, Volume Six is not as satisfying as previous volumes. But in terms of sheer mental complexity, it ranks at the top.

The English vocal cast has really hit a groove, lending natural and plausible voice to the animation without odd gaps or major lapses in meaning. I still prefer the Japanese tracks; they somehow carry more urgent undertones, suggest more desperate consequences. Both surround tracks offer sonic mayhem and rich detail.

The video transfers continue to shine, but I wasn't as taken with the pair of interviews. Gone are the days when I looked forward to these behind-the-scenes takes on the show. Perhaps if one interview had been with screenwriters and the other with scientific consultants, there might have been some contrast. As it stands there is lots of overlap in the words from these five screenwriters, but they do provide a detailed peek into the creative process behind the show.

The end is near, and if Volume Six is any indication, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Review content copyright © 2005 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 95

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)

* English
* English (signs only)

Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Tachikomatic Days
* Interview with Screenwriters Fujisaku Juniche, Terado Nobutoshi, and Sakurai Yoshiki
* Interview with Screenwriters Sato Dai and Suga Shotaro

* IMDb

* Production IG

* Official Site

* DVD Verdict Review of Volume One

* DVD Verdict Review of Volume Two

* Destroy All Monsters Episode Guide