Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger doesn't suffer from cyberbrain sclerosis, but he does have wicked saddle sores and a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Our reviews of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Volume 1) (published August 5th, 2004), Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Volume 2) (published October 28th, 2004), Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Volume 3) (published January 20th, 2005), Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Volume 4) (published April 21st, 2005), Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Volume 5) (published May 19th, 2005), and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (Volume 7) (published September 1st, 2005) are also available.
"The Laughing Man is back!"
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"
"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.
• Episode 22—"Scandal"
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.
• Episode 23—"Equinox"
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.
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.
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