Ghost in the Shell Solid State
a bi-weekly column by Todd Douglass, Don Houston, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Here at Anime Talk we sincerely hope you have been enjoying your summer season. You know fun in the sun and all that jazz. Hopefully you have allotted some time for your number one pastime! There's plenty of anime to be had out there and loads to pick from. Quite honestly choosing the right anime is about as difficult as watching people on the beach who have chosen the wrong bathing suit; it's all about having people help you with those tough decisions. That's where we come in.
In this week's column John takes a look at Ghost in the Shell's latest installment and we have plenty of thoughts on other shows as well. WTK's helpful bargain tips may just help you when that electric bill comes during the next heatwave!
When it comes to anime the horror genre simply does have a finer showpiece than Hellsing. The original OVA became a huge success and the remake is even better. With a storyline that's closer to the manga this latest rendition feels like a completely new beast. Sure some of the finer points in the plot are still around but there is a defined zest in the program as it attempts to be better in every way. The second installment has hit store shelves (Regular and Limited Edition) with a bang and is another amazing addition to Arucard's dark tale. Check it out and you won't be disappointed.
After watching the entire run of Desert Punk I have to say that I'm somewhat bewildered. The premise was interesting with the rich desert wasteland, the characters had an air of intrigue surrounding them, and the humor was spot-on hilarious at times. All of that being said the main character is a lecherous creep and all around the jokes are very comfortable next to toiletries if you get my drift. Still, Desert Punk is offbeat and unique enough to warrant looking past its flaws.
Solty Rei's fifth volume has just been released and it begins to tie up some loose ends. This installment arguably offered the best moments the show has seen. We soon learn the true history surrounding the city and how humanity came to live underneath the blanket known as the Aurora Shell. Rose begins taking down some of the RUC members and has seemingly forgotten who she is. Also Roy finally accepts Solty as his daughter though the head of RUC has plans that may ruin everything. I'm looking forward to the final volume and if it's anything like this one, we're going to be looking at a nice close to one rollercoaster ride of a show.
Tsubasa: The Reservoir Chronicles' second volume has come out and the journey for Sakura's feathers continues. This cult series by Clamp has shown its true colors as a traveling buddy show as the main characters head to their next world. Check out the review if you want to know more about the series but all you need to know right now is that everything about it is finely crafted. Clamp's series are renowned for their quality and it's nice to know that Tsubasa is no different.
Do you like harem comedies? How about ones that feature light pedophile undertones? UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie is a quirky little series released by ADV that features many awkward moments. When Kazuto has a spaceship land on his head the driver, a beautiful princess from Valhalla known as Valkyrie, shares her soul with him to restore his life. This halved her age and though they are betrothed she typically looks like a little girl. This is a funny show at times but it doesn't take many chances otherwise and thusly feels generic.
Ai Yori Aoshi is another harem comedy that came out quite some time ago. Even so it's always a good idea to go back to shows you may have missed. The series started out fantastically with some very interesting characters and real emotion. By the second volume things became cluttered with a secondary cast of characters that didn't add very much. Throughout the show there are many ups and downs as far as quality is concerned and this leads to a lot of frustration.
Do you remember the Tenchi franchise? How about its movies? Geneon recently released some of their catalog again and Universe and the Movie Collection found their way back onto store shelves. Both are iconic visions of one of the most popular anime series to come from the 90's. Full of charm, fun stories, interesting characters, and a finely writing background these particular incarnations of Tenchi come Highly Recommended.
Volume three of To Heart is pretty much more of the same, three more stand alone episodes about a young girl going to school who has a crush on the boy she's been friends with for years. This is a quiet and very sedate show, one where nothing exciting ever happens. In this volume the main characters study together, help with the school cultural festival, and come to the aide of a maid robot. While it's not the most earth shattering series, it's worth a rental if you're looking for something a bit different.
Recently we’ve had a chance to catch up on The Law of Ueki . Screening volumes five, six, and seven, shows that the program is getting a bit better with age. While this is a children's battle-of-the-week show, it has enough going for it to make it fun for adults as well as kids. The plot takes some unexpected twists and the strange and bizarre powers are great fun, not to mention the unusual battle conditions. While the series won't find its way onto many 'best of' lists, it's still worth checking out.
Every year Japanese broadcaster TV Asasi conducts a survey and names the top 100 anime shows. Last year the top winners were familiar shows, though there were a few that hadn’t reach American shores yet. One such show came in 9th place; Rozen Maiden. When Geneon announced that they had licensed this series reviewer John Sinnott was excited since his interest had been piqued. After watching the first two volumes however, he's not sure what the excitement is all about. This show about a reclusive boy who finds himself surrounded by dolls that have come to life has some interesting aspects, but it comes across as a solid, if average show, not something of top-ten caliber.
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by John Sinnott
After two successful TV seasons and a pair of theatrically released films, Ghost in the Shell returns with a straight-to-video movie: Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society. In the US, direct video releases are often horrible, movies that weren't good enough for even a limited theatrical release. That's not the case in Japan. There original video animation (OVA) are often very good, shows that boast bigger budgets and higher production values that their televised counterparts. This OVA looks and sounds great, and the complex story will keep viewers interest. A nice addition to the GitS world.
In the not too distant future, most humans are augmented by cybernetic implants. These implants make people faster, stronger, and more powerful. No longer do you have to spend excruciating hours in the gym to get the perfect body, you can just order one. Crime is still prevalent in this future society, and the criminals are now much more powerful. In order to combat these criminals, a special division of the police, Section 9 has been created. Manned with state of the art cybernetically enhanced officers Section 9 handles the cases that no one else is equipped to.
Some time has past since the 2nd Gig. In the intervening years, Major Motoko Kusanagi has left the organization and Togusa has been promoted to division chief. Batou was offered the job, but didn't think his personality was suited to being the boss, and he's become more intense and moody with time.
As the movie opens, Section 9 is investigating the bizarre suicides of a group of Indonesian operatives. When one of them takes a hostage and cries that he doesn't want the "puppeteer" to kill him, and then takes his own life, Section 9 realizes that they have a high grade hacker to track down. The Puppeteer is able to hijack someone's conscience and make them do whatever he wants them to, including killing themselves. When Batou is tracking down a lead, he encounters the Major who is apparently working on the same case. But maybe she isn't working on the same side as Section 9 anymore.
The investigation also leads to some kidnapped children, 20,000 in fact. How could so many children go missing without anyone noticing, and what do they have to do with the Puppeteer and the Indonesian operatives?
This was an exciting and engaging story, just like the previous two television series. Originally envisioned to be two OVA specials, this single installment episode's only real flaw is that it tries to cram too much into too little time. With a complex and convoluted plot, just like the two Ghost in the Shell TV seasons, this show has the same feel as the TV program. The difference is that there's not any down time or stand-alone sections to give viewers a break. When watching this viewers have to pay close attention to keep track of the cast of characters and the various plot twists, and that gets to be a bit tiring after a while. I little down time would have made the movie a little stronger.
Aside from that complaint, the show is quite good. With a tight script, creative plot, and exciting action-filled conclusion, this movie takes all of the good parts of the TV series and distills it down to an hour and a half. A pretty impressive feat.
Like the Stand Alone Complex volumes themselves, this direct-to-video movie comes in two flavors: a regular version that contains the movie and a couple of extras, and a limited edition (LE) form. The LE comes packaged in a tin box that is really cool, includes a CD of the soundtrack, and has an extra disc of bonus items that isn't available with the regular edition.
One note of warning: While the LE is definitely worth the extra money, I'd recommend buying it at a brick and mortar store. The tin is easily damaged and it would be nice to be able to inspect them first, but even worse is the way the discs arrive in the tin. As the tin opens up the CD is on the left leaf and the movie and extras disc are on the right, partially overlapping. Unfortunately someone without a lot of brains decided that the security tag, that little white rectangle of plastic that is often found inside DVD cases, should be placed under the Extras disc. What a bone-headed move. The disc with the bonus items is likely to get scratched, and more than one person on the web has stated that their disc was so badly marred that it wouldn't play correctly. I'd advise opening the set immediately after purchase and inspecting the second DVD.
The viewer has the choice of watching this program with either an English dub (DD 5.1 and DTS options) or in the original Japanese (also in DD 5.1 and DTS.) I viewed these using the Japanese DTS track, and was very impressed. There is good use of the full sound stage which gives the show a very encompassing feeling. Music and incidental effects come from all angles surrounding the viewer, but these never become overpowering. There isn't a trace of hiss or distortion, and everything is very clear and crisp. There are optional full English subtitles or just subtitles for the signs and song lyrics.
Like the seasons of Ghost in the Shell, the video on this movie is absolutely stellar. The anamorphic widescreen video (1.78:1) was encoded from a high definition master and is just about flawless. The colors were excellent, blending gracefully from shade to shade without only the most minor traces of banding. The picture was sharp and the definition was first-rate. This is a great looking show.
Main disc: This disc has a cute 4½-minute Uchikomatic Days, which tells the origins (sort of) of the Tachikoma's replacements. There is also the option to play the movie with the storyboard drawings in the lower right corner of the picture.
Extras disc available only with the LE version: There's a nice set of extras included with the LE. In addition to a pair of trailers (both American and Japanese), there is the World Work File, a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. This is a promotional piece that was created before the movie was released to both drum up interest in the project and bring viewers who might have missed the previous series up to date. They also interview the director and character designer and other people who worked on the story.
Next up is Making of Tachikoma Robot. This look at the creation of a robotic scale model Tachikoma was pretty interesting. I'd love to have one. Production I. G. and Nissan teamed up to work on the car designs, and this is chronicled in Anime + Car Design - Designing the Car of the Future. Clocking in at nearly half an hour this shows how much thought and attention went into the car designs, something that's usually fairly minor.
There are two interviews included too, with both the English and Japanese production companies getting time to give their take on the story, characters, and meaning. I especially enjoyed the interview with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, one of the founders of Production I. G. He had a lot of interesting stories to relate about the show and its genesis.
While this made-for-video movie doesn't eclipse the two TV series, it is very good. With a complex but riveting plot and excellent animation this has all of the hallmarks of the series. The only problem is that does try to put a little too much into its hour and a half running time. Never the less, if you're a fan of the series, you should make it a point of pick this up. Highly Recommended.
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