Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was one of the best series
of 2004 and easily made it on DVD Talk's top ten anime list for that year.
A personal favorite, I was sorry to see the first season end, and have
been highly anticipating the second year of the show. Now that the
first volume Ghost in the Shell: S. A. C. - 2nd Gig has been released,
I'm happy to announce that it's been worth the wait.
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.
At the end of the first season, political machinations caused Section
9 to be disbanded, forcefully. They did manage to force the secretary
general from office, but the group's situation was anything buy assured.
As this season opens there are still a lot of problems in Japan, and some
that Section 9 is best suited to handle. When a terrorist group takes
hostages at an embassy, it looks like something that's way out of the police's
league. The PM calls in the chief and tells him that if his group,
now reformed but not legally so, can rescue the hostages without getting
any of them killed, she'll get permission for Section 9 to be reactivated
and push a their budget through the legislature. I won't tell what
happens, but suffice to say that the series continues past this first episode.
The are a lot of racial tension in Japan at this time. There are
hoards of refugees and immigrants from Asia flooding into the country due
to the 2nd Viet Nam War. At first Japan welcomed the cheap labor
to help rebuild after the conflict, but now the middle class sees their
tax dollars going to help the new comers at the same time that they are
taking up jobs. The first three episodes clearly show how deep sentiments
are running and how close to a crisis things are getting.
The volume ends up with what looks like the over-ridding story for this
season. A helicopter pilot out on maneuvers has a heart attack and
dies, but his built in computer continues to function. The 'copter
refuses the recall command, thinking that the pilot is still alive.
Several other 'copters and a refueling ship take off from different bases,
and along with the ghost piloted machine fly to a refugee camp and start
circling. No one can get control of the aircraft, and it's only a
matter of time before they run out of fuel and start crashing into the
Section 9 is ready to deploy, but they haven't gotten the word yet,
when the chief meets a new mysterious person, a member of the Cabinet Information
Security Division, Mr. Gohda. This man with a horribly scarred face
seems to know everything that is going on with the helicopters, though
virtually no one outside of the military knows the score. He has
a plan to salvage the situation, but he needs Section 9's help, and he
needs it now before the PM has given her permission. Not used to
being lackeys, they comply but at the end of the episode there are more
questions than answers. Who controlled the helicopters and why?
Did they want to stir up the refugees? How did Gohda know what was going
on, and why did he insert himself into the situation?
The mysterious Gohda.
This is shaping up to be another great season. The first three
"dividual" episodes did a good job of setting the tone of the show with
a lot of action but also a more cerebral second episode that's hard to
get a grasp on at first. The final show, a "dual" episode set
up the mystery that I assume we'll be following this season. Though
not a mind boggling as the Laughing Man from last season, there are more
elements in the mix and the mystery seems even deeper this time around.
2nd Gig is just an excellent show so far. There is a lot
of action, but not at the expense of an intelligent story. This show
is able to thread a complex mystery through the plot while not getting
bogged down in a lot of details. I can't wait to see how this turns
This DVD comes in two versions: A regular version, reviewed here,
and a deluxe version. The deluxe version has an extra disc with the
same episodes repeated but with a DTS sound track.
The viewer has the choice of viewing this program with either an English
dub (5.1 and 2.0) or in the original Japanese (also 5.1 and 2.0.)
There is good use of the full sound stage on the 5.1 tracks, giving 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. I viewed the show in both English and Japanese, and I
had a preference for the original language, but the English dub sounded
great as well, with the voice talent doing a good job. There are
optional full English subtitles or just subtitles for the signs and song
Like the previous season, the video on this show is absolutely stellar.
The anamorphic widescreen video was encoded from a high definition master
and is just about flawless. The colors were excellent, blending gracefully
from shade to shade without any signs of banding. The picture was
sharp and the definition was first-rate. This is a great looking
In addition to a series of trailers, this DVD includes a 16-minute long
interview with director and chief writer Kenji Kamiyama who talks about
the set-up for the second season. There's also an interview with
art director Yusuke Takeda and conceptual artist Hiroshi Kato. They
discuss the differences in the backgrounds between the two seasons.
A nice pair of interviews for those who are interesting in the way the
series is created.
This is a great disc. The four episodes are all excellent, and
the show has a good mix of action, drama and humor. More than that
though, the story is just first rate. The plots are tight and the
show is very engrossing. This is one of those discs that you pop
in and don't even notice the time passing until it's over. Destined
for this year's best of list, this show is Highly Recommended.