There are a few movies that have a great impact on a genre, not only influencing films and shows that come after it, but also generating a lot of interest that wasn't there previously. Like Akira years before it, 1996's Ghost in the Shell was an incredibly successful movie that gained a legion of fans on both sides of the Pacific. In 2002 a TV series was created based on this popular movie: The Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex. This series has now been released on DVD by Bandai.
It is the year 2030, and the world is becoming more integrated with computers. Not just the ability to surf the web on your TV, but being able to replace your limbs and augment your senses with cybernetic devices. This gives man enhanced abilities, but also blurs the line between what is alive and what isn't.
But the fact that computers are omnipresent and totally relied upon also creates new crimes, and new ways of committing crimes. The police are having a harder and harder time keeping the peace with both cybercrimes and physical crimes on the rise, and that's where Section Nine comes in. Section Nine is an elite team of police agents that get to handle the toughest cases. Just about all of the members are enhanced cybernetically, and are the top men and women in their fields. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex follows the cases that this crack team takes on, and some tough cases they are. In one show they have to stop a newly manufactured super-tank that takes off from the proving grounds one day and seems to have a life of its own. They have to track down a hacker who has put let a computer virus loose into cyberspace that causes a certain model of android to commit suicide, and Section 9 is called in when some Geisha robots run out of control and try to kill their clients.
I was a little hesitant about this show before I viewed it. I really enjoyed the movie, and had the fear that this show would either lower the production values or destroy the plot. I needn't have worried. This animation on this show is very good, with even some background details having motion. They didn't cut corners and the show looks great. The CGI animation blends seamlessly with the tradition style, and helps the show look more expensive than it probably is. There actually is not as much CGI as one would expect from the opening credits, but where it is employed it is done so effectively.
As the name implies, most of the stories in this series are self contained. Each little mystery reaches a conclusion, though some are more tightly wrapped up than others. The writing on the show is very good. The stories are very creative and entertaining, and they are not predicable. Another thing that makes this show stand out is that over the corse of the disc, each of the team members in Section 9 starts to have a more rounded personality.
The thing I really like about this show is that it can be viewed on several levels, and it works well in each. As a straight adventure show, this program really rocks, with explosions and car chases and lots of guns. But it is also deeper than that, examining what a soul is, and what makes someone human or alive. For example in one show a person's religion forbids him from accepting prosthetic devices, even if they will save his life. But what about after he dies? Can his brain be implanted into an artificial body? And if it is, is the person really alive?
Great animation, good stories and an effective soundtrack make this a DVD that all anime fans should try out.
This DVD comes in two versions. A regular version, which is the version that is reviewed here, and a deluxe version. The deluxe version has three discs. The first is the same as the regular version. DVD two has the same four episodes with a DTS soundtrack, and the third disc is a CD of the music from the series.
The viewer has the choice of viewing this program in either an English dub (5.1 and 2.0) or 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 lyrics.
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 show.
In addition to a textless opening and closing, this DVD has an 11½-minute interview with Director Kenji Kamiyama who talks about why they decided to do a TV show and how the show was developed. Next is a ten minute interview with actress Atsuko Tanka who plays Kusanagi, She mainly talks about the characters in the show as she sees them. Both of these interviews were filled with shots from the show and a lot of padding. There isn't really as much information given as their running times would imply.
This is a great series, a show that is destine to be on a lot of people's
top ten lists for this year. The stories are great, the animation
is excellent and the DVD has top-notch audio and visuals. This is
a show that works very well on several levels. Even if you haven't
seen the movie, you should check out the series. Highly Recommended.