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Ghost in the Shell Arise: Borders 1 & 2

FUNimation // Unrated // October 21, 2014
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kyle Mills | posted October 21, 2014 | E-mail the Author
Back in the 90's and early 2000's, anime was booming, you had the juggernauts like Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon and the critical darlings like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and Gundam. Ghost in the Shell, the original cyberpunk thriller, for some, was the absolute best of the best. Admittedly, I watched the first season only about 2 years ago, and I was captivated for every minute of every passing episode. To say I was excited when I heard about the prequel/kind of reboot, Ghost in the Shell: Arise is probably a bit of an understatement, I may be in the minority here as I know the announcement of these OVA's titled "Borders" caused an uproar. Did Arise live up to Ghost in the Shell's past glory?

Note: The copy that has been reviewed is a screener copy and may not be the final product.

- Border 1: Ghost Pain.

In our first of the four OVA's, it is 2027 and the series takes place directly after a non-nuclear world war. It's here that we pick up with cyborg and expert hacker, Motoko "The Major" Kusanagi (Voiced by Elizabeth Maxwell, taking over for Mary Elisabeth McGlynn) working for Unit 501, which is a high level cyborg unit in the military. Soon there's a bombing downtown, and the dead perpetrator is a decorated military officer from Kusanagi's past who seems to have fallen into arms smuggling.

Mokoto bumps into a familiar face, Aramaki (voiced by John Swasey), who's establishing a new intelligence agency of his own. Aramaki immediately tries to recruit Kusanagi, however Mokoto has to decline Aramaki's offer to work for him due to owing the 501 a debt, her brand new prosthetic body, and can't leave the 501 until that debt is paid off in full. Aramaki fills her in that her boss is dead and is currently under investigation for corruption. With an personal interest in bringing what happened to her boss to light, she sets out on her own path to solve the mystery, starting with the burial site. Mokoto feels this is a cover-up when she learns that the corpse of her former boss is nowhere to be found, this makes Motoko a dog with a bone.

Along the way, Things go from bad to worse for Motoko as she soon comes under investigation herself by soon to be colleague, Batou (Chris Sabat, replacing Richard Epcar), whom believes she might be the murderer. It's not too long before Motoko and Batou are confronting one another beating the hell out of each other in a wonderful action sequence, only to be interrupted by Togusa (Alex Organ, replacing Crispin Freeman), a detective that stumbles upon them after following a lead to solve the mystery himself. After realizing Mokoto's innocence, Batou and Togusa join her in trying to bring the real threat to justice.

Overall - 3.5 stars out of 5.

- Border 2: Ghost Whispers

Picking up where the last Border left off. Mokoto is now working with Section 9 after being freed from the 501 organization. The background of this border is yet another episodic mission that deals with the Japanese military involvement in the possible leak of state secrets after Motoko is cyber hacked. Motoko now has to figure out who the one behind it is. To do so, she needs help. Mokoto has been tasked with forming her own team to combat any threat that's posed against them, but Mokoto is in no rush to choose her team as she wants to carefully select her team.

The main plot of Border 2 is Former Colonel Kazuya Soga is charged with committing crimes against humanity. We're shown that he led his team into combat during the war in Qhardistan and how they encountered resistance in a hostage situation with the refugees in the area that ended in a brutal massacre. The Colonel and his team claimed everything was self defense and believing there was a cover up. He's sentenced to death for these crimes.

Meanwhile, Someone hacks the Logicomas. Aramaki commands her to quickly get a team together to combat the threat and find out who's done it. After she finds some sensitive material that could make or break the case, she quickly accepts the task and enlists sniper Saito and undercover cop Paz to her team. Soon she discovers that Batou, the same man that was bent on killing her in the previous border is also working the case. He has enlisted the help of former army intelligence officer Ishikawa and air artillery expert Borma to help him. A large portion of this border is about Mokoto's and Batou's teams facing off with one another. Can The Major and Batou get past their differences and work together against something bigger? Or will Batou allow his hatred for Mokoto blind him to the bigger picture?

Overall - 2.5 stars out of 5.

- Positives:

+ Beautifully animated.

+ I'm a huge fan of the old dub of Ghost in the Shell. For me personally, Mary Elisabeth McGlynn, Richard Epcar, and Crispin Freeman ARE the Major, Batou, and Togusa, respectively. I have to give respect when it's due, the majority of this cast is excellent. The standout performance is easily Elizabeth Maxwell, whom is playing The Major in these OVA's. Alex Organ, one of my new favorites after his wonderful performance as Shogo Makashima in Psycho-Pass, does a great job as Togusa.

+ Both Borders have an enjoyable storyline.

+ Nostalgia for fans of the franchise.

- Negatives:

- While still good, it's nowhere near AS good as the original series.

- Fans seething in anticipation to see the gang all together again, for the most part well you'll have to keep waiting. In the first Border there is one brief scene where the Major, Togusa and Batou are all together, Border 2 does feature a fair bit of Batou, but on the opposite side of Mokoto. Togusa doesn't even make an appearance in Border 2 and from my research, his role in Border 3 is quite minimal as well. Essentially, Togusa has gotten the shaft in Arise.

- While I enjoyed the majority of the redub, Chris Sabat, whom is typically one of my favorite dub actors, left me a bit cold. While I was more than impressed with the actors portraying The Major and Togusa, Sabat fell a bit flat to me as Batou, due to it sounding like he's trying too hard to imitate Epcar, unlike his performance as Jigen in Lupin The 3rd: Woman Called Fujiko Mine, where it felt the character was his own.

Extras: Border 1 extras.

- Ghost in the Shell: Arise at anime expo 2013 - A 20 minute featurette showing the promotion of the series at the convention.

- Logicoma Beat - - Border 2 teaser.

- Original Japanese promotional trailer.

- Japanese theatrical trailer.

- News Flash A and B. Two shorts promoting Ghost in the Shell: Arise.

- Textless opening.

- Border 2 teaser.

Border 2 extras.

- U.S. Cast & Crew commentary with Zach Bolton, the ADR director for the OVA's, Patrick Seitz, the script adapter for the OVA's, Elizabeth Maxwell, the voice of the Major, and Chris Sabat, the voice of Batou.

- Logicoma Court - A 2 minute subtitled feature featuring the robots of the show in a courtroom.

- News Flash - A 30 second promotional video promoting Ghost in the Shell: Arise.

- Original Japanese theatrical trailer.

- Decode: 501 file - A 2 minute feature talking about the 501 in the show.

- Ghost Pain Cyberteam I.G. night talk show - A 12 minute featurette showing the production crew talking about the film when premiering it.

- Ghost Pain Cyberteam cast night talk show - A 11 minute featurette showing the cast talking about the film when premiering it.

- A 2 minute Japanese promotional video.

- Original Japanese commercial which lasts roughly 15 seconds.

- BLuray and DVD spots - A promo video lasting 45 seconds promoting the bluray/DVD release in Japan.

- Surface X Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Another Mission - A 3 minute promotional minisode of the characters on a mission, it's just a fight sequence, nothing is said.

- Pacific Racing team X - A promotional video of a racing team in Japan that sponsors Ghost in the Shell.

- Textless opening and Closing.

- US trailer for the dub.

- Trailers for Hellsing Ultimate, Dragon Ball Z, Code:Breaker, Attack on Titan, Deadman Wonderland, Aquarion Evol, and Street Fighter.

- Border 3 teaser.

While there are a lot of extras, the majority of them are pointless or barely last a minute. Nothing substantial outside of the commentary and the convention video.

While not as good as... well... ANY of Ghost in the Shell's past incarnations, Arise is a serviceable entry to the Ghost in the Shell universe that fans of the franchise, both old and new, should enjoy to some extant. The movies feel like an extended episode of the Stand Alone Complex series but without a lot of depth to them. These OVA's have some solid action, some nice twists and turns, and all of the characters you loved from the original are back. Recommended.

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