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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Volume 03 (Episodes 9-12) [Import]
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As the broadcast series based on Mamoru Oshii's landmark feature Ghost in the Shell continues, questions concerning the case of the mysterious Laughing Man surface once again. In "Portraitz," a possible lead takes Togusa into an institution for children suffering from "Cyberbrain Closed Shell Syndrome," a sort of computerized autism. Nothing is resolved, and the audience, like the case, is left hanging. The Laughing Man is also the subject of "Chat! Chat! Chat!"--a cheat of an episode that consists of little more than footage of chat-room denizens wrangling over the character's true identity. "Jungle Cruise" provides some rare clues to Batou's past. But after the grisly images of a war criminal from the "American Empire" who skins his victims alive, the high-pitched voices and cute characters in "Escape From" feel incongruous at best. Overall, the series seems to be losing its momentum.
The extras include interviews with sound director Kazuhiro Wakabayashi and Akio Otsuka, the Japanese voice of Batou. Otsuka's velvety bass-baritone makes Batou a more compelling vocal presence than Richard Epcar's rougher tones in the English dub. There's also a two-disc deluxe edition that comes with a T-shirt and DTS 5.1 soundtracks in English and Japanese. (Rated 13 and older: considerable violence, grotesque imagery, nudity, tobacco use) --Charles Solomon
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I recently bought all the Special Edition releases of "Stand Alone Complex" after trying to research what I was going to get as extras not included in the regular edition. I found the listings on Amazon's product details to be a little confusing and incomplete on some of the volumes so I decided to write this guide for others trying to decide. I'm not going to review the "Ghost in the Shell" episodes or the series in general because there are so many excellent reviews already on this site, and most of you probably know about this great anime TV series already. There are various other reviews that say that some of the DVD's and CD's have errors on them and Bandai will replace them with corrected discs if you send them in for exchange. I have not ran into problems yet, although I haven't gone through the whole series either. And I will also state that I love the TV series as well as both movies, but I would recommend the Imported Region 2 version of GITS2:Innocence if you have a region free DVD player. Dreamworks really messed up that release omiting the English dub and putting Hard of Hearing subtitles instead of regular ones on the early issues of that movie. Most people find them very distracting and annoying.
First off the discs themselves, you get two DVD discs in each volume with the same episodes on both discs. Volumes 1-5 have 4 episodes each, 6 and 7 have 3 episodes each making 26 episodes total in the series. Both discs are Anamorphic wide screen encoded directly from the High-Definition Masters. Both Discs also have English subtitles. Each set also has two interviews with voice cast or someone associated with the production of the anime, and a printed DVD insert pamphlet or booklet with different interviews and such for each volume. All discs are Region 1.
Disc one has Dolby Digital 5.1 in Japanese and English, and Dolby Digital 2.0 in English and Japanese.
Disc two has DTS 5.1 in English and Japanese and a Dolby Digital 2.0 English track.
Volumes 1 and 2 include soundtrack CD's of the music of Yoko Kanno, the most excellent and versatile composer of the music in the TV series. Anime lovers know her work from the many fine soundtracks that she's done for countless other anime movies and TV series.
Volume 3 has a Black XL Fruit of the Loom Tee-Shirt with the section 9 logo on the front and a Major Kusanagi graphic on the back. Nice shirt!
Volumes 4 and 5 have a collectable I.D. cards for a section 9 member.
Volume 6 has a Black XL Fruit of the Loom Tee-Shirt with the section 9 logo on the front and a Batou graphic on the back, and another I.D. card. Nice shirt again!
Volume 7 has another Tee-Shirt! This time it's a White XL with the section 9 logo on the front, and the Laughing Man logo on the back! Once again nice shirt! It also comes with a tin box that's supposed to hold all 7 volumes of the DVD set. I was excited about getting the box but when it arrived I was disappointed with the design. It's kind of like the rectangular lunch box that you used to take to school as a kid, without the handle and latch. Its also of a thinner metal that dents easily. It has marketing type of printing on the backside that pertains to vol. 7 only, and the DVD cases stack inside one on top of the other. The spines of the cases are not visible when you open the box, only the front of the last case you put in. So you have to take all the cases out of the tin to get to a specific volume. There's also not room for the cardboard sleves that the DVD's were in when you got the individual volumes, and no room for the soundtrack CD's either. All said, I was disappointed with the box. Because of it's odd dimensions it doesn't stack in well with my DVD library. I would have much preferred the normal five sided box that usually comes with DVD sets.
Overall I'd say it's worth it to buy volumes 3, 6 and 7 new to get the shirts if they interest you and pick up the others used if you can to save some money on the series. That is if you're interested in the DTS soundtrack options. I much prefer the DTS mixes to Dolby Digital and wanted the soundtrack CD's as well. Also the cardboard boxes that come with volumes 3 and 6 are better than the tin box to store your set in when you complete the series, if you stack them on shelves one row of DVD's on top of another row, and you can fit the movies into those boxes as well to fill them the rest of the way.
'Jungle Cruise' is about a serial killer compelled to re-enact the gory killings he committed in wartime as a subversive terrorist. Whether he is driven by training or by personal pleasure is unclear, but he has never shaken the onus of the war. Batou, who served in the same war, was deeply affected when he discovered the activities of those trained to discourage the opposition. Now he must confront his own demons and deal with need for final justice while he hunts the killer.
The third episode takes us into a ward for individuals (mostly young) who are victims of 'Cyberbrain Closed Shell Syndrome' a disorder that is evidenced as a compulsive connection with the net. In a way, these children are the future's equivalents of the autistic children of today. But they are more than that, and when a hacking incident originated from the hospital Togusa is sent in as an undercover agent. There he expects to find staff corruption, but finds something even deeper in the inmates. Once again the laughing man makes a mysterious appearance.
The final episode combines two themes. Batou's tachikoma goes for a walkabout and encounters a young girl who is seeking a lost pet. While the machine learns a lesson in the meaning of grief it discovers a ghost case which still has a resident. In a curious parallel Kusanagi investigates the ghost and rediscovers her own ability to cry.
One of the things that fascinates about this series is the care taken to make this a story about not only machines with personalities, but personalities who have machines. The tenuous line, the presence of the ghost is often the only marker for human intelligence and spirit. Nor does the ghost guarantee human behavior. Instead, the human mind often flees into the machine or the net in an effort to find some freedom from their 'real' lives.
While the initial episodes of this DVD are more in the typical Ghost tradition, the last two episodes pursue the conflict between multiple realities and possible consciousnesses. The viewer is not asked to judge once, but many times, making the point that life has many possibilities. In truth we cannot judge.
Ok, for those who haven't seen any of this show, the first 2 disks are a must watch because this show can get very deep and confusing when you don't know what happened in earlier episodes. For those who are caught up it this show already, these are 3 more great episodes and 1 so/so (2 "laughing man" related and 2 side stories). One of which I'm not sure sure will wind up on Adult Swim because of content (Think "Silence of the Lambs"), which was my favorite ep of this crop because it just creeps me out.
Animation is top notch, the plots are complex and detailed, the voice acting dubbed and subbed are superb and the show is just so addictive.
The only flaw is that the is a sound glitch on episode 10 on the opening sequence where certain channels will fade in and out.
All things considered, this is and outstanding series and I can't wait for more.
From this poing of view, episode 10 & 12 are stand alone stories. (Personally, I love episode 12. I would like to say what Motoko said about movie going!)
I'm very looking forward to seeing next volume. This is outstanding story!
Those who don't like all of the talking, or think that the episodes are boring because there is no action are prematurely judging this series. I will state though, if you miss these episodes on Volume three, you won't understand the series from now on. These are the KEY episodes in puting it all together at the end -so pay extra close attention. Stand Alone Complex is anything but stand alone, and you can't judge a book by its cover, in this case: an Anime as wonderful as this. Those who say it has slowed down will be shocked by the matserful story weaving of the conclusion of this series, and I hope everyone stays along for the ride. There really isn't an Anime series better than this. Period.
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