Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, 2nd GIG, Volume 04 (Episodes 13-16) [Import]
Chasing Phantoms While on the trail of Kuze, Section 9 tracks down the person who made his one-of-a-kind prosthetic face. Theres only one problemthe designer is dead. And the person who killed him is Paz, or someone who looks exactly like him! And Section 9 has some downtime, which they put to good use. During a friendly poker game, Saito recounts his first encounter with the Major, when they were both looking down the barrel of each others guns. But theres still a lot of work left to be done, as everyone tries to unravel the mystery of the Individual Eleven and discover the whereabouts of Kuze.
Stand Alone Complex (2nd Gig) continues to grow more pointedly political as it progresses. The agents of Public Security Section 9 discover that the cases they're investigating are linked to the troubled relations between Japan and Imperial America: The latter is attempting to reassert its global military dominance while grappling with its economic weakness. But the prime minister and her cabinet face those problems. Batou, the Major, and the rest of the Section have to deal with unrest among the refugees, suicide bombers, and the Individualists. The members of the Individual Eleven--except for Kuze, their leader--commit mass suicide in a bloody spectacle that recalls the theatrical death of the great Japanese writer Yukio Mishima in 1970. The Tachikoma robots speculate that as they are abandoning collective consciousness and developing individuality, a dependence on the Net is leading humans in the opposite direction. That trend makes people more vulnerable to the micro-machines and cyber-viruses of the Individualist plot--unless Section 9 can thwart it in time. (Rated 13 and older: violence, violence against women, brief nudity, alcohol, drug and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon
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However, in these four episodes, we have our greatest change-of-pace away from the Individualist Eleven storyline, so enjoy what you get here.
My review is working off of fansubs, with the purpose of informing-- so some translations may differ from our ending results in the USA.
Episode 13: "Face"/"Make-up"
After the shocking end of Episode 12 where folks were literally losing their heads, we are slammed back into the aftermath where we attempt to figure out "What's up with that Kuze fellow?" The trail leads us to a specialist cyborg facemaker who's been recently put out of business by none other than our own Section 9 muscle-- Paz. Questions abound as we are given a window into this supporting cast member's life outside of work, and what consequences such a life renders.
Episode 14: "Beware the Left Eye" / "Poker Face"
You know the scene-- a battered war veteran sits playing cards with the rookies and he tells them about that one time he was "truly afraid" and saw what the make-up of his commander really was. In this episode Saito describes to the rookies his first encounter with the Major-- and the best part is that they weren't at all on the same side. It's tons of fun to see a younger Batou and Ishikawa trade quips, and always fun to see a "background" character like Saito in the lead.
Episode 15: "Afternoon of the Machines" / "PAT."
TACHIKOMA!!! That's right, it's the gang sitting around and playing philosophy again. This episode sets up some of the more important parts of this season's Tachikoma arc. While most of the crew is getting a tune-up and discussing the finer points of cybernetic life, Batou's personal Tachikoma goes with part of the Section 9 team to make some outside investigations... and the result brings the Tachikomas face-to-face with someone unexplicably familiar.
Episode 16: "The Fact of Being There" / "Another Chance"
And all attention back to the main plot. This episode is spent slowly unveiling Kuze backstory. The sad part? Kuze's just not as "cool" as last season's Laughing Man. The complex web be placed will pay off with a bang-up rest of the series...
Certain to be packaged with more delightful interviews and extras, let's hope that maybe Bandai/Manga Entertainment slip us OST 3 for the Special Edition.
Anyways, enjoy this disc-- there's only a couple more "side-story" episodes left, and then the final plunge; with a story arc that's more intense (and oddly inspired by the original manga) than most of what we've seen thus far.
Volume 4, while a great anime, was a bit of a letdown in a way to me. While I liked the focus on some of the minor characters, their stories seemed a little tacked on to me. To me it felt like the creators said something like "Let's write an episode about Saito" without really fitting or adding to the larger story. The writing didn't seem as strong either. How many times have we heard the "Let me tell you about the time...." cliche during Saito's episode? They should have just played the episode with a "10 years ago" subtitle at the bottom instead of making it a flashback. I enjoyed the Tachikoma episode the most because sometimes those robots seem the most human of the entire cast, if that makes any sense. While it was subpar for this series, this volume still blows away most anime out there.
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