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Ghost In The Shell:
Stand Alone Complex -
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volume three | volume four
August 2005 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Ghost In The Shell:
Stand Alone Complex - volume five

voice cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Osamu Saka

director: Kenji Kamiyama

97 minutes (15) 2004
Manga DVD Region 2 retail
[released 15 August]

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by John Percival
Further along in the Stand Alone Complex saga and, thankfully, we see no drop in pace or quality. In fact we find more stories exploring deeper that ever before, all punctuated with pin sharp action.

Following on from the theme with some stories centring on a particular character, the first two episodes of this collection are a somewhat unusual but also painfully obvious choice, Aramaki the grump, old man head of Section 9. The first episode Angel's Share is set in London, where Aramaki is visiting a friend. This friend works in what is essentially a wine warehouse, which is kitted out like a bank. With all the benefits of the hi-tech world there is often a postmodern nod to the old times. Here the guarded bottles of wine are treated like investment stock. Primarily this is due to the value of the wine increasing with age providing the return on the investment. As Aramaki visits his (younger and female) friend while Motoko heads off shopping, he finds himself in the middle of a heist when two thieves decide to raid some of the wine stock. The criminal found out about the stock through a ledger they stole from their mafia bosses, the same ledger details dealings with corrupt police officers and the same police officers are on scene to resolve the situation and they do not want survivors. The thieves are obviously way out of their league and Aramaki proves he is the brains of Section 9 by taking charge of the situation and working out their escape plan. Aramaki does come into his own using some ingenious methods to protect the people in the bank and convince the police of their escape. Motoko provides some outside assistance but is essentially handicapped without Aramaki's keen analytical mind and political savvy.

The next episode Lost Heritage adds some emotional weight to Aramaki's character. When the team investigate a death threat against a Chinese Foreign Minister who is in Japan visiting a War Memorial, Aramaki takes time to visit the memorial of an old war buddy but both are linked. The son of this war buddy receives his dad's computer and his behaviour changes. The computer contains the programmed personality of his father, which infiltrates the boy's cyber-brain and sends him on a mission to assassinate the Chinese Foreign Minster in retaliation for the war. Section 9 race against time to find the boy and stop the killing and even if they do it is possible the boy's original personality could be lost forever. Combing all the action of an episode of 24 there is a trademark intelligent twist at the end that that is simply brilliant.

The third episode, Captivated, shows once again that in the ultra modern world, all is not rosy in the garden and traditional organised crime groups operate here too. Starting off with a girl who simply disappears in a crown of people, even with CCTV watching her it looks as if she is a victim of the recent spate of kidnappings. The girl has been actually taken in a mass abduction by a crime syndicate that will ship out their cargo for organ harvesting. However they do not realise that they have snatched the daughter of one of their most power political sympathisers and, with Section 9 turning the screws, these mobsters will find themselves out in the cold very quickly. There are so many interesting elements to this story. Of course, it's loaded with action but also highlights the political pressure that even criminal gangs are subjected too. Plus, there's another mind-blowing cyborg versus cyborg confrontation, when Major Motoko goes head to head with a Russian assassin.

The final episode of this particular set, Re-View, leads us back to Togusa's investigation of the Laughing Man. Yet more people are having their cyber-brains hacked resulting in them doing things which they have no memory of. Togusa being the most human of the cybernetic team proves his deductive prowess to Motoko (who is quite frankly showing off doing gymnastic leaps around a helipad) and she agrees to let Togusa follow his current lead. Togusa is driven by his failure at the children's aid centre and follows the Catcher In The Rye link of the Laughing Man's slogan. However what Togusa locates has profound political implications and the ending of the episode is a cliffhanger that will have you begging for the next volume.

I keep finding myself writing in praise of this series because for me there has yet to be a bad episode. The pace changes constantly allowing both hard action and profound stories play out and challenge the viewer on many levels. The production is of extremely high quality and whilst not quite the cinematic masterpieces of the original film, they are still impressive. As is standard with the series, each volume is on two discs with the episodes repeated on each but with a standard of digital soundtrack in either original Japanese or English. For the enthusiast there are interviews with Kenzi Teraoka and Shinobu Tsuneki who are mechanical designers for the production, also Koji Tanaka who is the director of photography, and 3-D director Makoto Endo. Also there are character profiles and at the end of each episode there is a cute little cartoon about the Tatchikoma tanks.

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