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GITS SAC 2nd Gig

Also available:
Ghost In The Shell - Stand Alone Complex
complete 1st series boxset

Ghost In The Shell - Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig - volume two
voice cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Osamu Saka, Akio Otsuka, Koichi Yamadera, and Yutaka Nakano

director: Kenji Kamayama

97 minutes (15) 2005
Manga DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
The most extravagantly titled and densely plotted anime series on the market returns with four more rip-snorting, head-spinning, money-hoovering episodes based on the world of Ghost In The Shell.

The second volume of the second series continues to show the change in tone and look that was hinted at in the first volume. The brilliant sunshine, pristine streets and gleaming buildings of the first series have given way to episodes set largely at night and featuring such exotic holiday destinations as the rotting buildings and streets of a West Bank-style refugee camp and the irradiated and flooded ruins of a partially submerged Tokyo. Meanwhile the character designs are also changing. Whereas the first series had the Major dressed like a lap-dancer, her short skirts and thongs have been replaced by more austere futuristic garb and long black figure-eclipsing trench coats. Even the other characters have taken on a more haggard look as sunken cheeks and dark rings around the eyes appear to give the characters a grittier aesthetic. In fact, the change of tone and look is so extreme that the wonderful whimsy of the Tachikomas has started to feel out of place and irritating, like the comedy robots and aliens of the second Star Wars trilogy.

Episode five continues the terrorist subplot of volume one. However, it would appear that the name 'Individual 11' has come to be adopted by a number of incompatible terrorist organisations operating independently of each other, including one devoted to killing the Prime Minister. The Individual 11 are starting to look a lot like the Laughing Man of series one.

Episode six has Tagusa investigating the mysterious death of a man who threatened a government minister. This trail leads him to what appears to be a secret government project trying to unearth the radioactive fuel from an old power plant in the submerged part of Tokyo.

Episode seven begins to hint at Section 9 having become a political pawn in a wider game. Joined by Ghoda, the demonically faced chief of the new Cabinet Intelligence Agency, they are forced to escort radioactive materials out of a refugee camp. However, despite his polite manner, Ghoda shows himself to be a dangerous adversary as he manipulated Section 9 into doing something that they might well wind up regretting.

Episode eight sees the truth about Section 9's status as pawn really hit home. Enraged at being manipulated, the team go on the offensive and discover some interesting facts about Ghoda's past. While he never striking anyone as brilliant, his undergraduate dissertation nonetheless predicted the emergence of Laughing Man-style Stand Alone Complexes.
These four episodes are of the same systematically high quality as has come to be expected from the Ghost In The Shell brand. However, if there is a weak link in the content of this DVD it is during episode seven when Ghoda's manipulation is handled in such a way as to make Section 9 look like idiots rather than he a genius. Indeed, his attempts at manipulation are utterly transparent and he walks around saying things like "I specialise in manipulating data." From a series that handles plot in such a deft manner, such blunt and unsubtle writing seems out of place. This is accentuated by the fact that Ghoda's appearances in previous episodes and the discussion of his record in episode eight do a much better job of establishing his character, making episode seven's bluntness feel not only out of place but unnecessary. However, this small misjudgement is a minor matter and does little to dent the overall quality on display here, although this DVD is not without problems despite the general fab-ness of the series.

Manga have chosen to release 2nd Gig in drips and drops, as is their usual TV anime distribution policy. They have also chosen to release 2nd Gig volumes in a special two-disc set with a sleeve, allowing them to charge slightly more for each volume. The problem here is that the series is so densely plotted that four episodes every three months makes the show rather difficult to follow. The first series received individual release and a final complete set. The complete set was competitively priced compared to other series on the market and allowed you to watch the dense unfolding plot in your own time. This was the ideal medium for the series, and indeed all TV series, hence the fact that the only people who release TV series in a piecemeal fashion are people putting out anime and people putting out second-rate sci-fi series like Stargate SG-1. By sticking with their old VHS distribution practices, Manga are not only depriving their fans, they're also failing to make the series as accessible as they should be.

Furthermore, Manga are padding their volumes by including a second DVD identical to the first one except it doesn't have any extras on it and the episodes come in a different audio format. This allows them to charge more; again suggesting that their business model is based upon extracting money from existing fans rather than reaching out to a new market. At a time when horror and fantasy are enjoying unparalleled success and the influence of Japanese horror is sweeping the world, you would think Manga might have a little bit more faith in their product's ability to appeal to the mainstream. The huge expansion in anime titles at my local DVD shops suggest the market is growing, the question is do Manga have the courage to move with the times?

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