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Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex -
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Ghost In The Shell:
Stand Alone Complex - volume four

voice cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ohtsuka

director: Kenji Kamiyama

110 minutes (15) 2002
Manga DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by John Percival
This next release in the series presents some of the most unusual and unexpected stories so far. Here we travel from anti-technology fanaticism to robotic philosophy and it is an interesting ride.

The first episode Not Equal is an action packed adventure that begins with a quandary. A girl that was kidnapped 16 years ago by the Human Liberation Front has reappeared and she is the same age as when she was taken. How can this be when the people who took her shun modern cybernetic technology? So a plan is put into place to extract her from the shantytown that has sprung up on an old abandoned oilrig. Everyone in Section 9 is involved in the operation and all are shocked to find the little girl running the guerrilla army. Amongst the firefight and the superb moves we are reminded that not everything is as it seems.

The title of the next episode is a brilliant example of the cleverness of the series, called ¥�$ (or simply Yes). Here we see Section 9 in their action police best. On an operation to locate a group of criminals who are planning to wipeout key businesses by assassinating their wealthy owners, Section 9 raid their hideout and discover an assassination is already under way. The clock is now ticking and they head for the businessman's mansion. There, robotic maids who soon turn violent in anti-intruder mode greet them. Being good at what they do Section 9 stop the assassin, only to find the businessman already dead. Having died several weeks ago, his computers continued his businesses and being a recluse no one had missed him.

In Machines Désirantes, we have probably the saddest episode so far. The Tachikoma tanks appear to be on their way out. They have always been inquisitive and their personalities have continued to grow. The recent excursion of one robot and the new information it bought back to the gang has only made the tanks more self aware that they already were. Now they are discussing philosophy, what it is to be human and why they have not been created in the image of their masters. A robot unit designed to aid the accuracy of Section 9's marksman, ends up conflicting with the marksman's own cybernetic implants the unit is discarded. The robots witness this, question their existence and believe that mankind is distancing itself from machines. Worried they begin to spy of the Major and Batou. However the Major is aware of this and has been concerned by their behaviour for a while. She states that the Tachikomas in their current state cannot be trusted and need to go back to the lab. It is truly sad to see the lovable tanks heading off to their potential destruction.

The final episode of this volume, Ag20, is another tragic human story. On the trail of the source of some information leaks, Batou is undercover investigating a retired boxer. The boxer, having had some amazingly successes in his life, believes he is remembered for his one big failure. Batou feels a certain admiration for the boxer's talents and is welcomed into his home. His wife is friendly and tries to make Batou feel at home, although the boxer is on edge most of the time. As the boxer really is the real culprit Batou is forced to do his duty and arrest him. The boxer blames the fight he failed as ruining his life and leading him to this. Batou, already carrying a lot of emotion baggage even more so with the loss of the Tachikomas, is appalled. The boxer had a home and wife who loved him everything what Batou would call a success but he could not see it only the failed fight. It is obviously that Batou is having a troubling time at the moment and it is obvious through these episodes that Batou is a very deep character.

It is very pleasing to find a series that is as consistently good as this. The story writing is very strong and each episode is gripping and thought provoking in its own right. It is interesting for me to note that we are permitted other stories outside of the main Laughing Man arc, proving that Ghost In The Shell is by no means a one trick pony.

As is standard with this series, the two-disc set provides a range of audio tracks with 2.0, 5.1 and DTS formats in both Japanese and English. Along with the great soundtracks, and bright menus this release also contains a few extras. These are interviews with Koichi Yamadera and Tamagawa Sakiko who provide the Japanese soundtrack voices for Togusa and the Tachikoma tanks. There is also the PS2 game trailer and a quiz.
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