Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex – vol.1

director: Kenji Kamiyama

140 minutes (12) 2002-4
widescreen ratio 16:9
Manga DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by John Percival

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is the series continuation of cult anime feature film Ghost In The Shell. Based upon the hugely popular manga by Shirow Masamune, the four episodes in this release follow the adventures of Major Motoko Kusanagi and the other officers of Section 9. Armed with intelligent small spider tanks, called Tachikomas, they tackle crime wherever it occurs in the real and online worlds.

The film Ghost In The Shell from 1995 was a truly stunning vision of anime seamlessly combining traditional animation and state of the art CGI to bring a rapid-fire story of espionage and cyber criminals. It took the anime world by storm on its release. The series Stand Alone Complex, I am very pleased to say, maintains the pace with solid detective stories, and it looks every bit as stunning. In this near future world, it is possible to transfer your ‘soul’ into mechanical bodies. The soul element is often referred as a person’s ‘ghost’ and is the reason for the title. Motoko is a case in point having had artificial bodies since childhood she often ponders whether her ghost actually exists or did it die in her original body and is she a copy in a machine? Her body may be manufactured and incredibly strong but she looks like a playboy model and moves like an Olympic gymnast. Her brain is connected to the rest of her team and through that link they share information on cases.

Each episode delves further into the different team members profile and explores some philosophical debates. In a world were people’s brains are connected and possibly of hacking a person’s brain exists then how different are people to the android servants who are becoming more intelligent and are just as hack-able? Section 9 is highly trained team of operatives, who although a secretive organisation, they will stop at nothing to prevent cyber-terrorism and they methods are often violent. They seem to desire a mix between the artificial, with Motoko being a near totally mechanical body, and Detective Togusa a pure human with no augmentation other than the brain-net connection. This appears to bring a balance to the team and the possibility of alternative viewpoints to a particular crisis.

Stand Alone Complex is a great continuation from the original film. It follows perfectly with the characters as we remember them and is just as much an example of philosophical cyberpunk as we would expect. Along with all the bullets and violence each episode contains an intelligent detective story that either packs adrenaline punch or asks some very thought provoking questions.

The DVD contains four episodes from the series. The first, Section 9, finds the team summoned to resolve a hostage situation at an establishment staffed by android geisha, but they uncover a plot to steal sensitive information from a government minister. The second thought provoking episode Testation has an advanced Tachikoma tank going rogue and heading toward a remote village. The team has to stop the tank before it kills someone and find out what the malfunction was. Android And I, the third episode, has some very human looking androids committing ‘suicide’ as a result of a virus. Section 9 must uncover the source of the virus even if it drags them into diplomatic waters. The final episode on this DVD, Interceptor, has Togusa investigating a mysterious computer hacker and being drawn into a dangerous government conspiracy.

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is truly what modern anime should be, animation and technology bought together perfectly to paint four alternately fast paced and searching detective stories. Personally I cannot wait for the next release.

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The DVD release comprises of two discs, the first contain the four episodes with English and Japanese Dolby surround sound and stereo audio tracks. There’s also an interview with director Kenji Kamiyama, and Atsuko Tanaka who voices Major Motoko, episode and character profiles, a gallery and Manga DVD previews. The second disc holds the same anamorphic widescreen episodes but this time presented in English and Japanese DTS audio. There is also a hidden extra that can be unlocked by answering a quiz.