Anime: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Vol. 1

Vandemar

imageCombine cyberpunk, amazing animation, and a striking soundtrack, base it on a popular manga and one of the movies that helped make anime mainstream in the States, and you have Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. As one of Cartoon Network’s anime offerings, SAC has built an American fanbase entirely on a collective appreciation for cool and the first DVD release kicks off the series in style. If you’ve been watching it on TV, you’ll want to pick this up anyway, just for the Dolby sound and the outstanding DVD treatment. It looks even better than it does on cable, which is saying something considering it’s already one of the nicest series airing.

Episode 1: Section 9

How can you not love any show that begins with a hot purple-haired chick chasing a guy across a building and then blowing his foot off with one shot? Geisha robots have taken a minister and his family hostage. Section 9 goes in to investigate, but discover it’s more than an ordinary robot rebellion.

imageEpisode 2: Testation

A military robot/giant tank that looks like a scorpion goes rogue and it’s up to the cute tachikoma robots of section 9 and their keepers to chase it down and stop it. This episode is one big chase, as the Major and her team try to stop the runaway weapon and discover its motivations.

Episode 3: Android and I

A woman hurls herself off a skyscraper. Another drowns herself in the river. Androids are committing mass suicide, and section 9 has to figure out why. It’s a simple enough case on its surface, but it’s touching all the same, a very profound episode on the meaning of love set in the framework of a simple crime.

imageEpisode 4: Intercepter

The first of the Laughing Man episodes, so the real mystery of the series begins, introducing the “Complex” arcs. See, “Stand Alone Complex” isn’t just a cool title, they have two different types of stories, the Stand Alone ones and the Complex ones, and I believe the name is a clear indication of what they do. A terrorist incident six years ago might have farther-reaching implications than one detective imagines and the Section starts its investigation and finds much more than they originally thought.

As I said above, this disc got loving treatment on the technical side. The show simply looks great, the CG of the opening should be sections of a full movie (please?), and the episodes themselves just leap off the screen. Which they should, considering the encode came directly from high-definition masters. Yoko Kanno does the music, which is why the SAC soundtrack lives on my iPod. She explores all kinds of genres, from the kinda techno opening theme to some funky rock guitar work to amazing vocal pieces. It’s everything a soundtrack should be, complementing the episodes themselves while being cool enough to stand on its own. The sound effects and language both get the Dolby treatment and watching Stand Alone Complex in the original Japanese is quite a treat. They really pulled out all the stops and put together an outstanding technical presentation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t extend to kickin’ rad extras. There’s interviews on the disc and…well, that’s just about it.

imageStill, if this is an anime you’ve only caught in late-night airings on Cartoon Network, you owe it to yourself to pick up the first DVD and appreciate it in widescreen with Dolby sound. Even if the writing wasn’t as top-notch as it is, this would be a show worth watching just for the gorgeous visuals. The story being excellent is just the capper, proving that you can be beautiful and have a brain, too.

Technical/Extra: 9.0
It’s a sharp presentation and a VERY nice looking disc. The only thing keeping it from a 10 in Technical is the scarce extras.

Entertainment: 9.0
Stand Alone Complex has some action scenes, but they’re usually set up with a lot of dialogue and waiting. Despite some of the awesome action sequences, it’s a very cerebral show. You could blink and miss something.

Overall: 9.0

Episodes: Episode 1: Section 9, Episode 2: Testation, Episode 3: Android and I, Episode 4: Intercepter

DVD Features: Anamorphic Widescreen encoded directly from high-definition masters, Dolby Digital 5.1 English Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese Audio, English and Japanese Stereo, English Subtitles, Interview with Director Kenji Kamiyama, Interview with Atsuku Tanaka (Japanese voice of Motoko), Trailers

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