Blu-ray Review: Ghost in the Shell Arise – Borders 1 and 2
17/11/2014 Leave a comment
It’s been quite a while since we last saw Manga Entertainment UK release a Ghost in the Shell title so what can we expect from this new Ghost in the Shell Arise OVA Series and it’s Blu-ray release? Find out in our Blu-ray Review of Ghost in the Shell Arise – Borders 1 and 2.
Ghost In The Shell returns with it’s brand new incarnation, ARISE. A 4-part series. This release includes the first two Borders:
Border 1: In the year 2027, a year following the end of the non-nuclear World War IV, a bomb has gone off in Newport City, killing a major arms dealer who may have ties with the mysterious 501 Organization. Public Security official Daisuke Aramaki hires full-body cyber prosthesis user and hacker extraordinaire, Motoko Kusanagi, to investigate. On the case with her are “Sleepless Eye” Batou, who believes Kusanagi is a criminal, Niihama Prefecture Detective Togusa who is investigating a series of prostitute murders he believes are related to the incident, and Lieutenant Colonel Kurtz of the 501 Organization who also wishes to keep an eye on Kusanagi.
Border 2: Freed of her responsibilities with the 501 Organization, Motoko Kusanagi must now learn how to take orders from Aramaki. When unknown forces hack the Logicomas, Batou enlists the help of former army intelligence officer Ishikawa and former air artillery expert Borma. Kusanagi also seeks to enlist ace sniper Saito and undercover cop Paz into the new Public Security Section 9. The two groups rival each other in a case involving a man who receives false memories of a refugee transport operation.
It’s been seven years since we last saw Major Moto Kusanagi and the members of Section 9 in action, six years if you included the abysmal Ghost in the Shell 2.0, and yet somehow it seems like nothing has changed; that is until you press play and see the characters in action. As a die-hard Ghost in the Shell fan mixed opinions on this OVA series arise; but give it some time and you’ll soon settle yourself in for a traditional Ghost in the Shell experience.
For those unaware Ghost in the Shell Arise is a four-part OVA series, two of which are included with this release, that serves as a re-imagining of the original Ghost in the Shell origin stories; so forget everything you knew and strap yourself in for a new stand-a-lone adventure. Starting with the first OVA episode, entitled Ghost Pain, the young Major Moto Kusanagi arrives in Japan to embark on her new role within the military sector; however shortly after arriving she soon finds herself in the middle of a potential conspiracy that involves her previous unit; the 501. In attempt to prove her innocence Kusanagi agrees to ‘temporarily’ join Daisuke Aramaki’s new anti-cyber-crime-division and begins to investigate the crime; elsewhere Batou and Togusa are making their own independent connections into the case, which when combined yield some interesting results.
The first episode is a story which sees the ‘key players’ within the Ghost in the Shell franchise introduced, namely Kusanagi, Aramaki, Batou and Togusa, as well as see them being forced into working together to solve a mysterious cyber-crime that yields more questions than answers. It’s an interesting opening episode, as it attempts to re-introduce fan-favourite characters in unique ways, but at the same time sets the foundations of things to come without deviating from the plot of the story it’s trying to tell – a story which isn’t that simple to explain due to its deceitful and mysterious nature.
Interestingly the second episode, entitled Ghost Whispers, doesn’t get any better in terms of character development and progression as this second episode is basically a ‘revenge story’ whereby the heavily restrained and imprisioned general is using the internet to commit a cybercrime across the entire city in attemp to uncover a government secret. Meanwhile his subordinates, which in this case turn out to be Batou, Boma and Paz, attempt to aid in his plans to highlight the secrets the government is keeping. Yet again key characters from the Ghost in the Shell franchise are introduced; but is done so that very little in ways of character development (other than Batou and Kusanagi) are shown.
The atmosphere, the setting, the timeframe it all feels reminiscence of the Stand Alone Complex TV Series, which was a sensation in its own right, and now that feeling has been spread onto this OVA series. Mind you while the general setting and storyline pacing is on par with other Ghost in uhe Shell adaptations it’s the voice-cast, both in Japanese and English, that make it for an uncomfortable viewing experience for those who are familiar with the franchise.
Gone have the voice actors of the original productions and instead fresh new talent arrive to provide voices for our beloved characters. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as this is series ‘potentially’ set several years before the others, or even in an alternate universe, but when majority of the characters look the same age, with the exception of Major Kusanagi, it does take a while to get used to their new voices. Amusingly it’s not like ‘old’ voice actors don’t make a come-back either; as Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, the original voice of Kusanagi, does provides a voice-over for Kurtz who, coincidentally, is Kunsunagi’s boss during the first OVA episode. Of course if you’ve never seen the original series/films then you won’t notice any difference; but to me Christopher Sabat providing the voice of Batou is just wrong and that’s before you mention the other cast of characters.
Amusingly I wasn’t expecting much in terms of bonus content; however for once it’s nice to be proved wrong as a wealth of bonus materials have been included; all of which have been spread across the two Blu-ray discs.
Disc 1 – Ghost Pain:
- Ghost in the Shell: Arise at Anime Expo 2013
- Textless Opening
- Logicoma Beat
- Promotional Video
- News Flash Type A
- News Flash Type B
- Theatrical Trailer
- Border 2: Teaser
Disc 2 – Ghost Whispers:
- US Cast & Crew Audio Commentary
- Logicom Court
- News Flash
- Theatrical Trailer
- Decode SDI File
- Border 1 – Ghost Pain Cyberbrain I.G. Night Talk Show
- Border 1 – Ghost Pain Cyberbrain Cast Night Talk Show
- Promotional Video
- Blu-ray & DVD Spots
- Surface X Ghost in the Shell Arise Another Mission
- Pacific Racing Team X Ghost in the Shell Arise Promotional Video
- Textless Opening
- Textless Closing
- US Trailer
What’s rather interesting is that the bonus materials are not in any particular order; for instance you would have thought all of the ‘Border 1’ bonus materials would have been bundled on the first disc with the episode; but instead that are mixed upon each disc.
Just looking through the list of bonus materials highlights the variety that’s on offer; for instance the two “Night Talk Show” events on the second disc see the Cast and Crew (depending on which you are watching) expressing their interest and involvement in the show; while more comical elements – such as the Logicoma episodes – offer an alternate but more amusing experience.
Amusingly my favourite bonus feature is the Surface X Ghost in the Shell Arise Another Mission Mini-Episode which sees the ‘entire’ section 9 crew use a Microsoft Surface tablet in their daily mission. This was obviously a ‘paid product placement’ as during the first episode (Ghost Pain) you’ll notice these the Microsoft Logo and the Microsoft Surface tablet pop-up; be it in background as advertisements or as being used by the major itself. In my experience it’s not common for animation studios to use real life products, for instance nearly ‘every’ iphone uses a pear as it’s logo instead of an apple or (in a more recent example) MgRonalds and SFC in The Devil is a Part Timer.
Of course if you are looking for more in-depth and behind-the-scenes styled featurettes there is the inclusion English Cast Commentary as well as Anime Expo Panel in 2013. Basically variety is whats on offer here and you’ll probably spend just as long watching all of this content as you would watching the two episodes themselves – and that’s a good thing.
Media: BD 25 x2
Running Time: 58:03 (Disc 1), 56:02 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Grey)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Ghost in the Shell Arise continues the mezmersing feel of the original Stand Alone Complex TV series and takes it into new unexplored areas; the origin stories, if you will, of our favourite characters. Everything I loved about the franchise, minus the voice actors, is back and so its easy to find yourself immersed in this familiar but strange world of cybernetic technology and cyber-crime.
Both OVA episodes, each of which are around 58 minutes in length, provide the adequate Ghost in the Shell story and naturally progress at a steady pace – the same can be said for gunfights and car chases – everything seems to happen at the right time for the right amount of time. Furthermore to ‘enhance’ the experience an interesting ‘ghost’ twist is added to make it a much more varied experience and offer something new to the viewer; a real ghost within a Ghost in the Shell product.
In terms of this Blu-ray then it’s pretty much as you’d expect it to be; Manga UK continue to author their own discs and as a result chapter markings are every 9 to 10 minutes which means you’ll miss a good chunk of the episode if you tend to skip something. Case and point the opening is around 2 minutes in length, yet the chapter marker is at the 10 minute mark so if you decide to skip the opening you’ll find yourself 10 minutes into the episode. 10 Minutes, in a feature-length-film, may not seem a lot but in this type of content it can skip quite a lot. That’s not all either as subtitles are once again the ‘Grey-white’ style and while I’ve started to become accustomed to it it does present problems in this release as it can sometimes blend into the background – well everything is a dark shade or grey after all. And finally my last nit-pick is that the menu can be difficult to read on smaller screens or from a distance due to the relatively small text and layout design.
Overall this Manga UK Blu-ray release of Ghost in the Shell Arise: Borders 1 and 2 has a few cons and pros; majority of which relate to Manga’s authoring house, but in terms of visual materials – such as episode quality and bonuses – then there is plenty to keep you occupied. Case and point if you are a Ghost in the Shell fan then you need this set; just don’t be discouraged by the new voice-cast.
Ghost in the Shell Arise – Borders 1 and 2 will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 24th November 2014 withint he UK.