Blu-Ray Review: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Deluxe Edition

After more than a decade Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex finally arrives on Blu-Ray via Manga Entertainment, and in a limited deluxe edition no less; but what can expect from this release? Well let’s take a look and find out in our Blu-ray review.

*NOTE – SCREENSHOTS ARE NOT A REPRESENTATION OF THE FINAL PRODUCT*

Synopsis:

In the not so distant future, mankind has advanced to a state where complete body transplants from flesh to machine is possible. This allows for great increases in both physical and cybernetic prowess and blurring the lines between the two worlds.

However, criminals can also make full use of such technology, leading to new and sometimes, very dangerous crimes. In response to such innovative new methods, the Japanese Government has established Section 9, an independently operating police unit which deals with such highly sensitive crimes.

Season 1: Laughing Man: New information is revealed to Japan’s top homeland security force, drawing Major Kusanagi and Section 9 into the hunt for a suspect capable of hacking the eyes of every operative, obscuring all details of his appearance and leaving behind a trail of copycats and hacked cyborg citizens.

Who is The Laughing Man? What are his motives? And how do you catch a criminal that you cannot see? Join the beautiful cyborg Motoko Kusanagi in a world of high technology and deadly conspiracies as she searches for the answers to these questions and more!

Season 2: Individual Eleven: Six months have passed since the Laughing Man incident was solved. About 3 million refugees are living in Japan, invited to fill the labour shortage. However, the emergent presence of the invited-refugees intensified their confrontation with the “individualists”, who called for national isolation, which then led to the increased incidences of terrorist attacks.

Under these circumstances, a terrorist group called the Individual Eleven carries out a suicide attack. But there was a greater scheme behind their action. When Section 9 learns this, they attempt to nail down the mastermind behind this incident.

Solid State Society: The year is 2034 and the face of terrorism has changed. Two years have passed since Motoko Kusanagi departed Section 9, Japan’s elite anti-terrorism unit. After a wave of audacious ghost hacks, the Section 9 team’s investigations lead them to an ultra-wizard hacker named the Puppeteer.

Meanwhile Batou encounters Motoko once more. She warns him to “Stay away from the Solid State Society.” No one is above suspicion in this feature length continuation of the Ghost in the Shell saga from the acclaimed Production IG Studio (Kill Bill, Ghost In The Shell 1 & 2, Blood The Last Vampire).

Our View:

It’s been over a decade since Manga Entertainment UK first began releasing the TV anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which is of course based upon characters in Masamune Shirow’s manga Ghost in the Shell, as individual volume DVD sets within the UK, and now the distributor are bringing long-time-fans the complete franchise in High Definition on Blu-Ray as an Deluxe Edition.

Deluxe Edition:

Exclusive to online retailer Zavvi this Deluxe Edition features both TV Series, known as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2ND GIG, the two OVA Movies which retell the events of the TV series, known as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Laughing Man and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Individual Eleven, as well as the feature-length-film that brings the Stand Alone Complex series to its conclusion; Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society within a single limited print run set. This Deluxe Edition also contains a book featuring over 140-pages of artwork, cast interviews and staff interviews with those involved with the production of the Stand Alone Complex universe.

Unfortunately our coverage will not reflect the opinions of the individual movies or of the book itself, as these were not provided, but judging from the teaser images shown by Manga Entertainment UK via e-mails to consumers the book will be filled to the brim with information translated from the French Anime Limited / @Anime release of this set.

That’s right; this Zavvi exclusive Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Deluxe Edition is a modified release of the previous Ultimate Edition released in France by Anime Limited. The packaging and presentation of the box, book and disc artwork will be similar (if not the same); but the disc contents will be vastly different – which is what will be taking a look at today.

The two TV seasons will be spread across four Blu-Ray discs respectfully while the movies will be spread across three discs; each of which will feature English and Japanese audio along with a selection of bonus content that relates to the particular product.

Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex:

Taking place in the year 2030 cyberisation with cyber brains and prosthetic bodies has become the norm and with the introduction of new technologies comes new technological dangers in the former of cyber crime. To protect the nation from this new wave of ‘cyber warfare’ the Japanese government forms an independent police unit known as Section 9, which led by Chief Daisuke Aramaki is tasked with keeping peace within the nation of Japan.

Keeping the peace in a world that is constantly connected to the internet is no easy task, but Section 9 is filled with unique members with each having their own skill set. Unfortunately, and as the norm with ‘any’ incarnation of Ghost in the Shell, viewers are not gradually eased in to these characters and instead their back stories and personalities are played out in chunks, as well as stand-alone episodes, throughout the series and this continues throughout both seasons and well into the feature-length-film.

For those unfamiliar with the characters let’s break-it-down; we have Motoko Kusanagi, otherwise known as the Major, and is the field leader of Section 9 that excels at everything she sets her mind to. Batou is a military brute who idolises the major and has deep connections with her but also specialises in combat. Unlike the Major and Batou which both have prosthetic bodies Togusa is a regular human with the simplest of cybernetic implants for his cyber brain and prefers to do things the ‘old fashioned way’ due to his experience as a detective in the local police force.

These are the three main characters of Section 9; but we also have Ishikawa who is an expert at data analysis and manipulation as well as Borma is mostly an explosive specialist but also compliant with data analysis and antivirus creation. Saito meanwhile is the team’s sniper and strategy specialist. Lastly we have the Tachikoma, miniaturised tanks that aid Section 9 in combat scenarios that each have their own ‘lovable’ personalities and – as time progresses – begin to become more unique that the human characters on screen. Individually these characters offer a unique back-story; but together they excel at becoming one of the greatest teams.

Season 1:

Featuring twenty-six episodes across four blu-ray discs and available in both English and Japanese (with English subtitles), the first season of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex features a combination of stand-a-lone episodes and a developing story known as the Laughing Man.

The series starts off with Section 9 forced into combat against Geisha’s in a restaurant with government officials but it soon transpires that this was more than just a business meeting gone wrong; while the second and third episodes meanwhile focus on the prospect of a robotic tank given life through the implantation of a cyber brain while an old dated robot becomes the perfect girlfriend for a diplomat. Interesting stories indeed but these are all just opening acts to the Laughing Man case.

The Laughing Man case, of which originally began several years prior when a live-hack was done on TV against a Serano Genomics employee returns when Interceptors are being used unlawfully within the police force. The involvement of the police, Serano Genomics and a higher level of corruption sees chaos break out amongst both public and the police with Chief Nibu resigning from his position and – at the same time – being attacked by copycats of the laughing man. It’s a collection of three episodes that brings out some of the more ‘investigative’ moments of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; but this is just the beginning of the end.

With the ‘potential’ laughing man case taken care of the series once again moves to individual episodes focusing on different elements of the ‘Ghost in the Shell’ world with different types of cyber terrorism, character back stories and objectives. Each of these stories may seem stand-a-lone but they serve a bigger purpose of delivering the bigger story; as throughout these stand-a-lone episodes little tibits of information lead back to the Laughing Man; including one particular episode (Chat! Chat! Chat!) which focuses entirely on the discussion of this infamous person through a chat room.

It’s not until the last six or so episodes of this series where the Laughing Man case begins to bear its real teeth; with Section 9 having to put everything on the line to prove the existence of this infamous hacker as well as the corruption this person was trying to unearth. Even now, more than decade after its original release, the story and presentation still holds up.  If you’ve never seen Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex then you’ll be in for a few surprises, some interesting twists and plenty of dialogue that explains that past events in full. It can be a little be complicated; but its good from start to finish.

The Laughing Man:

Ghost in the Shell: Laughing Man is a recap movie the combines the ‘main events’ from the laughing man portion of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex into a single feature-length-film. Naturally as this is a recap movie some elements are lost but the biggest annoyance is that the English Dub cast has been completely changed from the original English Dub. It’s unclear why Bandai Entertainment did this; but it makes for a disappointing watch – especially if you enjoyed the English Dub from the original series.

Although we did not receive a sample disc for ‘The Laughing Man’ it’s been said that the disc contents and presentation, which were 1080i, will be the same as those released previously by Manga Entertainment UK.

Season 2:

Once again featuring twenty-six episodes across four Blu-Ray discs, and also available in both English and Japanese (with English subtitles),  the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is known as Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig and it once again sees the ‘reformed’ Section 9 taking on cyber crime and terrorist threats within Japan. Featuring better animation, and another intriguing storyline, 2ND Gig returns the thrills of the original with a new threat; but not entirely as one would imagine it.

It’s been two years since the events of the Laughing Man case and Section 9 are back; except this time under the strict watchful eye of the new prime minster. Section 9 are still considered the best at what they do, but elsewhere people have doubts – including the new prime minster. This second season of the anime begins with a hostage takeover scenario in an office building and while local police are called it is up to the Section 9 to take command and rescue those people in need. It’s a great first episode and sparks everything we enjoyed about the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex within a single episode.

Naturally Section 9 manage to subdue the threat and save the hostages but upon doing so discover that a new enemy threat is lurking in the shadows and that threat is from the group known as “Individual Eleven”. Just like how the Laughing Man was a focal point for Season 1 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex the “Individual Eleven” is a focal point for Season 2, otherwise known as 2nd Gig, and in this case it revolves around two distinctive characters each with their own unique agenda.

Hideo Kuze, a white haired man, is seemingly the leader of the individual eleven and want’s to fight for a better world for the refugees that arrived from previous world wars, while Kazundo Gōda, whose face is severely burned, is a member of the Cabinet Intelligence Service and acts for his own reasoning to make Japan a better world; even if it means bringing it to its destruction.

The similarities between The Laughing Man and Individual Elven are noticeable, and at times follow a similar pattern of mixing stand-a-lone stories with an ever developing plot, but each have their own strengths and weakness. Regardless the events within 2nd Gig see Section 9 once again partake in various tasks that mostly involve locating, and capturing, the leader of the Individual Eleven group; but upon doing so discover that a bigger threat lurks within the background and that the Individual Eleven was nothing more than a decoy.

Individual Eleven:

Just like the previous recap movie Individual Eleven is another feature-length-recap that combines the ‘main events’ from the Individual Eleven portion of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig series into a single feature-length-film. Once again it does a rather ‘rushed’ approach compared to how it is presented in the TV Series; but all of the major talking points are here. Unfortunately, just like with the previous recap movie, the English Dub features a different set of voice actors and as such can be a jarring experience when watching alongside the TV Series.

Although we did not receive a sample disc for ‘Individual Eleven it’s been said that the disc contents and presentation, which were 1080i, will be the same as those released previously by Manga Entertainment UK.

Solid State Society:

The final piece of the ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ collection is the feature length movie; Solid State Society. Taking place after the events of the second season, and once again two years in the future, this film sees Togusa in charge of Section 9 and Major Kusanagi going rogue to search for the infamous Puppeteer. The paths of Section 9 and Major Kusanagi soon cross paths when they both begin to investigate the numerous deaths and disappearances of children and eventually Section 9 becomes whole again to take down the corporation that’s behind it.

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society is the ‘grandiose’ of the Stand Alone Complex timeline with better CG, animation and quality; much so that this is easily the best of the entire franchise in terms of quality. It’s simply everything you could want from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex within a single film with its own unique story to tell. Another ‘good news’ is that the original English Dub cast returns to reprise their roles for the characters; which is good considering that the recap movies used completely different voice actors.

Although we did not receive a sample disc for ‘Solid State Society’ it’s been said that the disc contents and presentation, which was 1080p, will be the same as those released previously by Manga Entertainment UK.

Extras:

Back when Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was originally released on DVD the discs came packaged with numerous bonus features ranging from promotional trailers to interviews with the cast and directors; and thankfully those bonus features are not lost on this Blu-Ray re-release.

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Majority, if not all, of the bonus features that were present on the DVDs are included on these Blu-Ray sets and while they have not been re-mastered in High Definition they still allow us to watch interviews and go behind the scenes on how the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex franchise was made.

The bonus features are split across numerous discs; with Interviews relating to Season 1 on Discs 3 and 4 while Interviews relating to Season 2 can be found on Disc 7 and 8 (or Disc 3 and 4 of Season 2). It’s an extensive amount of bonus features and I applaud Manga Entertainment UK for keeping the content. That’s not all as each episode has its own ‘synopsis’ and so you can choose to read about the episode before actually watching that particular episode. Slightly wasted effort in my opinion; but it is a nice touch.

Unfortunately we do not get textless opening or ending credits, which is a shame as they are both decent, but its a small price to pay for having these interviews intact. Additionally it would have also been nice for the tachikoma shorts to be made available as one giant play through; but alas they are instead at the end of each episode as originally intended.

Naturally the recap movies (Laughing Man & Individual Eleven) as well as the Solid State Society movie will also come with a selection of bonus features and these should be the same content as what was used on previous Blu-Ray releases; such as Tachikoma shorts, Japanese promotional trailers and textless songs.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50 x11
Region: B
Running Time: N/A
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Grey)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p) [TV Series & Solid Sate Society], (1080i) [Recap Movies]
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Truth be told Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is filled with realistic political scenarios and involvements that makes dissecting and writing about the series difficult to achieve; but this is where the entertainment aspect comes from watching the series. It’s a futuristic vision of real world styled events and while both season 1 and season 2 offer differing storylines it involves the same group of people working together (and against the odds) to keep peace within the world they live within. There is no conclusion or end game; it’s simply one case after another until the series draws to an end – which is a shame as I wish it would keep on going until a real conclusion could be had.

Either way Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex follows the events of Section 9 and the types of missions they must overcome; with each episode offering variety and complexity that one might expect. While most episodes are a ‘stand-a-lone’ perspective majority of them join together to deliver a more concrete and forfulling story. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is not a ‘binge watching’ type of series but it can be watched in that manner; that is if you want to fry your cyberbrain with the amount of information that is being portrayed.

Of course the main point of this Blu-Ray release is the High Definition release of the TV Anime Series and although it is visually appealing it does have some minor issues. Some elements of the series, namely CG aspects such as the opening or cars, do not look as good as one would imagine. Additionally interlacing issues can occur randomly during selective episodes – which is not something you would expect from a High Definition release. Watching from a distance (or on a small screen) makes these issues less noticable but it is worth noting. Subtitles meanwhile work as intended, with captions/translations on automatically for the English Dub; but they are the greyish colour (like in Attack on Titan – Season 1) rather than the white of FUNimation authored releases of Yellow of Sentai Filmwork releases and so can be difficult to follow when different people are talking.

The biggest disappointment of this release, for me at least, is that chapter markings on the first two discs are incorrect and as such skipping the opening would take you several minutes into that episode. This issue also occurs for the Tachikoma Shorts, which take place at the end of the episode, as skipping the ending will continue to the next episode. Fortunately this issue only affects Disc 1 and Disc 2 of Season 1, as well as Episodes 15 & 16 on Disc 3 of Season 1, but its still a disappointing issue to have.

On the plus side these Blu-Ray releases do fix issues that were present in the DVD release; for starters due to High Definition transfer we do not have PAL conversions and issues present on Season 1 of the DVD – such as out of sync audio for three episodes – are not present on this Blu-Ray release. More importantly the visual quality throughout the series is consistent and delivers the High Definition experience one would expect from a High Definition release.

Overall Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Deluxe Edition is a great release mixed with a few issues, but it is a “must have” purchase for fans of Ghost in the Shell or for those who enjoyed Pyscho-Pass. Without a doubt Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is worthy of both your time and consideration and this Deluxe Edition is the best release to date for UK audiences as it features everything related to the Stand Alone Complex timeline within a single set and at the best quality available within the UK.

Score: review-stars-5

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Deluxe Edition will be available on Blu-ray from the 4th June 2018 exclusively from online retailer Zavvi.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

3 Responses to Blu-Ray Review: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Deluxe Edition

  1. Spanky McDee says:

    The Manga releases of the two compendium movies are not ports of the Bandai US discs, as they are 1080p. I don’t what Manga did, but they look awful.

  2. Pingback: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV Series Collection Announced for Blu-Ray and DVD Release This August | AnimeBlurayUK

  3. Marco Morelissen says:

    Im a Fan of Stand alone complex. But in your opinion is it worth it to upgrade from DVD to BD?

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