DVD
Ghost in the Shell
Stand Alone Complex
2nd GIG - Complete Box Set

Starring (voice): Atsuko Tanaka, Osamu Saka and Akio Ohtsuka
Manga Entertainment
RRP: 39.99
MANG7015
Certificate: 15
Available 26 February 2007


Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Production IG with the DVD release of the complete smash-hit second series of Masamune Shirow's groundbreaking cyberpunk thriller,
Ghost In The Shell, in one sensational and essential boxed set...

The seven-disc Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG - Complete Box Set brings together all 26 episodes of the second series. Following directly on from the worldwide hit anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: 2nd GIG is based on a story concept by Mamoru Oshii, director of the critically acclaimed feature film Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, and picks up where the first series left off, with the surviving members of Section 9 reunited but under a government enforced Indefinite Standby Order that effectively renders them inoperable.

The saga continues as it becomes apparent that a criminal group calling themselves the Individual 11 has taken hostages at the Chinese Embassy demanding that the Prime Minister publicly announces a change to the government's Asian Refugee Policy. The incident provides Section 9 with a last-chance opportunity to be fully reinstated, but only if the situation can be resolved without any hostage casualties.

Disc one:

In Reembody a criminal group calling themselves the Individual 11 has taken hostages at the Chinese Embassy demanding that the Prime Minister publicly announces a change to the government's Asian Refugee Policy. The incident provides Section 9 with a last-chance opportunity to be fully reinstated, but only if the situation can be resolved without any hostage casualties.

This episode was made all the more jaw-droppingly impressive by the fact that out of nowhere came a totally gratuitous gory scene. This actually helped to bring home to the viewer that this is about as far removed from Disney as you can get (before your DVDs start being distributed by a man down the pub). It was made all the more bizarre because one moment you have a guy's face being blown off and then minutes later you have a cutesy scene with the Tachikomas being reintroduced into the employ of Section 9.

Night Cruise sees a cyborg war veteran serving as the personal helicopter pilot for the chairman of a large company. This cyborg has begun to experience disturbing daydreams in which he is responsible for the violent murder of his boss. A recurring element of the dreams is the presence of a young woman who looks remarkably like Major Motoko Kusanagi. But are the dreams purely fantasy or is there an element of reality to these dark visions?

Night Cruise follows the story from the point of the cyborg war veteran who dreams of taking control of his own future. He's a bit of a "yes" man, but at heart he dreams of running the show and getting the beautiful girl - all things beyond his reach. As you'd expect, there's a rather interesting twist in the tale.

Cash Eye: When a wealthy businessman claims the infamous thief Cash Eye is planning to steal from him during a forthcoming social gathering, the members of Section 9 find themselves posing undercover at a very strange party.

This episode examines the seedier side of the Ghost in the Shell universe. There's something decidedly creepy about the room that contains the wealthy businessman's Pleasure Doll collection. We are also kept in the dark about why Section 9 have been called to help this businessman, especially when we already know that the Major was responsible for the initial break in. Again, as with Night Cruise, Cash Eye also delivers a rather interesting, and unexpected, conclusion.

Natural Enemy: Section 9 is called in to resolve a potential crisis situation when the AI units of a series of attack helicopters go rogue. Their involvement brings them into contact with the mysterious Special Intelligence operative, Gohda.

This episode is interesting as it examines the use of AI in military vehicles. While on a training mission, the pilot of a helicopter dies of a heart attack. But, as his brain is still giving off activity, the helicopter ignores a computer override command from HQ to return to base - believing that because the pilot is still alive the command must be that of a hacker. There is an ongoing feeling that this heart attack was not an accident, but by the end of the episode everything is very much up in the air. Is this the start of some larger attack? Or was it just an unavoidable, and tragic, accident?

This first volume sees the Ghost in the Shell writing team taking a different approach to the series. Instead of an ongoing story line, the first four episodes are individual stand alone tales. This works really well, and I found myself enjoying the stories much more than the drawn out story arc that took up most of the previous Stand Alone Complex series. This new direction means that episodes like Night Cruise can be introduced - something which wouldn't really have worked as well in the previous series.


Disc two:

Inductance sees Prime Minister Kayabuki receive a threatening letter from the Individual Eleven implying that her assassination is imminent. Section 9 is called in to guard her. Despite the threat on her life, Kayabuki insists on making her scheduled annual visit to the local temple as normal. It is a decision that puts her directly in the firing line of a prosthetic-bodied man named Kuze.

In Excavations, Togusa is sent to investigate the death of a man allegedly responsible for making threats against the Energy Ministry. The dead man's ex-wife claims her husband was innocent but as she and Togusa dig deeper into the case, the hidden truth about the suspect's murky past and the forbidden government facility at which he used to work is uncovered.

Pu239 sees Section 9 called in to ensure a shipment of spent plutonium fuel rods doesn't fall into the hands of the Individual Eleven terrorist group. To Section 9's dismay, the enigmatic government operative known as Gohda is placed in charge of the operation. Things begin to go disastrously wrong when a member of the collaborating Self-Defence Force unexpectedly begins firing his weapon at a group of refugees.

Fake Food: During the ongoing investigations in the activities of the Individual Eleven, Section 9 apprehends a man called Kawashima. Placing him under 24-hour surveillance, Batou and Togusa learn that Section 1 also wants Kawashima. Could he really be one of the Individual Eleven?


Disc three:

Ambivalence sees Batou and Togusa on the trail of a gang of cybernetically enhanced terrorists who have launched a series of suicide bomb attacks against businesses profiting from the refugee situation in Fukuoka and Niihama. Meanwhile, Motoko, with the aid of several Tachikoma units attempts a daring infiltration of Gohda's computer system and makes some startling discoveries about the Individual Eleven. Can Section 9 halt the chain reaction of hatred and civil unrest before the refugee situation gets out of control?

Trial: While driving home from work, a woman being chased by an armed cyborg crosses Togusa's path. Togusa runs to the woman's aid, but she is killed during the cyborg's arrest. At the cyborg's defence trial, Togusa is put under the spotlight by a high-powered defence attorney who is trying to prove that the shooting was merely an accident. Kusanagi smells something fishy in the lawyer's exaggerated actions and finds Gohda behind the scenes. As the courtroom drama unfolds, Togusa finds that his reputation and career are on the line.

In Affection Motoko is inexplicably drawn to a bizarre memorabilia store in a surreal back alley while field-testing a group of Section 9 candidates. Inside the store, she soon discovers a mysterious artefact, which reminds her of traumatic events from her distant childhood. Should she raise her colleague's suspicions by daring to visit the store one last time?

Selecon: While hot on the trail of the Individual Eleven terrorist group, IR cameras pick up the image of Kuze, the cyborg who attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Kayabuki at the temple. While Bomar, Ishikawa and Togusa stay behind to continue their hack into the recently discovered Individual Eleven files, the rest of Section 9 attempts to apprehend Kuze before he causes any more harm. The chase leads to a showdown atop the Kyushu Tower captured on television for the whole nation to see.

I particularly liked Affection, although I can see it won't be to the taste of a lot of fans. The story of the synthetic boy and girl that Motoko discovers is a nice shift in pace from the usual violence and mayhem that most of Section 9's missions seem to end in. Not that I'm knocking violence and mayhem, it's just it's refreshing to stop for a second and explore the characters from a new angle.


Disc four:

The new series of Masamune Shirow's groundbreaking cyberpunk thriller Ghost In The Shell continues in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG. This fourth in the seven-volume series features four more episodes (13 to 16) detailing the exploits of Section 9...

Make Up: Kuze escapes from the Kyushu Tower as Section 9 continues the investigation into Kuze and the Individual Eleven. Only a handful of highly skilled specialists could have actually created Kuze's unique prosthetic face. They identify the prostheticist they believe treated Kuze and rush to his office to apprehend him, but it is too late. He has been murdered. The face of the murderer in the security video is revealed to be that of Section 9 team member, Paz! An imposter has been using his identity, but what is this person's connection to him and Kuze?

Poker Face: During a poker game, Saito recalls his first run-in with the Major and how he lost his eye. In the summer of 2020, he was fighting in Mexico as a mercenary with anti-government forces. The situation was going from bad to worse and the mercenaries were waiting for an opportunity to surrender. In the middle of this torment, Saito learns that an enemy special operations unit is secretly transporting nuclear material across enemy lines. In a strange twist of fate Saito has his first encounter with the young Kusanagi, who is a members of the very same special operation unit his is attempting to stop.

Pat: Some Tachikomas skip a maintenance protocol and initiate an investigation into the Individual Eleven on their own. Meanwhile, there is an explosion at the AI lab. Following the destruction of the lab, Professor Asuda goes missing. While investigating Asuda's disappearance, the Tachikomas experience a collective memory of the professor, but why? There is no record of Asuda in the Tachikomas' memory, so what connects him to them?

Another Chance: Ishikawa returns from the Peninsula, his investigation into Kuze revealing a number of shocking truths. In 2024 Kuze was part of the Self-Defence Forces dispatched by UN mandate to a small country on the Peninsula. What Kuze witnessed changed him forever and threatens to bring down the entire government. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is alerted to the existence of 'cyberbrain hubs' and the very serious implications they have for the ongoing refugee crisis.


Disc five:

Red Data: Kusanagi's pursuit of Kuze takes her across the sea to Taiwan, and straight into danger. After saving a boy on the run from the Mafia, the Major has little choice but to stay with him and the pair slowly gains one anothers respect. However, the boy's impetuous nature sees him try to deal with the Mafia alone, leading to big problems for the Major and her investigation.

Trans Parent: The Major and Batou are sent to Berlin to track down the international terrorist known only as "Angel Wing", but their appearance attracts attention from an unexpected source. A young wheelchair-bound girl is intrigued by Batou, and her curiosity is aroused as she awaits the annual visit of her father. As the day leading to her father's visit nears, her curiosity in this enigmatic stranger grows ever stronger.

Chain Reaction: Section 9 is back on the trail of the terrorist Kuze, hacking a refugee cyberbrain hub to trace him to the stronghold of Dejima. With tensions rising Dejima has declared its independence and it's into this hostile territory that the members of Section 9 must go if they have any chance of tracking down their man. However, the refugees seem to be expecting them, and it is clear that they won't be getting anywhere without a fight.

Fabricate Fog: Still on Kuze's trail, the battered Section 9 agents head to Etorofu and into another deadly situation. Kuze always seems to be one step ahead of them, but now things have taken a very serious turn. He and his followers have been trying to obtain nuclear material from the Russian Mafia, hoping that possessing nuclear arms will force Japan to recognise them. Section 9 may suspect that events are being manipulated from afar, but they have a race against time if they are to stop Kuze concluding the deal.


Disc six:

Embarrassment: Section 9's attempts to pursue Kuze, who is fleeing Etorofu in a camouflaged boat, are wrecked when their transport craft is destroyed by terrorists. Taking stock of their increasingly dire situation, the team decides to investigate further into Kuze's past.

Reversal Process: Events are reaching a head as a live nuclear bomb is found in the city of Fukuoka. The finger of blame is pointed firmly at the refuges in Dejima. With the citizens evacuating, the government decides to combat the threat by deploying the Self Defence Forces. Meanwhile, Section 9 believes that the Information Bureau is involved in the current crisis and Batou is tasked with getting some answers from Gohda. Faced with the arrogant Bureau agent, Batou is going to have a hard job keeping his temper and getting the information he needs.

Martial Law: Under increasing pressure, the government decides to send the troops to Dejima to recover the remaining plutonium, leading to a tense stand-off between the two sides. In a desperate bid to delay outright war, Prime Minister Kayabuki calls in the UN for a nuclear inspection of Dejima and sends Section 9 to mediate. However, tension is at an all time high and with both sides facing each other down the first shot can't be far away.


Disc seven:

The Prime Minister has been taken into custody, but her removal from office is being kept secret. As Aramaki and Togusa work to get to her so they can prevent a nuclear attack, in Dejima the military has already begun its assault. Meanwhile, the Major and the other operatives of Section 9 are trying their best to defuse the situation, while the injured Ishikawa attempts to deliver the rest of the plutonium to the authorities to prove their case.

During the fighting, the Major and Kuze become trapped beneath the rubble together and are informed by the Tachikomas that there is a nuclear submarine just out of sensor range. Batou, meanwhile, manages to convince the rangers who are pursuing them to stop fighting and listen to him. It is looking like things are finally starting to go Section 9's way, but the nuclear missile is still being prepared for launch.

Nuclear Power: After the Dejima Bridge is destroyed by refugees, a rumour starts to circulate that this has boosted their cause and they are planning to detonate a number of nuclear bombs. The Cabinet steps up its attacks against the city. Meanwhile Prime Minister Kayabuki has been arrested and taken to a secret location.

This Side of Justice: As the bombing of Dejima gets underway, the Major convinces Kuze to help her. However, the Self-Defense forces attack them and the duo end up trapped under the rubble. Meanwhile the Prime Minister is rescued.

Endless Gig: The Major and Kuze devise a plan that they believe will save the refugees. Because the chances of success are so slim, the Tachikomas ignore the plan and come up with a plan of their own.

8


So, £40 for a box set that would have originally set you back £140 is a bit of a bargain. Okay, you don't get the DTS soundtrack on the episodes, but then the 5.1 soundtrack is pretty impressive. Extras include textless credit sequences and interviews with cast and crew.

Ray Thompson

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