2 Discs (BluRay + DVD) (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 108 minutes
No, you’re not experiencing déjà vu, this 2006 feature length spin-off from the Ghost In The Shell TV show Stand Alone Complex has been reissued with an HD upgrade for its BluRay debut.
For those of you with short memories or if you’ve not seen this before, the story takes place in 2034 two years after the end of the events of the “Individual Eleven” arc in the 2nd Gig Tv series, with Major Kusanagi having resigned from Section 9 and leadership now handed over to Togusa. While investigating a series of suicides by refugees from the Siak Republic, a common thread appears in the form of the words: “The Puppeteer”. Ignoring the refusal by the Prime Minister, Aramaki orders Section 9 to dig deeper, uncovering a plot by a Siak terrorist named Ma Shaba to unleash a micro-machine virus. Bato is sent to stop Ma Shaba but instead runs into the Major who is working alone. Before disappearing Kusanagi warns Batou to stay away from “Solid State Society”. Meanwhile young children are being abducted in great numbers and their memories are erased, leading to concerns that the Siak are using them as vessels for the virus. The truth is vastly different and it all links back to the mysterious Puppeteer, who it is now concluded is a skilled hacker with ungodly powers – and rather worryingly, Batou suspects that The Puppeteer might be Major Kusanagi.
Co-Written with GITS creator Masamune Shirow and directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Eden Of The East, Moribito) this is another thought provoking, if heavily verbose outing that scrimps a little on the action front, but what action there is doesn’t disappoint. In true Ghost In The Shell tradition, the story doesn’t run in a straight line and keeps you guessing all the way to the end, even when you think you have the answers. The identity of The Puppeteer (arguably a shameless and lazy derivative of the antagonist in the original film, the Puppet Master) is the conceit of the plot but doesn’t consume it with every stage of the investigation unveiling a new path for the team to journey down in search of answers. Along with the themes of cyber terrorism and child abduction, there is a cynical thread involving exploitation of the elderly who are kept alive for tax purposes and the usual political machinations to keep Section 9 on their toes. And the Tachikoma robots are back too!
Not having Major Kusanagi leading Section 9 is a hard issue to acclimatise too but it does give Togusa and Batou more time to step up and show their worth as team leaders – although you know the Major’s presence is not too far away. As alluded to earlier there is way to much verbiage and some of it not unsurprisingly is a stream of intense technobabble and psycho-analysis which threatens to leave the viewer cold and slows down the pace a little. However long time fans of GITS will at least have come to expect this facet from the franchise and will know that it isn’t thrown out frivolously and comes with some intellectual weight. The action scenes may be scarce but they are nonetheless a bullet ridden thrill ride when they arrive and while they often remain bloodless, the gore quotient is taken up from the suicide scenes.
As you would expect from Production IG, the animation is top notch although the production values feels just a step below the “major feature film” vibe it should have about it, feeling more like an extended episode of the Stand Alone Complex Series. Upon its initial release the CGI and 2D blend was highly regarded and whilst it has been usurped by today’s lofty standards it is still nothing to be sniffed at. The HD transfer might expose this aspect a little but overall the picture is sharp and bursting with vibrancy and added depth to the virtual reality scenes. The easily recognisable ethereal techno-pop soundtrack from Yoko Kanno is also give a True HD upgrade (along with both the Japanese and English dialogue tracks) sounding as fabulous ever. Along with the main film (on both BluRay and DVD here) all of the original extras have been brought along too which will please the Tachikoma fans out there.
With only the 2.0 redux of the original GITS film and the sequel Innocence available on BluRay in the UK (for the moment at least) this is a great opportunity it see the Stand Alone Complex version in glorious HD and for newcomers to the franchise to get an extra slice of the action. To paraphrase Elvis, a little less conversation would make this a top mark release otherwise this is prime GITS:SAC delivering its unique brand of cyberpunk intelligence and intense sci-fi action with a splendidly visual abandon.
English 5.1 Dolby True HD
Japanese 5.1 Dolby True HD
World Work File
Making of a Tachikoma Robot
Anime & Car Design – Designing the Future Car
English Production Interview
Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (Production IG) Interview
Uchikomatic Days short film
English & Japanese Trailers
English End feature credit
Man In Black