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GITS: SAC VOL.1

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DVD Review- GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX VOL. 1

by David Blackwell

DVD DETAILS: first four episodes, 110 minutes, extras, previews, anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo audio in English and Japanese.

STUDIO- BANDAI, MANGA, PRODUCTION I.G.

THE EPISODES:

1. SECTION 9- Section 9 resolves a hostage crisis at a place attended by android geisha and they discover a plan to steal government documents.

2. PROOF OF INFLUX (aka TESTATION)- Section 9 must stop a rogue Tachikoma Tank that is on the loose

3. ANDROID AND I- A computer virus (downloaded into a manufacturer's mainframe) is causing obsolete androids to commit suicide. Section 9 try to find out who is doing it and why.

4. THE VISUAL DEVICE LAUGHS (aka INTERCEPTER)- Togusa receives a call from an old detective friend who is part of "The Laughing Man Investigation Unit". His friend dies in a car accident on his way to see Togusa. Togusa is drawn into a high-level conspiracy involving the government. This is the first episode to feature the show's recurring villain, The Laughing Man (a computer hacker who kidnapped CEOs of several companies in 2024).

ANALYSIS: The show is a blend of regular cell animation and Computer Generated animation. It works as a cop show set in 2030 AD. GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX is a complexly written series with well developed characters and intriguing storylines.  The music lends to the enviroment created for each episode as the creators have mixed popular music with traditional scores.   The first four episodes each stand alone from each other, but each episode has something to say. The fourth episode is the start of The Laughing Man story arc (that does continue in Vol.2 of the DVD and also be the focus of episode 9).

For further analysis on the show, check out last year's article I wrote on the show:

http://enterline2.tripod.com/enterline/id71.html

Don't forget the funny Tachikomatic Days that follow the end credits of each episode.

VIDEO/AUDIO: The four episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 or 1.85:1) encoded directly from High Definition masters. The colors and blacks of the animation are on target. There are no visible artifacts. The video looks seamless.

The audio is presented in both 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Dolby Stereo Tracks: English and Japanese. There is the option of English subtitles, but there is no close captioning. If you want DTS, you will have to buy the 3 disc limited edition DVD (the second disc is same as the first disc except for a DTS track instead of Dolby tracks and three disc is a soundtrack CD). . The only problem with the audio is the audio goes lower for the second half of the title credits at the beginning of each episode (when you hear the Stereo track).  So if you don't have a 5.1 or Stereo system, it is best for you to select the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks because you will hear the show clearer and louder.  The English language tracks and English subtitles do have some slight differences, but they basically tell the same thing.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The extras start out with two interviews. The first interview is a 11 1/2 minute interview with Director Kenji Kamiyama. He talks about the show and how it was envisioned as a cop show in 26 installments with lots of info being told in the dialogue. The second interview is with Atsuko Tanaka (the Japanese voice of Major Motoko Kusanagi). Atsuko Tanaka tells why the story appealed to the voice actors to do it, that she did it because she loves playing strong women characters, talks about the show and the first four episodes, and how her character is different from the character in the movie. Both interviews are in Full Frame (in Japanese with English subtitles) and most of the time the interview footage is in black and white. The first interview most likely to be on Vol.2 will be one with the actor who does the Japanese voice of Aramaki DaiSuke.

Next are the textless opening and textless closing sequences if you want to see the title sequences without the credits. Too bad we don't see the end credits for the series when it was shown in Japan as an extra. The end credits between the Japanese airings and the episodes on the US DVDs are different. A future extra I would love to see would be the interm title credits used for the pay-per-view airing of episode one in Japan as an extra.

The last extras are trailers for four other titles out on DVD: Witch Hunter Robin, Yukikaze, Read or Die, and Kai Doh Maru.

MENUS: The interactive menus have lots going on in the background. The look of the menus emulate the look of the internet in the Ghost In The Shell comics and the TV series. Nice menus.

WARNING ABOUT THE BOOTLEG/PIRATE GITS: SAC DVDs-  There has been some pirated/bootleg DVDs of season one (from Hong Kong) popping up on the internet at various online anime sites that sell anime and eBay. You should stay away from them since the people who are behind the series aren't getting any money from it and they didn't strike a deal with the people who put out the bootlegs. I have read that the English subtitles are bad on the bootlegs and some of these DVDs have some artifacts in the video. Also the bootlegs have Chinese subtitles (I hear they are burned in), but they have no English language tracks. Stay away from the pirate copies. Maybe the best way to stop some pirate DVDs is to release the Japanese and English releases of some popular anime around the same time. If GITS: SAC ever makes it to a third season, maybe it should be delayed a little bit to have the Japanese and English releases out near the same time to put a stop to pirate DVDs of the show (season 2 is currently coming out at the rate of 2 episodes a month in Japan).

FINAL ANALYSIS: GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX VOL.1 is a good start for a great anime series. Although I wished there were a couple more extras, this is a good DVD to buy if you're a GHOST IN THE SHELL fan or an anime fan looking for a new series to check out. If you don't care about the DTS track, buy the one disc version. GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX looks to become one of the best anime series ever. In addition to the STAND ALONE COMPLEX series, Dreamworks is releasing the GHOST IN THE SHELL: INNOCENCE movie. Maybe 2004 is the year of GHOST IN THE SHELL. The first season will be released in seven volumes on a bi-monthly basis. Expect Vol. 2 on September 28, 2004. Expect this series to sell even more DVDs after it starts airing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim on November 6, 2004 at 11 pm ET/PT.

this review is (c)7-31-2004 David Blackwell. this review cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia