Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd Gig: Volume 2 Review
With the rise of refugee protests, Section 9 must protect Prime Minister Kayabuki from a death threat, brought on by her recent actions in repealing the refugee special action policy. With a string of separate cases linking themselves to “The Individual Eleven” Togusa and Paz research for clues into their mysterious background, and the meaning of a strange logo that has been turning up at crime scenes. Section 9 cannot allow for the media to know of such acts, but there are those who will all too willingly use manipulation to see that this latest threat will stir up memories of “The Laughing Man” incident.
Not knowing who to trust obviously raises paranoia, and in Section 9’s case they have no choice but to trust Kayabuki and the Cabinet of Intelligence Security. Their backs are to the wall and they know that they have little leverage in overseeing things getting done their way. While they constantly question higher authorities they’re unknowingly setting themselves up for a downfall, merely being pawns in Gohda’s grand scheme of things. During this volume we begin to see Section 9’s major weaknesses crop up as Gohda continues to treat them like puppets on strings. They naturally continue their investigations as usual, but the most interesting factor here is that they, and in turn the viewer, are being treated like mushrooms. Gohda is manipulative, he shows up only when things might be able to aid his cause, and has no shame in using Section 9 as decoys. In fact it’s not just Section 9, but also Section 1 who is being duped by the security group. With Kayabuki her political standing proves to be somewhat mysterious; is she a friend or foe? Section 9 would presume the former, or is that she is also just a dupe, put in place to throw certain organisations off any scent? And if that wasn’t all a new addition to 2nd Gig’s arc is the introduction of a cyborg assassin named Hideo Kuze, who turns up during the series’ “dual” episodes. He’s an intriguing character, least of all for his unclear motives. This comes after an attempt on the PM’s life, which ends on the assumption that he may not have been there to kill her in the first place. He disappears and returns later on, but his intents remain unknown. This is a character that will undoubtedly play a significant role as the series progresses.
So Section 9 would appear to have more enemies than they bargained for, with “The Individual Eleven” being more than a pain the ass for Kusanagi and her loyal team. Here they do mange to unearth some rumblings in regards to the ambiguous terrorist group. While Kusanagi and Batou are babysitting the PM, with Kusanagi carrying out her own independent investigation on Kayabuki, Togusa is sourcing vital information that will piece together the string of crimes, seemingly carried out by different criminal groups, with the discovery of eleven essays that surfaced many years ago.
Section 9 split up into groups once more throughout these four episodes, but it is Togusa who is given the important task of heading out to Tokyo in the episode ‘Excavation’, once again proving that he is an equal amongst his cybernetically enhanced colleagues. This episode is the highlight of the volume because we get a far greater insight into previous war that left the once strong capital in ruins, with half of it now buried under sea. Togusa immediately voices his concerns to Aramaki, fearing the residual radiation in the air. In his response Aramaki mentions the “Japanese Miracle” that was spread across Tokyo to purify the air. Of course it’s all highly reflective of Hiroshima and it’s an aspect of 2nd Gig’s history that I hope more of which will be divulged in the future. Director Kamiyama is certainly deeply rooted in his series, with the storylines getting progressivly convoluted as many twists weave in and out of Section 9’s investigations, furthmore adding commentaries that are particularly personal to the state of Japan, in a future that is perhaps an all too realistic representation.
When Prime Minister Kayabuki is sent a death threat the government call in Section 9 to protect her. Refusing to forego her visit to the local temple Kayabuki is escorted, after Section 9 set up a trap for the assassin. He is known as Kuze, and like the members of Section 9 he has a prosthetic body, only this one is a highly upgraded model. Kusanagi is going to have to put up one tough fight.
A man is found dead after an accident, which Aramaki believes was a cover up for murder. The man in question had been previously threatening the Energy Minister and Togusa is ordered to go to Tokyo to investigate. There he finds a city which now harbours huge numbers of refugees, with the city itself still in ruin. He meets a woman named Asagi who was the dead man’s wife, and who insists that her husband would never stoop so low as to try and harm anybody. Togusa is soon led to an underground government facility, where his quest for truth may put his life at risk.
Section 9 is appointed the task of safeguarding the transportation of plutonium rods from the Shinjuku Underground Nuclear Power Plant when “The Individual Eleven” learn of the plan. Heading the mission is Gohda, much to Section 9’s chagrin, however they must go along with him. The mission is about to become rocky when Gohda prompts soldiers to fire upon a group of refugees.
A man named Kawashima Sho is brought to the attention of Section 9. Batou and Togusa set up shop nearby the Taiwanese restaurant where he works, while Aramaki attains information from the government’s Information Bureau. He soon learns that Section 1 is also chasing Kawashima, who believe him to be a member of “The Individual Eleven”. Are Sections 1 and 9 being given false leads?
Volume 2 of 2nd Gig is another solid release from Manga. As with the first volume they provide some nice and easy menus to navigate. This time around we get a pretty swish Tachikoma theme.
As I see no major differences here I’m going to go with the same summation as I did with the first volume:
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 2nd Gig comes to DVD in fine form The image quality is very sharp and vibrant, and I swear there’s so much more detail in this series than before, which is all handled rather nicely. If it’s not perfect then it’s because it suffers from the same thing that most anime does – digital banding and a slight hint of Edge Enhancement. I don’t expect the series to look better than it does on the current format.
As for sound we get the same options as before: Disc one holds English DD2.0, Japanese DD2.0, English DD5.1 and Japanese DD5.1, while disc 2 contains English DTS and Japanese DTS. So for my primary listening experience I went with Japanese DTS, which I do for every volume, despite the English track being very respectable. All things considered this sounds as good as the first series did - when it was working properly. The amount of surround details is amazing as usually there’s some kind of ambient effect or otherwise in every scene, so it’s pleasing to be able to pick out these little things like machines working etc from time to time. Dialogue is nicely centred and when Section 9 communicates via brain waves there’s a nice feeling of separation and good steering. Action scenes are typically explosive and make the most out of the DTS, with plenty of whooshing sounds and clunky metal being pushed about – you won’t find better worded descriptions than that folks…
Optional English subtitles are available and I can report no problems. Hurrah.
Disc 1 features two interviews, both featuring character designers Takayuki Goto and Tetsuya Nishio. The first runs for just over twelve minutes and primarily focuses on Goto’s contributions. He speaks about moving from animation director on season one to character designer for season two, where he then requested a partner to ease up the workload, or things that he knew he wouldn’t be able to pull off that well. He goes on to talk about his worldview of characters, informing us that he usually uses actors as the basis for some of his designs – Takeshi Kaneshiro providing the template for Kuze, and actress Sayuri Yoshinaga as Kayabuki. Character costumes, androids and balancing animation direction next to character designing are also touched upon.
The second interview runs for nine and a half minutes and has Nishio talk about joining season two, after turning down season one so that he could work on Innocence as animation director. For 2nd Gig he took on older and more assertive characters, while terrorists and androids were split between the pair. He talks about using his own style when creating characters, and then having to tailor them for the series. He seems to like his creation of Gohda, whom he elaborates on for a moment, before finishing up the interview by telling us about his storyboard work for the new opening sequence.
Manga trailers can be found on disc 2.
The second volume of 2nd Gig continues in the tradition of producing some finely tuned episodes, keeping conspiracies high and placing the viewer into an unknown situation. The series can’t be accused of being predictable as at this stage there is no clear indication of where Section 9 will end up, or what these terrorists will do next. Manga Entertainment stays consistent so far by putting out another strong disc for this prolific series.