Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd Gig: Volume 3 Review

The shit hits the fan as Section 9 continues to investigate Gohda, whilst simultaneously trying to stop a series of suicide bombings. As if that wasn’t enough to test their stress levels, Togusa is put on trial for wounding a man off duty and a mysterious file that might just be the Individual Eleven virus is uncovered.


Volume 3 of 2nd Gig is one of the most rewarding to date, for several reasons. Firstly, with the continuation of incorporating a realistic portrayal of Japanese economics and social upheavals, along with other world developments, director Kenji Kamiyama and his team issue a series of personal statements that hit home all too hard. With the opening episode concentrating on a spate of suicide bomber attacks the writers naturally use it as an opportunity to raise concerns and ask the same questions that we all have at some point – “why?” Why do these people continue to do what they do, as if it really was for a greater good. There’s a certain sadness and cold reality to be found within, and yet the subject is tackled appropriately, with genuine concern. Kamiyama continues to present us with stories that are relevant, sometimes obvious but never patronising, and that’s a strength which continues to befit this series. By not bogging things down too much with these additions 2nd Gig still rallies off some exciting bouts of action, but more so it’s the long, conversational pieces that bring out some of its finest moments. As such there’s plenty to sink your teeth into outside of the pressing matters surrounding any given case of Section 9. More than ever the state of paranoia surrounding the team is escalating, with one thing unanimously obvious – Gohda has much bigger role in all of this. Ultimately the role that Gohda plays is revealed during one of Kusanagi’s undercover stints as the pieces of the jigsaw finally begin to fit together.

While Gohda continues to pull the strings from atop his podium his puppets, Section 9, run in circles and always end up one step behind. This is another compelling twist that Kamiyama brings to the series, in that Section 9 aren’t always perfect; they’re vulnerable and when that notion hits home like a sledgehammer they have to pull together. Here we see some solid developments in terms of the greater team element being put to use. It’s wonderful to see every member of Section 9 working in perfect unison, communicating back and forth and uncovering vital clues. But there’s also an added problem because even they can only do so much. And so they decide to recruit new faces, and we soon see a string of harsh, new recruitment tests. Furthermore the series delves a little deeper in showing Section 9’s darker side, one which sees them take drastic action when their backs are to the wall; the call for a vital cover up during an important case offers an added amount of excitement that just cries “Section 9 are complete bad asses.”


2nd Gig captures its country’s symbolism through many means, though the episode “Affection” uses images of origami cranes (or tsuru) to carry across some touching sentiments. The crane is a national symbol of longevity which became all the more prominent after the tragic passing of Hiroshima bomb victim Sadako Sasaki. Now it promotes peace and hope for everyone in the world; despite there not being any physical link to the events of WWII there’s an undeniable connection, a sense of unity on display which one can’t help but be fully aware of. But this episode provides a key turning point for Major Kusanagi, through the telling of a heartbreaking story that involves two young children who had survived a horrific crash and now only have hope to go on. It’s one of the most emotionally challenging episodes so far, not only for it’s beautiful narrative, but also because it’s the first time that we truly begin to understand Kusanagi. The character insights go deeper still, in particular for Togusa, once again, who I always felt binds the series together. While off duty he apprehends a cybernetically enhanced criminal, who kills a young woman in need, but his act has him thrown into the courts in a riveting case that touches a little upon his mindset and the often bizarre judicial system.

Another interesting move takes us into the world of cyber checking, in far greater detail than we’ve seen before. The animation shifts tone when we’re presented with a CG representation of how things work within the net. It keeps things fresh and inventive, not that the series ever has ever lacked a nice sheen. But all of this relates to the ambiguous Kuze, who has now rallied a team of ace terrorists to do his bidding. The last episode on the disc, “Selecon”, is simply stunning. The way in which Kuze’s recruitment plays out is compelling, being so handsomely delivered and then culminating with one of the most shocking endings ever to hit the series. I’m not going to spoil it, but it denotes a perfect finish to a highly entertaining volume.


Episodes

Ambivalence
Section 9 is called to the latest in a series of suicide bombings that are presumably linked to the Individual Eleven. A fifth bombing is due to take place any day now and the team must cull all of their expertise and information on the previous crimes in order to prevent further chaos. But when the Central Intelligence Service is hacked by a mystery man Section 9 find tougher roads ahead of them. Kusanagi goes undercover to face Gohda and learn of his master plan.

Trial
Togusa is put on trial for disabling a criminal with a prosthetic body after said criminal killed a woman in front of him. Unfortunately Togusa was off duty during the incident and failed to secure the assailant’s gun at the time, which soon becomes vital information during his trial. Can Togusa’s righteous belief, along with the support of his fellow team mates secure a win?

Affection
With Section 9 under a lot of recent strain, it’s decided that recruitment trials will take place under the supervision of Kusanagi. During one trial Kusanagi, acting as a target, gives her trainees the slip and makes her way to a nearby alley. When she notices that she’s being hacked she’s lead to an old shop, while all communication to Section 9 is severed. Entering the shop she is greeted by an elderly woman who tells her a story she won’t soon forget.

Selecon
Whilst searching the Asian Matrix, Section 9 uncovers Kuze’s external memory cache. The team believe that Gohda was the one responsible for hiding it within the net, but as ever they fail to find any proof due to his persitantly skilled methods in covering his tracks. Kusanagi plans to dive into the new find, but when Kuze enters the fold once more, aided by an elite group of terrorists, she has much bigger things on her plate to deal with.


The DVD

Volume 3 of 2nd Gig is another solid release from Manga. As with the first volume they provide some nice and easy menus to navigate. The theme now is very cool, with turny bits and stuff.


A/V

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, though it suffers a little from compression artefacts this time around. Digital banding and Edge Enhancment make themselves known and there’s also a dodgy layer change during the third episode on the disc. A slight drop in quality for Manga, for what has otherwise been a good outing for this second series.

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 appear to be fine.

Extras

Audio Commentary with Kenichi Takeshita and Toshiyuki Kono (11.34)
The animation directors discuss their roles alongside chief supervisor Kamiyama. They talk about the main tasks involved, which includes carrying out spot checks and making sure that timing is spot on for large amounts of dialogue. They go on to talk about maintaining a certain amount of realism before Kenichi informs us on how they utilise 3D animation and several cel techniques. Toshiyuki chats about the judicial system in 2032, creating 3D interiors and gadgets and how they control certain shots with the modern advancement in technology. He finishes up with his role as Togusa’s family supervisor.

Audio Commentary with Kenji Kamiyama (13.02)
Kamiyama leads us through to episode 38, which means he covers a little background behind the first series, before moving on to 2nd Gig. Here he explains a few things that he’s already covered in the past and sticks to talking about the refugees during and after the rebuilding of Fukuoka. He then mentions how several government divisions are divided throughout Japan. His thoughts eventually stay with The Individual Eleven, Gohda and Kawashima’s presence within the series, hinting at what we might see in future episodes.

Manga trailers can be found on disc 2.


Overall

Volume 3 of 2nd Gig is the most thrilling yet, with plenty of huge revelations and climactic scenes that leave us gagging for more. As it nears its mid-way point I feel that the crew at work here are well on their way to bettering the first series. It seems all too early for so much excitement, what with four volumes to go, but 2nd Gig’s storyline is shaping up to be a real classic.

Film
9 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
9 out of 10
Extras
5 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

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