Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd Gig: Volume 5 Review
It’s time for some serious digging as Section 9 take their proverbial shovels and travel the seven seas to try and locate the buried treasure that it Hideo Kuze’s past.
That was quite good.
Where volume four delved into some personal storylines belonging to particular members of Section 9, whilst glossing over the whole Individual Eleven scenario, Volume five goes the other way and looks at what kind of man Hideo Kuze is, as the major and her crew draw closer to discovering his plans. In order to do this various members of Section 9 are distributed across the globe; to begin with we join Kusanagi in Taiwan when she discovers a link between the country and Kuze. It’s here where a little piece of his past is investigated when he once went under the name “Ronin”, but soon enough Kusanagi is distracted from her findings when she saves a young boy named Chai from a certain grizzly assault at the hands of the local mafia. She’s soon embroiled in the life of a kid caught up in a cocaine smuggling operation, and as she takes care of him over the course of one day something of a bond forms between them. We see yet another side to Kusanagi, a compassionate one that hints at motherly instincts, whilst at the same time she knows that her feelings must always remain neutral. The boy at the centre of the piece desperately wishes to have a cybernetic body and finds Kusanagi to be a fascinating study; he even questions her as to whether or not those with cybernetic bodies can enjoy sex, to which the major kindly offers to show him. It’s one of those moments where we’re left to question Kusanagi’s integrity - a joke, or what seems to be a perfectly normal thing to do in her mind? Either way it’s an ambiguous side which isn’t explored often. Incidentally fans of the major are given quite a bit of fan service here. Put it this way, it’s as close as you’re going to get…
This volume deals a lot with how distraction can prove fatal to an operation. As we move to Berlin in “Trans Parent” we see Batou patiently waiting for a known terrorist to show his face, which for years has constantly changed. Known for causing destruction around the time of each yearly summit meeting, Angel Feather sticks to a predictable routine, which includes visiting his young and disabled daughter before fleeing to another country. This stand-alone episode brings us the first of several running complications that will place individual characters in situations that they shouldn’t ordinarily find themselves in. With Batou and the little girl who can sense his presence it stirs up an emotional study as he tries to avoid any confrontational scenes, but in the end his so-called “slacking off”, coming from Kusanagi’s mouth, places him in a bind that he knows he needs to get out of quickly, less he begins to form habits.
Mixed in with these two episodes is the continuing back story of how the world changed after World War III and IV. An interesting commentary sees Germany once on the receiving end of a missile attack from which it has since recovered and now enjoys a steady political and economic environment, with the additional nods going to the joint US/Japanese security treaty. So far 2nd Gig has done remarkably well in showcasing a continually evolving storyline, where bit by bit its history slowly comes together and we can assess its overall impact on the series’ present society.
With “Chain Reaction” and the following episode “Fabricate Fog” the series heads back to its home turf where Kuze has rallied together a team of revolutionists to take part in a plan that’s soon to be revealed. This is where things take another interesting turn because Kuze’s motivations, his standing within certain communities and his idealisms offer up some insights into his character that reflect against the old Laughing Man case, whereby we’re not quite sure whether we should take him as a bad guy or a well intended one. Of course such confusion is cleared up, but it still places cause for concern. The next couple of volumes should be interesting, with Kuze’s delusional behaviour taking on continual dramatic effect.
Section 9 is beginning to feel as if it could fall apart at any moment. There’s such a huge sense of insecurity looming over the team now. First Kusanagi is getting involved in investigations that really shouldn’t concern her and then she tells Batou that he’s slipping up, whereas moments later the shoe is on the other foot as the major screws up and leads Section 9 on a false hunt that claims the life of a new recruit and forces them to subsequently re-evaluate their position. Section 9 has gotten themselves deep into an investigation that could go either way, and with threats of military intervention and the potential loss of the Intelligence Service’s cooperation they’re looking at their most difficult case yet.
Kusanagi is lead to Taiwan where she hopes to find some information regarding Kuze’s past. With her trip almost at an end she happens upon an argument being carried out by local gangsters a young boy. Saving the boy she soon learns that he’s operating a drug running business and hopes to gather enough money for a cybernetic body.
Kusanagi eventually joins Batou in Berlin where a summit meeting is to take place in a couple of days. They’re tracking an elusive bomber going by the code-name of Angel Feather who appears during each meet and vanishes shortly after seeing his young daughter. Section 9, working with special forces, are confident that they can finally capture the mass murderer.
Kuze joins a band of loyal freedom fighters, while Kusanagi journeys through the net and steals important information, which leaves her a little shocked. Later Section 9 gets word of Kuze’s whereabouts and with two new recruits they head over to apprehend the revolutionists.
After an unsuccessful raid Section 9 is ordered to think things through more carefully. There are higher things at stake, agencies that Section 9 relies on for help but might lose if there are any more screw ups. The major seems worried about something and it’s unlike her to be acting this way. Meanwhile Kuze and his men are close to securing a weapons deal with the Russian mafia.
Another solid release from Manga, though this time around menu designs lack some imagination and as usual there is no play all option.
Taken from a High-Def source and 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. Banding and high frequency edge enhancement is here, though far from distracting. The rest of the image holds up as nicely as usual, with superb colouring and a lot of detail.
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 are fine. No errors to report on this occasion.
Interview with Kenji Kamiyama (Director), Atsuko Tanaka (Kusanagi) and Aki Ohtsuka (Batou) – 11:17
Taking place shortly after the recording session for “Trans Parent” the director and actors sit down to discuss their characters, from Batou’s feelings and Ohtsuka wishing he could play around, to Kusanagi’s maternal instinct and straight faced portrayals, coming from Tanaka. They also talk about the technical jargon littered throughout the series and how they decide the amounts of detail that needs to be divulged. In all it’s a fun little session, with the participants having a laugh and looking forward to more in future.
Interview with Kenji Kamiyama, Koichi Yamedera (Togusa) and Taro Yamaguchi (Borma) – 11:43
The director is joined by two more members of the cast as they discuss their respective characters which includes Yamedera playing multiple parts and voicing one of the more popular characters in Togusa, while Yamaguchi chats about Borma’s fears and the fact that he is now carrying the Individual Eleven virus, which makes it difficult to know where his character is headed. Electronic communication and Gouda are also spoken off briefly, with the interview finishing up by asking the actors how they think the series will finish. Both attempt to solve the series, with Yamedera teasing Yamaguchi about his character, while Kamiyama sits back and laughs it all off.
The fifth volume of 2nd Gig gets right back into the thick of it, showing major developments and opening up characters that little bit more for us to examine. Generally this is a slow moving volume, with action relatively light, though remaining as compelling as ever.
9 out of 10
8 out of 10
9 out of 10
5 out of 10