Directed by Kenji Kamiyama
Starring Atsuko Tanaka/Alison Matthews/Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Akio Ōtsuka/David Kaye/Richard Epcar, Koichi Yamadera/Trevor Devall/Crispin Freeman
In 2030 Japan’s war on cyber-terrorism, the worst offenders are pursued by a covert group of highly-trained cyborg investigators. These are their stories.
With cybernetic implants commonplace, a plug in the back of the neck taking you straight to the internet, and hacking having evolved into breaking into people’s brains, Major Motoko Kusanagi and the secretive organization Public Security Section 9’s sole task is to investigate and bring to light possible societal-toppling cases of cyber-terrorism. The Major and her team are mostly advanced cyborg with an inclination towards philosophical monologs. Section 9’s cases delve into the political conspiracies and philosophical conflicts of a society that truly marries the mind with the net and the body becomes eerily disposable.
This is a series of three films based off of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex television anime show franchise, itself based on but not canon with the original Ghost in the Shell manga and anime film.
With The Laughing Man, the Major and Section 9 are tasked to investigate a cold case of kidnapping and blackmail with an elite hacker against the Japanese drug administration and nanomachine pharmaceutical companies.
Individual Eleven is a political powder keg as oppressed refugees from mainland Asia are being prompted to rise up for recognition and independence, all according to backroom plans to incite a war and purge them from Japan. Of course, Section 9 is in the middle and tasked with bringing this case to light before all hell breaks loose.
Finally, Solid State Society is the end piece to the GitS: SAC franchise. Assorted suicides and child abductions plague the newly-expanded Section 9. While the Major has resigned from Section 9, she returns to the scene for this one case, much to the confusion of her former teammates as to her mission and motives.
The first two – The Laughing Man and Individual Eleven – are compilation films from the respective ongoing story line of the series’ two seasons. While each season’s episodic “Stand Alone” stories are excluded from this assembly, the ongoing “Complex” episodes used for these films still feel jumbled lack a fluid cohesion. Each season is mashed together into a collage that’s at times incomprehensible, to the point that I even forgot what the bad guy was trying to so in Individual Eleven, and I’ve seen the full series.
Solid State Society, however, is originally a feature-length film. It doesn’t suffer the awkward pacing and weird cuts that the previous two have. It’s much easier to understand and follow (and being a half hour shorter helps too). Despite it being a sequel to a TV series based off a movie that’s based off a comic, it’s not hard to jump into.
I’m honestly more of a fan of the Stand Alone Complex spinoff series than of the main two Ghost in the Shell films. Stand Alone Complex maintains a better balance of action and babble (which is also more coherent). Still, these films have a lot of talking heads, and this will turn off those who can’t stand telling over showing.
However, the ideas and themes these films explore will resonate with any audience that’s at all “plugged in” to key societal issues. Corrupt bureaucracies and industries, immigration backlash, the necessary resource drain from caring for the young and elderly alike – we deal with these in today’s reality. In a world where everyone should be theoretically more connected than ever, these characters still have to deal with the problems of being human, even when being human itself is a question.
Add in some good old procedural investigation, covert military raids and robots on rampage, GitS: SAC is good fun for the contemplative and action oriented. While I’d recommend the proper seasons over the compilation films, the material and especially the Solid State Society film are still top notch.
Look at who is with the times with a Blu Ray player!
The first two compilation films are in 1080i HD anamorphic widescreen, and the Solid State Society film is 1080p. The colors are clean and sharp. With more concentrated resources and effort, Solid State Society has more detail and fluidity to its animation. These aren’t on the level of the two Ghost in the Shell proper movies, but they are still good-looking cartoons.
Both English and Japanese audio come in Dolby True HD 5.1 surround sound. For some reason, The Laughing Man and Individual Eleven compilation movies have a different English dub voice cast than their original television series material or the Solid State Society original film. While I personally prefer the English dub on the series and Solid State Society, this newer one isn’t bad. Still, the change is jarring and weird.
The soundtrack of all three films is from renowned anime series music composer Yoko Kanno, who does an excellent job accompanying the moment with the appropriate somber and contemplative melody or hyperactive action beat.
Too bad there are bits and pieces throughout the films where the dialog is drowned out by ambient noise or the soundtrack. A better mixing job is in order.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Each film comes in its own standard Blu-Ray case. The cover layouts are pretty uniform, and the art and coloring range from decent to attractive. It’s sad though that the cover only lists the Japanese voice cast and not the English, perhaps because of the switch in casts.
All three films are accompanied with a behind-the-scenes feature that provides a good bit of insight and commentary of what went into the works. In addition, there are funny and cute comedic shorts with the sentient robot tanks called Tachikomas with each film.
Solid State Society outshines the other two in special features with additional bonuses covering the creation of a working model Tachikoma and the Nissan tie-in. One neat thing is an interview with a panel of the English production staff. While the video and audio qualities of this special are well below everything else in this collection (it looks like it was filmed in the ‘90s), it’s not often that the English production gets to contribute its own bonuses, making this added content and unique opinions that aren’t simply ports from the Japanese versions. Have to get points for effort.
With even the interactive menu being clean and fluid, these discs and features were obviously well constructed and thought out.
I would like to recommend all three of these films, as I do enjoy the material. However, I’d recommend the full Stand Alone Complex and SAC: 2nd Gig seasons over their compilation films. They’re easier to digest in half-hour chunks, and there are several stand-alone episodes that are quite excellent. Still, the material is here for a good time, and even with the first two films having their issues, Solid State Society is quite excellent.
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10
The Films 8/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10