Metaphysical Anime

gitsGhost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Complete Collection (Magna Home Video)

In 1991, when writer and artist Masamune Shirow released his action-packed but metaphysically driven cyberpunk manga Ghost in the Shell, he probably never imagined he was giving birth to a cottage industry that would one day encompass movies, video games, action figures, novels, T-shirts, and some inappropriate fan-made art of his hero, Major Motoko Kusanagi. Or that it -- and especially the now-classic animated G.I.T.S. movie that followed four years later -- would inspire a legion of other cyberpunk animes, mangas, and live-action movies, most notably the equally adrenalized and philosophical Matrix saga. But fifteen years later, the story of Section 9, an elite squad of computer-savvy, anti-terrorist cyborgs and ex-cops, is still going strong. Next year, in fact, there are three G.I.T.S. films being released, including the all-new movie Solid State Society.

What’s interesting is that while Solid State Society is an offshoot of the book, it’s not a sequel to the 1995 movie, or even a sequel to that film’s sequel, 2004’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Instead, they’re offshoots of the TV show, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which just completed its second season (but is still being shown) on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. And this is where things get confusing. While everything is based on the book, and has the same characters, the G.I.T.S. TV show is otherwise unconnected to the films, even though it features the same voice cast as the first film and the art style of the second. But unlike many TV shows inspired by movies, connected or otherwise, G.I.T.S. is actually as good as the original films (and the manga, and the action figures, and the inappropriate fan-made images…). Which makes it kind of like M*A*S*H or The Odd Couple. Only with robots.

Luckily for all those confused, or unlucky enough to have missed the show, Manga Home Video is releasing an all-encompassing boxed set of TV show’s first season, as well as the seventh and final DVD of season two.

Much like 24 or Lost, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has an ongoing story than runs through an entire season, though it also has episodes that, no pun intended, can stand alone. Set in the 2030s, the first season had the team chasing The Laughing Man, a hacker who used cyberterrorist attacks to raise awareness about a medical cover-up, while in season two, Section Nine had to deal with an increasingly volatile political crisis when refugees from the last world war tried to get the same rights as citizens. (Interestingly, the two other G.I.T.S. movies being released next year will each be condensed versions of these stories, with both combining footage from their respective seasons with new animation).

As with boxed sets for other anime shows, Complete Collection has the seven Stand Alone Complex DVDs originally released separately. All came with both English and Japanese voice tracks in both 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, as well as interviews with the directors and the Japanese voice cast. Similarly, the DVDs for season two, which was subtitled 2nd GIG, also come with the same audio options and types of interviews. All the volumes, season one and two, also come with “Tachikomatic Days,” a series of comical shorts starring Section 9’s precocious robots that were cut from the American broadcast versions of the show.

There are also, with the 2nd GIG sets, limited edition 2-DVD special editions that add DTS surround sound options as well as, like a McDonald’s Happy Meal, a special gift inside. Volume 1, for example, featured a soundtrack CD, Volume 2 had a G.I.T.S. mouse pad and a deck of cards, while Volume 7 comes with a soundtrack CD and a figurine of the Major, all housed in a cool-looking collectible tin case that’ll house all seven volumes nicely between your Gamera and Godzilla DVDs. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, there were similarly limited edition volumes of season one’s DVDs, but good luck finding them now.)

Admittedly, watching all fifty-two episodes of Stand Alone Complex might seem like a daunting task, especially with the new season of Lost in full swing and the new 24 coming in January. And that eating you insist on doing three times a day. But for anyone who loved the books, the movies, the inappropriate fan-art, or, for that matter, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Snowcrash, Neuromancer, or any other classic cyberpunk story, these Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex DVDs are another part of a cottage industry worth supporting. – Paul Semel

Purchase thru Amazon

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Mr. Semel has written about anime for such publications as Emmy, E! Online, Lemonade, and this website.

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