Home > Anime, Manga and Games, Film, Reviews > Blu-ray Review: Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society OVA

Blu-ray Review: Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society OVA

Deals with the underlying themes of reality vs. technology!

Since the release of The Matrix in 1999, the Masamune Shirow ‘Ghost In The Shell’ series has become iconic amongst Western anime and science fiction fans alike. Championed by the Wachowski brothers, this series of well crafted and inspirational sci-fi detective movies became better known among the mainstream Western audiences; whilst seasoned fans of Japanimation sat back with an air of smugness now that this gem of a franchise had finally started getting the attention it deserved. 

Ghost In The Shell: Solid State Society is part of the Stand Alone Complex series which aired between 2002 and 2003. This series focuses on the members of ‘Public Security Section 9’, an intelligence department under the Japanese Ministry of Home Affairs. For those unfamiliar with the universe made popular by Shirow’s manga, the world of Ghost In The Shell is a futuristic, technological society where cybertronics and bionics are the norm and people are able to connect directly to the internet, each other and even hack telepathically. The title ‘Ghost In The Shell’ refers to the constant characteristic struggles of humanity over their increasingly mechanized bodies, where does humanity end and soulless (’ghost ‘less) technology begin?

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

Solid State Society is based in 2034 and follows a unique case covering several suicides of important figures: refugees of the Siak Republic. Upon being cornered, a desperate Colonel Ka Gael mentions his wishes to escape the ‘puppeteer’ before killing himself. Public Security Section 9 then continue to investigate these mysterious ‘suicides’ and soon find links to over 20,000 missing children in the area who have had their cyber-brains replaced and data compromised. The investigation inevitably leads them toward the puppeteer: ‘An ultra-wizard hacker’ who has been hacking into people’s cyber-brains for his own motives.

From the first image of this film we are met with an advanced and aesthetic form of anime animation. The use of 3D modelling and underpainting creates gorgeous tech and cityscapes which firmly set us in this futuristic world. It comes as no surprise that a 3D version of the film was released in Japanese theatres in 2011 as the quality of the footage is stunning and well worth its Blu-ray re-release. The soundtrack to this film deserves high praise. It is not only atmospheric but contains some fantastic cyber-styled tunes which create a wonderfully futuristic tone to the film.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

The anatomy of the figures is more realistic and detailed than most anime films, concentrating on the subtleties of human emotion rather than favouring garish archetypes or fan service. While the character of the Major is unquestionably seductive, she is also mostly covered for the majority of the film and taken seriously by her peers as a good detective and soldier. The colour palette is gritty and grungy with very few scenes of bright colour save when entering the world of the cyber-brain. In here, talking robots and bright lens flare runs rampant but it contrasts nicely with the noir world of ‘reality’.

The story itself is particularly engrossing and deals with the underlying themes of reality vs. technology that have been crafted through the whole ‘Ghost In The Shell’ series, especially when the characters of the children are introduced and we are given insight into how humanity ‘connects’ their young to the cyber-system. Whilst knowledge of the series may be beneficial to understanding the universe and certain characters backstories, it is however, not essential as the story itself is a unique case and can simply be enjoyed as a detective thriller.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

Although the Major is an ongoing character throughout the Ghost In The Shell series, her role is not as pivotal in this film as one may first think. She appears near the beginning claiming that she now picks and chooses the cases she works on; whilst there is an initial suspicion that she may in fact be the Puppeteer, this is a weak plot device for those familiar with the Major’s character from the rest of the series. Whilst she has some great action sequences and is instrumental in the climax to the case, it is Togusa who comes forward as the strongest and most interesting protagonist. His serious, often subtle character allow him to channel the film noir style detective whilst also holding onto enough compassionate humanity through his connection to his family that he is a relatable character.

The only thing that jars with this whole film would be the addition of the brightly coloured cyber-space based robot programs that help the team in hacking the system and tracking down evidence. Their voices both in the Japanese, but more obviously in the English dubbed versions; are squeaky, young and childish with an air of chibi-esque cuteness to them which seems discordant with the gritty world Kamiyama has weaved so wonderfully. If there personas were in fact just that of cyberspace based programs, it may be forgivable; but they also transmit to their physical robot counterparts and while this may add some comic relief to an otherwise dramatic thriller, it seems needless in a story which has established itself so well.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

Overall this is a highly engrossing film with a brilliant story, score and well developed characters. The animation is beautiful and even more so on its recent Blu-ray release, which captures the 3D rendering of the 2011 cinematic release beautifully and truly allows us to appreciate the effort that has gone into making a believable world. It’s a great example of animation that can be taken seriously as a piece of dramatic cinema.

Label: Manga Entertainment

Release date: 21st May 2012

Certificate: 15

Running time: 108 mins

Genre: Anime, Science Fiction

Director: Kenji Kamiyama

Language: Japanese/English (Dubbed)

Author Profile:

Anastasia Catris is a freelance illustrator, writer and actress based in South Wales. After graduating in English Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London she studied for a year in comic book art and design in The Kubert School where she nurtured her love of Japanese animation and cartooning as well as its cinema, video games and culture. You can keep up to date with Anastasia’s activity via her website www.anastasiacatris.wordpress.com or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/acatris. You may also follow her on Twitter at @acatris.

(Courtesy of Manga Entertainment)

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