Ghost in the Shell 2.0 Blu-ray Review
'Ghost in the Shell: 2.0' is presented in widescreen 1.78:1 with MPEG-AVC 1080p coding.
The opening scene in this movie features the Major as she mounts an assassination attempt. This is one of the scenes which has benefited from the updated CGI effects and the improvements are immediately obvious. Now I know that plenty will see this as an abomination but just check out pictures eight and nine and tell me which you like better?! The improved CGI scenes boast a very impressive depth, clarity and that all important 3D pop factor is also present in spades. All aspects of these scenes have an almost tangible layered, three-dimensionality, which is head and shoulders above the original in terms of quality. In saying that, even the regular animated segments have clearly benefited from the updated transfer.
As the movie is set in a “Matrix” type world, there is a green hue to almost everything. This tends to mute the colours significantly but as I recall the original on DVD was never very vibrant and was distinctly murky at times. This BD release makes vast improvements over the DVD release and offers a very clear and well defined presentation for the duration, with a couple of scenes boasting some strong primaries. There are a couple of murky scenes but I believe this was as Oshii intended. The level of detail on display is very pleasing; with the updated segments (unsurprisingly) displaying a lot more fine detail in comparison to the traditional portions. The contrast ratio is strong, especially during the overblown outdoor scenes but the black levels, while satisfactory, do not quite producing the inky depths that BD is capable of.
There was a distinct softness to the majority of the traditionally animated segments, with the hazy lighting effects contributing to this problem. There were also a couple of scenes where the image seemed to judder slightly and there were a few scant instances of banding noted. Taking into consideration the age of the original print (which is in very good condition), I feel that an admirable job has been done here. The star of the show is most definitely the new CGI effects, which really look stunning on BD, and more than make up for the slightly weaker traditionally animated portions of the main feature (which are still very polished in comparison to the original cut). Overall this is well worth the upgrade from DVD.
The subtitles are large, razor sharp and never difficult to follow. The subtitles have also gotten an upgrade and have been translated expertly into English and brought bang up to date (with regards to the language used) for this 2.0 release.
'Ghost in the Shell: 2.0' comes packed with a Japanese dts HD Mater Audio 6.1 surround track. An English dts HD Mater Audio 6.1 surround track is also available but I hate dubbed tracks, so I stuck with the Japanese track for the duration.
Like the video presentation, the audio has also gotten an overhaul for this release. As well as the obvious upgrade to uncompressed sound, it's worth noting that an entirely new surround track, including new voice tracks (the Puppet Master was originally male), have been produced for this 2.0 release. It actually came as a pleasant surprised that an uncompressed matrixed track was available, with both the BD liner notes and the menu stating that only a 6.1 dts:ES track was available. Not so, my good readers, it's uncompressed all the way on this release.
The surround track is stunning on occasion, with some fantastic front separation. The surround channels are used to great effect with vocals, gunfire and cars/helicopters zooming around the soundstage. When The Puppet Master (or indeed any of the cyborgs) is communicating via the net, his voice emanates from all channels, providing a wonderful effect; it's almost as though the voices are coming from right inside the listener's head! There were a few matrixed effects noted but the mix was not as involving as other 7.1 mixes I have heard. Bass tonality is at times excellent, as exemplified by some of the enormous explosions and gunfights which take place, not to mention the “re-energising” of dead cyborgs or the battle against the tank; overall the bass is solid and pleasing. The all important vocals are locked to the centre channel (when they're not floating around the listening position) and are never difficult to follow.
The score from Kenji Kawai is immensely powerful and immediately recognisable. He composed the distinctive score for the first edition of this movie and also penned the score for the 2.0 release (which is pretty much the same). This facet really adds to the entire piece and can change the tone as easily as the on screen action. The opening theme is massive, with some very deep bass presence. The score then fades to a perfect level in the mix and remains more subdued for the remainder (with the exception of the scenic interlude mid-way through, which seems like an opportunity to showboat the animation and doesn't really add to the main feature). The surround bleed is also spot on and really makes used of the matrixed channel.
Overall this really is a very worthwhile upgrade from the DVD track, exposes many subtleties that I had not previously noted on DVD, and comes highly recommended.
The most significant additional feature on this release is the inclusion of a 1080p version of the original 'Ghost in the Shell' movie. Initially I believed that the 2.0 edition contained some poor quality scenes but upon comparison with the original, the improvements made on the 2.0 release are vast. The upgraded CGI effects are a huge leap from those in the original version and the more traditional animation has also gotten a significant upgrade. This inclusion is a very nice touch but I fear that only diehard fans of the original will chose this version over the updated one. The rest of the extras are direct ports from the additional supplements, which were available on the special edition DVD release. It also stated on the rear cover of the BD that a “Making of GITS 2.0” and commentary tracks and new interviews were available but I could not find these on the disc. I fear that this, like the audio track listings, is a packaging error; and it's cost this release a point because now I know these additional features are available elsewhere!
“Ghost in The Shell: Production Report” (4:3 HD 26mins)- This feature takes a look at the DGA (digital generated animation), digital cel work, AVID (basically PC based editing) and other processes which were used to create the (at the time) revolutionary animated feature. This really is a fascinating feature and although it's now completely outdated and almost archaic (which is not helped by the cheesy 80's soundtrack), it gives a very interesting background to the movie. The animators, the cast and the director also feature, commenting on the creation process for 'Ghost in the Shell' and take a retrospective look at its success. The feature goes into plenty of detail on all aspects of the movie, from the score to the plot, but be warned as there are some spoilers in here.
Theatrical Trailer - Included here is a cheese-tastic high definition trailer for the movie.
Creator Biographies - A text based feature outlining a brief biography of Shirow Massmune and Masmoru Oshii.
Character Profiles - These are available as two separate features and give a text based run downs of Aramaki, Batou, Ishikawa, Kusanagi, Nakamura, The Puppet Master and Togusa, as well as a glossary for all the “foreign” terms in the movie.
Standing as one of the most influential and ground breaking pieces of anime which has ever graced the silver screen ('The Matrix' borrows heavily from this movie), to view this movie back in 1995 would have been a mind blowing experience for many. The story still holds strong and although it's lost some of its impact due to replication over the years, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging experience. The inclusion of new CGI and audio effects really serves to bring this landmark movie bang up to date and so, this release comes highly recommended.
The video presentation has gotten a complete overhaul and is well worth the upgrade from DVD editions. The same can be said of the exemplary uncompressed 6.1 dts HD Master Audio surround track. The inclusion of the complete original cut of the movie in 1080p is a masterstroke and more than makes up for the other lacklustre additional supplements, which is not helped by some false advertising on the BD packaging. With both the original and the remastered version of the movie included on this release, backed up by a very strong audio visual presentation, this BD really is a must buy for all anime fans.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.58
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