Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - The Individual Eleven Blu-ray Review
Movies reviewSRP: £10.99
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex's superior sociopolitical second season gets its own film adaptation/compilation focusing on The Individual Eleven.Following the feature film version of the first season's Laughing Man story, the far more expansive second season attempts the same, using the complex story of country-shaking double-crossing. When the millions of refugees from the fallout of a World War end up on a Japanese island, tensions mount with the mainland Government, and violence erupts in the form of a refugee terrorist organisation called The Individual Eleven. As a shady Central Intelligence Service operative starts manipulating the actions of the newly-rebuilt Section 9, The Major and her team are caught in the crossfire of what could be end up being an all-out nuclear war with the refugees.With a far more complex sociopolitical backdrop, and far grander-reaching stakes, The Individual Eleven is a darker, more deadly follow-up to The Laughing Man, maintaining the excellent franchise's roots in complicated cyber-based political machinations, double-crossing spy-work and fluid cyborg-enhanced action setpieces. Although the season was clearly harder to adapt as it encompasses well over half of the original episodes (Goda's character, for example, was a much bigger presence), the end result still retains the core story and themes, and is packed with intricate, compelling spy games and taut, intense action set-pieces.
Picture QualityThe Individual Eleven finally reaches UK shores with a Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Manga Home Entertainment. Framed in the show's original widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition rendition is excellent. As per The Laughing Man, the end result delivers visual opulence at every turn, with the large-scale events offering the epic action set-pieces in all their glory, brimming with rich background detail, intricate shading, strong line detail and a striking palette which, given the darker tone of the material, is understandably more dour than last time out.
The biggest and boldest that the franchise has ever been
Possibly due to the fact that the second season had much more integral material to fuse into this feature version, there's more new material that had to be created to make it into a full feature, and the results are therefore even more spectacular, and have a far grander scale than the original series was ever managed to pull off, sitting comfortably not only alongside the preceding The Laughing Man release, but also the Solid State Society feature film follow-up. This is the biggest and boldest that the Ghost in the Shell franchise has ever been, and it looks great.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks - available both in Japanese with the original voice cast from the series, as well as dubbed English from a new cast (controversially, for many fans, but the results - apart from when it comes to Aramaki - are pretty acceptable, following suit with the same new cast from The Laughing Man film adaptation). Both tracks are impressive affairs, delivering the key components of dialogue, effects and score with resounding proficiency on each count.
There's little room to take a breath in this engulfing affair
Dialogue is delivered clearly and coherently across the front and centre channels, taking priority, but clearly left frequently in awe of the surrounding effects, which are exciting and engaging, as well as the fantastic score - key themes of which have been retained from the original series. With far more explosions and epic action set-pieces than perhaps any other Ghost in the Shell outing - the insect-like Jigabachi helicopters are seriously intimidating - there's little room to take a breath in this engulfing affair as it lights up the surrounds and gives your sound-system a strong workout. Outstanding.
ExtrasAs per Manga's Blu-ray release of The Laughing Man, there's nothing much in the way of extras beyond a solid, informative half-hour behind-the-scenes interview-based segment that looks at the work done to turn the second season into a feature film, as well as a hint of the Tachikoma Days comedy footage. Given that the Individual Eleven story involved elements from much more of the second season than what you see here, we could have had a few 'deleted scenes' or even a couple of the more interesting Stand Alone episodes, including the great tale about the sniper.
Blu-ray VerdictUtterly unmissable for fans of the franchise
Many fans of Ghost in the Shell are probably still upset that the excellent Stand Alone Complex series has still not received a UK-friendly HD release (it's available to buy on Amazon Video, and you can import the US release but it's Region A-locked), and many more will probably roll their eyes at the idea of a 'compilation' release like this, but it's actually a very effective, impressive fusion of the ongoing story arc in the series, and makes for a tense, thrilling and extremely satisfying watch.
Manga's Region B-locked UK release provides excellent video and audio and, for fans of the franchise - whether or not you were disappointed in the somewhat disappointing live action movie adaptation (which borrowed a lot of elements, and characters from this second season) - it's utterly unmissable.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £10.99
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