S.A.C. 2nd Gig Vol. 1
Once again, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex has made itself a can't-miss show. Just like the 1st Gig season, Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig is able to combine incredible dialog, stories, art, animation, sound and music for a complete viewing experience and absolute treat.
For starters, 2nd Gig is not a continuation of the events of the 1st Gig, but more of a sequel, as it starts roughly a few months after the events in 1st Gig. You have all of your old favorites back as far as the cast goes, although instead of tracking down the Laughing Man, a group called the Individual 11 seems to be the main players. Even though it's not imperative that you watch the 1st Gig before 2nd Gig, it would probably be better if you do, because you would be missing out on good character development, some important setup information for the world of Ghost in the Shell, and lastly, a great TV series.
The first episode of volume one was perhaps one of the best initial episodes that I've seen of a series in a long time. It manages to wrap up basically all the loose ends hanging at the end of 1st Gig, so that you can start fresh, and the episode starts to touch upon the main conflict of 2nd Gig. Fill the episode with some great action and a good story, and it's a great way to kick things off. In the first episode, the Individual 11 take a group of people as hostages. When it seems as if the local authorities won't be able to handle the situation, Aramaki has the perfect opportunity to uses his impressive negotiation skills, and the government has the perfect chance to bring back Section 9 as an official group. They do a good job of showing off how the government is set up now, following the events from the end of the pervious Gig, and they clearly explain the new initiation of Section 9. You won't be left with any frustrating continuity gaps here.
The next two episodes are nice individual stories. The first story seems to be an homage to Taxi Driver, as we get an almost entirely introspective episode from a non-Section 9 character. In fact, the main cast only plays a very small part in this episode, but the writers still manage to pull off a very well-done episode. After this, see Section 9 taking the center stage again, as they are after a prominent figure in society who is obtaining his money in a very illegal manner.
Lastly, the fourth episode touches more upon the bigger picture of the 2nd Gig overall plot. While 1st Gig revolved around the Laughing Man trying to uncover government conspiracies and cover-ups, 2nd Gig seems to focus a lot on the condition of society, mainly that of Asians refugees in Japan and their treatment. This seems to be what drives the Individual 11, but as of now, not much more is known of them. In the last episode, a group of army helicopters have a shady-looking malfunction while hovering over the Asian refugee district, which causes some obvious concerns. Considering the potential for disaster, Section 9 is called into action, assisted by a newly introduced character that seems as if he will be making another appearance in the series.
As with 1st Gig, you get the complete package. The animation is just awesome. One of the highlights for me is the invisible "predator." Fans are treated to hearing Yoko Kanno's soundtrack once again, and she does just as well with the 2nd Gig soundtrack as she did with the first season. Another bright spot is the opening song and video. Once again, it will leave you breathless. The ending is another great song, although it has a different mood from the ending song for 1st Gig. All of the voice actors from 1st Gig reprise their roles, and even the secondary characters are well portrayed. After just seeing the first volume, you can tell that this show is going in a great direction.
The one problem that some people might say about Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig is that itís a bit slow and wordy. Anyone that feels this way might give up after seeing the dialogue. Action scenes are as good as it gets, as demonstrated in the first episode, but you're not going to get an all-out action show. The series picks and chooses the moments where it is used.
The features are great, with the first volume containing interviews with the director, the art director, and the conceptual artist. Nice packaging and menus only serve to round out the release. If you're willing to spend a little bit more, the special edition comes with the soundtrack, which is certainly not a letdown.
As you can tell, I am a major fan of this series, and I am more than happy to see more. However, putting my love for this series aside, I have to highly recommend this for anyone that's looking for excellent dialogue and story telling. This is one of the best anime series going right now. Pick up Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig, because you will not be disappointed.