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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - The Laughing Man PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Thursday, 27 March 2008 16:00
The Laughing ManTake one 26-episode TV series (nearly 11 hours of anime), edit it down to around 2½ hours, and this is what you get. While Stand Alone Complex had some filler to it, there wasn't that much – so has the spirit of the series survived intact..?

Togusa receives a late-night 'phonecall from an old colleague, Yamaguchi, who's been working on a special investigation into what's become known as the "Laughing Man Incident", the largest ever case of corporate blackmail. His inquiries have uncovered some unusual activities by the investigation's senior officers, and he's looking for Togusa's advice on what to do next - but on the way to meet him, he's killed in a road accident. When Togusa learns of the "accident", he's convinced the timing was a little too convenient, and takes his concerns to Aramaki, who allows him some time to try and figure out what happened.

In the meantime, the Laughing Man has reappeared, and seems to be targeting those connected with the investigation. With the special investigation team having failed to uncover who the Laughing Man was or is, Section 9 are called in to work with the police to uncover his identity. Aramaki's got his own idea of what's going on, though: that the Laughing Man's reappearance is a setup by the police themselves to draw attention away from the scandal surrounding their improper use of surveillance devices, one of the issues that Yamaguchi had been so concerned about. Trying to uncover enough evidence to prove that theory, S9 launch a surveillance operation of their own, and it's not long before the Major discovers Aramaki may be onto something - but while the Special Investigation Unit does appear to have been up to something, there's also evidence that someone else is working behind the scenes - and with them apparently having the ability to hack directly into peoples' cyberbrains, no-one can be trusted...

AramakiTelltale logo

Batou & TogusaTargetting

As mentioned above, The Laughing Man takes the original Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex TV series, removes anything not related to the show's main Laughing Man arc, then edits the remainder down some more to create this 2½ -hour-long movie. That's a long movie, for a start, and perhaps this edit's biggest problem – with this sort of edit, there's a fine line between removing too much to get the running time down, and leaving the movie too long to watch comfortably in one sitting. The Laughing Man ends up too long – every scene you need to make sense of the story is here, but it's really something I thought would work best split across two sittings, especially as some of the talkative plot-exposition scenes can be very dry going.

That's as close as you'll get to a real criticism out of me, though. The adventures of Major Kusanagi and her team are rightly held in high regard in anime fandom - Stand Alone Complex is one of the few series that fully lives up to the hype that comes with it – and this movie has all the elements that made the TV series as enjoyable as it was. It's beautifully-animated, the action scenes are fast and detailed, the political scheming that underlies the story is complex but understandable, and the core cast – the Major, Batou, Aramaki and Togusa get most of the focus here – are a believeable and varied bunch that are very easy to connect with.

Arrest WarrantCaptor & hostage?

Last glanceLaughing Man

The only question is, who is this aimed at? First up would be people who have so far managed to avoid the TV series, as this release gives you a way of trying the series without springing for the full 26 episodes – as an accurate sample of what the TV show provides, if you enjoy this, you'll enjoy the bits that have been removed just as much. Secondly, it could be considered a shameless exercise in milking the completists out there – there are some reanimated scenes included, so if you positively must have everything Ghost in the Shell-related (and the Tachikomatic Days shorts are well worth collecting!), this is another title you'll want to add to your collection.

If you've seen the TV series, though, and are happy with the way that played out, there's very little in this release to make it worthwhile picking up, other than as a curiosity. It doesn't improve on the TV series in any way, and without that there's no real incentive to give it a whirl.

I've scored this for the benefit of people who are new to Stand Alone Complex - for them, this is a solid release with a very good story that's well worth taking a look at. Otherwise, think carefully before you splash the cash, as there's not enough new here to make this worthwhile to people who have already seen the TV series.

Rating - ****

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