Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex Volumes 1 & 2

Bridging the cap between the original visually stunning, groundbreaking Ghost In The Shell film and its successor, Ghost In The Shell: Innocence, in terms of keeping interest alive, if not thematically, the Stand Alone Complex TV series is finally seeing a North American release, with each volume in the seven set anime series being released in bi-monthly succession. Best absorbed if you don't try to tie it to the esoteric, somewhat loose philosophical underpinnings of the original film's ending (as the creators obviously haven't), Stand Alone Complex follows the cybernetic Major Motoko Kusanagi and her unit Section 9 in a futuristic Tokyo as they battle cybernetic tanks, combat international espionage, foreign revolutionaries, police corruption and tangle with uber-hacker the Laughing Man. True to its name, Stand Alone Complex features a number of one-off episodes, all of which are intriguing, set in a futuristic society where the nature and implications of man, machine and reality are constantly challenged. But as the series progresses, the overarching theme of the Laughing Man and the mysteries beneath begin to emerge, giving a potential focus for the upcoming volumes. While not as perfect in its visual opulence as the theatrical Ghost In The Shell releases, Stand Alone Complex's animation level is high and more often than not impressive, even if the Major's wearing of underwear in battle becomes suspect. While there will no doubt be a full set release down the road with tons of extras, the current bonuses for the separate volumes are underwhelming, featuring just interviews and trailers. However, the "Tachikomatic Days" animated shorts tacked onto each episode are pretty awesome, featuring the smart, robotic, child-like mini-tanks from the series in bizarre, absurd, but charming situations. Once you start watching the series however, the next volume can't arrive soon enough. (Sony Music)