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Anime: The Laughing Man DVD

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Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, The Laughing Man is almost as long and complicated as its name. What you get on this 2 DVD set is the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (GITS:SAC) trimmed down into a 2 hour movie. From what I understand there’s quite a bit missing from the series, but you can hardly expect everything covered in 26 episodes to be jammed into a 2 hour movie.

Still being something of an anime virgin I wasn’t sure what to expect from GITS:SAC, The Laughing Man. DEATH NOTE had certainly opened my eyes to the genre, but I know that Ghost In The Shell has been around for ages and wasn’t sure what, if anything, I’d need to know about the show’s back-story prior to watching The Laughing Man DVD. Fortunately the basics are fairly easy to pick up.

Set in a future where technology has reached the ability to augment the human body, most of the characters in this movie sport dandy brain upgrades (cyberbrains) and other physical enhancements: Some are cyborgs, others appear to be entirely artificial. At the centre of the story is an elite domestic anti-crime unit known as Public Security Section 9 (or just: Section 9). After a Japanese official is ‘cyberbrain hacked’ during a press conference, Section 9 begins working the ‘Laughing Man’ case.

Six years earlier the hacker, who would become known as The Laughing Man, publicly assaulted the head of the large, medical micro-machine, company, Serano Genomics. The hacker managed to keep his identity hidden by cyberbrain hacking everyone who saw him and masking his appearance by superimposing a stylised, animated logo over his face. Since that incident The Laughing Man, as he was named by the media, has become a pop culture icon. His logo has appeared in connection with countless attacks on, and extortion of, large corporations. However while in control of the official — during the press conference — The Laughing Man suggests that he is not responsible for any of the actions carried out in his name since his attack on the head of Serano Genomics.

the laughing man

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, The Laughing Man is a complex story and features countless players. I can’t help but feel that the story has suffered somewhat in the trimming down process, although not having seen the full series I can’t substantiate that. As I mentioned before though, this has been scaled down from 26 half hour episodes to a running time of 160 minutes, so any abruptness in the pacing of this movie can be forgiven.

What is clear, is that this is an extremely mature piece of storytelling. It is complex, but its main players are distinct, well rounded characters who act as anchors when the plot really starts twisting on itself. I was puzzled by the fact that, despite attempts to keep the action and technology at believable (yet futuristic) levels, there was an insistence that Motoko Kusanagi, the only female character (of any significance), constantly dress like Cher attempting to turn back time. I’m not complaining mind you, however it was distracting and felt a little… unnecessary. It just seemed out of place.

There are plenty of elements that I didn’t quite understand in this movie, the notion of ‘ghosts’ in machines is one and while I can make guesses at the exact meanings, I’m sure that the notion has already been explored and explained in previous GITS titles.

Being only my second real incursion into anime air space I have to wonder whether the Madman guys are just picking the cream off the top or if I’ve just been missing out on some great sci-fi / fantasy gear. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, The Laughing Man is clearly part of a larger story. I’m not just talking about the series from which this DVD release was harvested, but the two anime movies which came before it (Ghost in the Shell in 1995 and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence in 2004). However far from scare this not-an-anime-guy off, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, The Laughing Man has me interested in going back and checking out these previous releases. I’m not sure that I’d want to sit through the whole Stand Alone Complex first season now that I know how it plays out, however I’d probably prefer to see the follow up season (Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG ) in it’s entirety.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, The Laughing Man probably as a great way to play ‘catch up’ if you missed this series or if, like me, you’re only just starting to explore what anime has to offer. It’s certainly less of a time / financial commitment than taking on the entire series. Although, you may just find yourself reaching for the full series in the end anyway! [source] [source]

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