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GHOST IN THE SHELL: LAUGHING MAN...
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Reviewed by: Ammon Gilbert

Directed by: Kenji Kamiyama

Starring:
Atsuko Tanaka

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
The cyberpunk world of the future (2030) has robots, cyborgs, and humans living side by side each other. When a cold case regarding The Laughing Man resurfaces, an anti-terrorists unit of cybernetic assassins come to together to uncover the plot that rises all the way to the top of the political food chain.
Is it good movie?
I’ll be straight up here in this review that I’m not a big Anime fan—in fact, I’m not an Anime fan at all. While I’ve seen a handful of films and TV shows, I usually can’t tell the difference between something as epic and adult as GHOST IN THE SHELL and the kid-friendly POKEMON series. That said, I do appreciate the skill in animation (though, admittedly, it all looks the same to me) and I like that they’re able to produce animated storylines for adults, filled with extreme action, violence, and (usually) ample amounts of sex and nudity (of the animated variety, of course). So sitting down to GHOST IN THE SHELL-STAND ALONE COMPLEX: THE LAUGHING MAN, I was a bit out of my element, but as it’s filled with plenty of action, a complicated storyline of conspiracies and sub-plots, and this crazy world of cybernetics, I still managed to have a fairly good (if a bit confusing) time.

As you’d expect in any Anime, THE LAUGHING MAN has robots, blood-splattering action, stylized violence, and chicks bouncing around with big boobies , purple hair, and tiny outfits. There’s a ton of dialogue being thrown around to set up the more-than complicated plot of political conspiracies and an cybernetic thought terrorist, and while it’s confusing as shit in the beginning, it eventually becomes clear as to what’s going on. That is a problem with this flick that I didn’t like so much, and that’s how the film starts in the middle of something big, with established characters from previous films, and a story that appears to have already started during some other entry in the series. A little confusion is OK, but saying “what the f*ck is going on here” for the first 45 minutes of the movie is too much. But for those already privy to the GHOST IN THE SHELL universe wouldn’t have this issue, so take it with a grain of salt.

One of the big draws to Anime is the animation, and it definitely shines here on Blu-ray, looking absolutely flawless from start to finish, and truly showing the hours and hours of painstakingly hard work that’s put into producing a film like this. And at over 2 and a half hours, you get more than an eyeful of vibrant colors and flashy animation. There’s a reason why this series is so darn popular, and it’s not because it looks crappy—but rather, flawless. That is, if you’re into Anime—but even if you’re not (like myself), it’s still quite impressive.

The story of THE LAUGHING MAN is compelling enough, and after the bout of confusion as to WTF is going on, the story takes over in a big way, and you can’t help but care about who’s behind the conspiracy and why, and you even begin to side with the Section 9 team of assassins and operatives, all working together like a futuristic CTU of cyborg mind-talkers. They’re a well-oiled machine and it eventually gets kind of fun to watch them work and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Video / Audio
Video: The bright and vibrant colors of animation are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and in eye-popping 1080p.

Audio: The dubbed dialogue, action sequences, and Japanese pop music can be heard in 5.1 digital surround. The sound was solid,nothing more, nothing less.

The Extras
Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man: Archive: director Kenji Kamiyama and star Atsuko Tanaka sit down and talk about what it was like bringing THE LAUGHING MAN together for this feature-length release. It's an interesting chat that gets somewhat lost in the subtitles (white text on white background=disaster), and reveals much about the series that I didn't know coming into it, like THE LAUGHING MAN was a TV series and this release was the splicing of all the episodes together into one long story. It all makes sense now!

Tachikomatic Days: A comedic voice-over animated sequence featuring the talking robots in the film, as in the robots are in the recording studio recording their voices to the film. I guess if you like these little robots, it's an amusing short, but otherwise a pretty pointless extra. Trailers: A glimpse at three other trailers from the GHOST IN THE SHELL series.

Last Call
I’m definitely not the biggest Anime fan in the world (or even the smallest), but THE LAUGHING MAN was solid entertainment—even if it runs about an hour longer than it should have and it starts off in the middle of the action, leaving me scratching my head and playing ‘catch up’ to the story in figuring out WTF was going on. Cool animation, cool action sequence, and a cool sci-fi universe equals a pretty cool time overall—though for those not into Anime, it may be a stretch to try and get into right off the bat.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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