It's been almost 20 years since the original Ghost in the Shell film was released theatrically. Since that time, there have been other animated entries in the franchise. In general, they've all been pretty solid. Admittedly, Oshii's original film is a bit dull and... well, soulless, but it's still a beautiful film. Its sequel (Ghost in the Shell: Innocence) is equally beautiful, but it actually manages to be more entertaining despite being equally dull. The TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and its sequel Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig are far more entertaining and are certainly high water marks of the anime medium. With gorgeous animation and character designs, a stunning score, an impeccable dub, wonderful scripting, fascinating character development, and some genuinely funny humor added in, Stand Alone Complex is amazing. That said, where does Ghost in the Shell Arise fit in?
Well, it's certainly entertaining. On some level, it's better than the original film. It certainly isn't brooding and dull. On the other hand, the substance is a bit lacking. While the original film is a trite dull, it manages to ask fascinating questions about what the soul truly is and what the value of life is. There really doesn't seem to be much of that in Arise. Compared to Stand Alone Complex, it's okay. Honestly, the crime procedural aspects of Stand Alone Complex are really some of the best procedural work ever seen on TV. The mysteries are genuinely engaging and at times, there's a personal element to the cases which ties into the team. That's effective story telling that allows the characters to grow and develop while telling a fascinating story. Arise attempts this in both episodes found on this set, but it just doesn't pan out as well. Perhaps that lies within the more obvious nature of the mysteries.
That said, Arise is no slouch. It manages to entertain. The new dub cast is solid. The music is certainly different from previous Ghost in the Shell works, but it's still good. If nothing else, it's fascinating to see how the team came together in this reboot. That should be the most fun.
As for the actual release? It's solid. The picture on both the Blu-ray and the DVD is solid. Sadly, the subs are locked on the Blu-ray. It'd be nice to turn the subs on during the dub to compare to the two. The discs have a nice wealth of bonus features. There are some Japanese trailers and interviews along with the US trailer, a dub commentary, and the usual selection of FUNimation trailers. Also included are two booklets with character models, info on characters, creators, and more. There's one booklet for each episode.
All in all, it will be interesting to see where this OVA series ends up... and where the franchise will go from here.