With the last volume of Stand Alone Complex setting a high standard by throwing some much needed character exploration into the mix, it remained to be seen whether the subsequent instalments could continue to maintain that level. As it turns out, 2nd Gig #4 tries its utmost to give us more of the same, but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite make the grade.
Picking up where the last episode left off, the volume opens with Section Nine’s continuing attempts to investigate the mysterious Kuze, and his connection to the Individual Eleven. Unfortunately, no sooner have they found a lead than he ends up getting murdered- with CCTV footage of the incident implicating Section Nine’s own Paz! Can Paz shed some light on who would go to such lengths to set him up?
Next up is another character-based story, this time focusing on Saito as he relates the mission that first brought him into contact with Kusanagi over a game of poker. Up until now, both Paz and Saito have been featureless background characters seemingly included just to fill out the numbers at Section Nine, and so it is most welcome to see them given some development.
Conversely, the second half of the disc is a distinctly weaker effort, covering both the series’ obligatory Tachikoma episode and a closing segment in which Section Nine uncovers some details about Kuze’s past. There are some interesting ideas introduced in these episodes, but both of them are filled with lengthy exposition sequences which are in general quite dry and difficult to sit through. The Tachikoma sections are the worst offenders here- in small doses, Tachikomas are a refreshing break from the more serious tone of the rest of the series, but once they start in on their existential musings, they quickly lose their charm.
It almost goes without saying that the animation and music are both at their usual high level of quality, and this volume also has some strong action scenes to offer. There isn’t much in the way of large-scale battles, but in their place we are treated to some intense smaller skirmishes, from a one-on-one knife fight involving Paz, to Saito’s recollection of his solo sniper mission against Kusanagi’s team.
With its continuing focus on character-based episodes, 2nd Gig #4 makes a strong start by bringing a pair of lesser-used cast members to the forefront and giving them a long-overdue turn in the spotlight. Unfortunately, the disc ends on a distinctly less impressive note by spoiling some interesting core stories with an overabundance of exposition, resulting in a volume that doesn’t quite match the standard set by the previous instalment.