The fourth volume of 2nd Gig proved to be something of a mixed offering, a mix of two interesting character-based episodes, and two weaker instalments with more relevance to the main storyline. Oddly enough, this is a pattern that is almost exactly repeated in volume five.
With Kuze now firmly tagged as being at the centre of events, the disc opens with Motoko taking a trip to Taiwan in the hopes of uncovering some more information about him. With a day to spare before returning home, however, she decides to take a day off- only to end up caught in a Mafia struggle when she rescues a boy from a group of thugs.
Next up is a Batou-centred story which sees him assigned to a stakeout in Berlin in an attempt to catch a terrorist codenamed Angel Feather. With little to do except stand around in the snow, Batou develops an interest in a wheelchair-bound girl who just might hold the key to tracking down the criminal.
As with volume four, it is these two character-focused episodes that prove to be the stronger half of the disc. Motoko and Batou may already be the two most developed characters in the series, but taking them away from Japan and the support of Section Nine makes for an interesting change. For Motoko, being off duty enables her to show off a more playful and human side of her personality, and whilst Batou’s story isn’t quite as revealing, it is still an enjoyable character piece.
Unfortunately, once again it is a return to the main storyline that sees something of a drop in quality. Having invested the full extent of their talents in tracking down Kuze, Section Nine realise that their next step must be to venture into the refugee settlement of Dejima- hardly a safe course given the rising tensions between immigrants and locals. There are some strong scenes to be found here, such as Motoko’s daring cyberbrain hacking, or the tense standoff between Batou and Kuze, but overall this storyline continues to fall a little flat. Perhaps this is the fault of Kuze himself; whilst the reports all point to him being a man of great charisma, this is never truly conveyed on screen, making it hard to care about either him or his story.
Visually, the animation shows a few weaknesses this time around, but nonetheless for the most part it manages to remain as solid and strong as ever (with the exception of the ever blocky and simplistic CG vehicles). In contrast to the usual run of futuristic and technologically advanced settings, the overseas trips in the first two episodes help to showcase something a little different, with Berlin in particular offering a well-rendered look at some more classical architecture.
From a technical standpoint, there is one annoying flaw with this disc, and that is in the inconsistency of the subtitles. Kuze’s nickname is given as Ronin, Wanderer and Lon over the course of a single episode, whilst Angel Feather is also labelled as Fallen Angel and Angel Wing. These may seem like minor concerns, but such discrepancies can be a little jarring.
In keeping with the last few volumes, 2nd Gig #5 continues to prove that the series’ strength lies in developing in its characters. With just six episodes to go, however, it remains to be seen whether the slightly underwhelming main storyline can transform into something more engaging before the end.