Rare is a TV series so overloaded with subtext as is Stand Alone Complex, not even modern favourites like Firefly, Lost or Heroes can compare, let alone the likes of over-analysed Twin Peaks. The people making those shows are just not smart enough or diligent enough to bother, and the viewers all too quick to project their own imaginations to fill in the blanks.
Not so the team at Production I.G. however. Every vehicle, building, tool, clothing, piece of equipment, character development, literary reference and guest character is bursting with meaning, sometimes so subtle that you can completely misinterpret the story, and guess incorrectly how it’s going pan out because you missed the vital clue. So you absolutely need a guide book to tell you what you’re missing. Starting the trend set by Shirow himself with his annotations of his original manga, this book contains notes from various members of the Production I.G. production team, on everything from the character designs and clothing, to weapons and vehicles, to the politics and technology of the day, as well as episode summaries and easter eggs to watch out for.
The english edition of this book still includes the Japanese language behind the scenes DVD, although beyond the english subtitles, you’ll have to follow it carefully to get any additional value out of it, but at least it is included.
Bandai promised to release volume 2, covering the remaining episodes of the ‘1st Gig’ (volume 1 only goes up to episode 20), in January 2006 but there’s still no sign of it in late 2007, or of english versions of the Tachikoma and 2nd Gig visual guides, which is very disappointing. Go out and buy this excellent companion set to the first Stand Alone Complex to remind them there’s a market for this in the west as well.