Koukaku Kidoutai STAND ALONE COMPLEX: The Laughing Man OVA is taken directly from Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex ~1st Gig~ story arc of the same name. It is mostly a retelling of the TV series (Think Cowboy Beebop TV episode 1 Vs. Cowboy Beebop: The Movie). Even though the animation was completed prior (in the first season of the TV series), it is not necessarily a cut and paste job. There is some additional material (not included in the TV series) and dialogue. It's not a lot, or easily noticable - if you haven't seen the TV series recently, you
may miss it, but most of the additions portray the scene more completely and provide some necessary background information taken from the TV series' context. This OVA can stand on its own as the concept seems to be that this OVA could have been a full fledged theatrical release (Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man - the 3rd movie in the GITS universe).
The Section 9 crew has to solve a 6 year old case that has resurfaced; perpetrated by a talented (almost autistic) class A super-hacker. The group must use all of its' resources to solve a case that at first seems to lead to many dead-ends. Motoko, Togusa, Batou and Aramaki use all of their talents to outsmart politicians, expose government cover-ups, and track down the real reason(s) behind recent events of corporate terrorism.
The animation in Koukaku Kidoutai STAND ALONE COMPLEX: The Laughing Man is exactly what one would expect from Production I.G.. The color, movement and visuals are all consistent with what one would expect from the GITS universe. The action sequences are crisp and the timing is perfect (not too fast). The ideas, concepts and portrayal of the Net has always amazed me.
From the begining, with the original Ghost in the Shell movie, I have fallen in love with Yokko Kanno. He work with Origa and Gabriel Robin has produced wonderfully smooth, jazzy, electronic, and trance-like (the list goes on and on) OSTs. Her ability to evoke emotion and empathy with the action on the screen is second to none.
Characters & Voice Actors:
The R1 Voice acting is, by far, the most controversial aspect of Koukaku Kidoutai STAND ALONE COMPLEX: The Laughing Man OVA. I do not care to speculate on the reasons for different voice actors in this OVA versus the rest of the GITS & GITS-SAC universe. All of the primary and secondary characters' voice actors are different than the Movies and TV series (I doubt that the background characters were re-dubbed). For the die-hard GITS fan, it is sacrilegious to replace Mary Beth McGlynn (Motoko), Richard Epcar (Batou), Crispin Freeman (Togusa), etc. from their respective roles. Alison Matthews, David Kaye, and Trevor Devall must have had an uphill battle to compare to their counterparts. They all have a decent track record in other anime roles, and I imagine that even they thought it tough to fill McGlynn's, Epcar's, and Feeman's roles.
There are subtle differences in the VAs portrayals of their characters. For example Matthews has a tough time pronouncing Diasuke Aramaki. Batou (Kaye) comes across a little more emotional.
After getting over the different voices, I was stunned at how smoothly this (TV series') story arc was put together. The story was one that I was already familiar with and I watched with a certain amount of preconception and expectation. Koukaku Kidoutai STAND ALONE COMPLEX: The Laughing Man OVA's concept was nothing new to me, and I wanted to be as objective as possible while watching - even before knowing about the VA difference. The Laughing Man met my expectations and it was a truly enjoyable time comparing it to the TV series.
Koukaku Kidoutai STAND ALONE COMPLEX: The Laughing Man OVA is now an integral part to the GITS universe - as a retelling or otherwise. Opinion may diverge greatly for this title - especially with die-hard, rabid fans. It would be tough to recommend this title to viewers, unless they were die-hard, rabid fans. I have come to accept this OVAs as theatrical release #3 in the amazing Ghost in the Shell Universe.