In 2006, anime production studio GONZO and AIC adapted Ryotoro Iwanaga's manga "Pumpkin Scissors" to a 24-episode anime series.
The series would be directed by popular 80's anime director Katsuhito Akiyama ("Sol Bianca", "Thundercats", " Gall Force","Bubblegum Crisis"), screenplay by Yuuji Hosono ("Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor", "Ray" and "Trinity Blood"), series composition by Atsuhiro Tomioka ("Samurai 7', "Vandread", "Eat-Man" and "Berserk"), character designs by Chizuko Kusakabe ("Trouble Chocolate") and mechanical designs by Shuichi Hara ( who worked on "Armitage: Dual Matrix" and "Solty Rei").
"Pumpkin Scissors" takes place during a time where war has ravaged the country. But a ceasefire has ended the war between the Royal Empire and the Republic of Frost. But since the cease fire, the country is not in the best of shape. The Empire is now plagued with starvation, crime, pestilence and even the soldiers have become bandits.
With corruption also residing in the ranks of the military, a division called Imperial Army State Section III was created. Section III is also known as "Pumpkin Scissors". A name given to the group by 2nd Lt. Alice L. Mavin. As way of the pumpkin being the layers of corruptness being trimmed by the blade of a scissor.
The series focuses on the Section III team and their mission of helping people and eliminating the corruption in their own military but also helping the public in other areas who have suffered from corruption.
But within the Section III is a mysterious soldier named Corporal Oland who is a member of the secret anti-tank group known as "The Invisible 9' who seems to get them out of a jam when the going gets tough.
Section III consists of the following individuals:
Captain Hunks - The commanding officer who is rather calm, always smoking and gives out the orders to the team.
2nd Lt. Alice L. Mavin - Leads the team on their missions and also a member of the royal family. But is dedicated to her job and passionate about the goals of Section III. Always hot tempered when angered, she carries a short sword.
Corporal Randel Oland - The mysterious soldier known for his height and his facial scars. When things get tough for Section III, Oland turns on his blue lamp and becomes a member of the "Invisible 9'. A man who is vicious in battle and gets the job done with his 13mm anti-tank gun. Able to take on massive hits and injuries while in this mode. A secret military group of individuals that took on tanks. Not much is known about the "Invisible 9' but there members of the Section III accept him without asking any questions about his past.
Warrant Officer Martis - Graduated on the top of the Academy but transferred to Section III to uncover corruptness in his former unit.
Warrant Officer Oreldo - The playboy who seems more interested in drinking and women but the cool, clever and resourceful member of the group.
Sergeant Major Lili Stecchin - An aid to Captain Hunks who works in the office and is responsible for the dog named Mercury (the messenger for Section III).
"Pumpkin Scissors - The Complete Series" features 24 episodes on 4 DVD's. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:
* Episode 1 - The Invisible 9 - it's merely an introduction to the characters but how many soldiers have turned corrupt and using tanks to hurt people. In this case, shooting a chemical weapon against the people in the village, leaving it to PUMPKIN SCISSORS to obtain the antidote.
* Episode 2 - War Relief Unit - Episode 2 features a corrupt noble who is willing to give a lot of money to a resident who can survive a game of cat and mouse. In rough times, many villagers take part in the game to hopefully win the money but because the noble uses a tank to catch the villagers, no villager has survived the game. Section III is called to stop this man but instead, the team are forced to be part of the game as mouse.
* Episode 3 - For That is a Precious Thing - Section III must convince a group of villagers to work on a tunnel.
* Episode 4 - The Cracked Portrait - Martis is suspicious about Oland and does his own investigation on him.
* Episode 5 - Shallow-Minded Men - Oreldo learns from Martis about his suspicions about Oland being a member of the "Invisible 9'.
* Episode 6 - A Fruitful Time - Oreldo finds an abandoned baby and Section III looks for the mother.
* Episode 7 - The One Who Leads and the One Who Follows - Alice goes to meet her fiance, while the three go to look for squandered supplies.
* Episode 8 - Burn in the Snowfields - Section III is given a mission to go out in a snow area to make a delivery.
* Episode 9 - The Woman in the Morning Mist - Oreldo helps a woman deal with her fiance.
* Episode 10 - Pumpkins and Scissors - Stecchin explains to Oland how Section III got their "Pumpkin Scissors" name.
* Episode 11 - The Quiet Quickening - Alice is kidnapped and the kidnappers want her to publicize documents about a top secret military group known as "Invisible 9'.
* Episode 12 - Unseen Pain - Someone has taken the "Invisible 9' documents, now people are ending up dead and the Section III team are in the middle of all of it.
* Episode 13 - Crude but Elegant - Martis must accompany a princess for the day and protect her.
* Episode 14 - The Flame Still Burns - Section III takes on a group of drug dealers.
* Episode 15 - Decisions Run Astray - While Section III takes on drug dealers, Oland confronts an enemy who may be part of the same mysterious group that he was once part of.
* Episode 16 - The One Who Slashes - Section III continues their fight against the drug dealers but the military has sent out Section I. Leaving Alice to take them on alone while Oland and Martis go after Hans.
* Episode 17 - The Darkness that Cannot Be Saved - Oland confronts Hans and Alice continues her fight against the Section I soldiers.
* Episode 18 - A Small Military Power - Stecchin tries to finds a way to make Oland happy once again.
* Episode 19 - A Sweet Trap - Section III distributes food to the homeless, while Alice attends a ball. But Section III doesn't know that the commoners have planned to murder the nobles at the ball.
* Episode 20 - Enter the Performers - A furious crowd of commoners invade the ball that Alice has attended and want blood.
* Episode 21 - The Puppet and the Idol - Alice challenges the Marquis bodyguard who is an expert with a machete, meanwhile Oland must take on the other. But with Oland out of it and doubting his role in Section III, he might wind up dead.
* Episode 22 - Lonely Scales - Alice's duel begins but also having to be careful due to the angry mob wanting to interfere.
* Episode 23 - And Then, An Alluring Trap - Everyone at the Ball watches Alice's duel against her opponent.
* Episode 24 - The Military, The Commoners and the Nobility - Section I is planning to make an attack but Section III tries to find a peaceful solution and avoid bloodshed.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Pumpkin Scissors" is featured in 16×9 and for the most part, the animation and artistic backgrounds retain the quality you would expect from GONZO. For the most part, the animation is action-based and the artistic backgrounds tend to reveal the war-torn country. Character designs by Chizuko Kusakabe ("Trouble Chocolate") and mechanical designs by Shuichi Hara ( who worked on "Armitage: Dual Matrix" and "Solty Rei") are well-done and it's a series that focuses on a core group of characters but features a lot of characters as the group tends to visit villages that are in need of help.
So, you see a lot of anguish and fears in the face of the commoners and of course during battle, the fight scenes are also well-done and enjoyable to watch. But also striking are the violent imagery depicted on the animation and design of the characters of the "Invisible 9' group. Definitely cool character designs and artistic style.
As for audio, "Pumpkin Scissors" is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and Japanese stereo. Dialogue is clear and understandable through the front and center channels but with all the action, I was hoping to hear a more immersive soundtrack especially coming from the surrounds. But the series is primarily front and center-channel driven and felt that my best setting was to set my receiver to all channels on stereo.
As for the voice acting, I watched the series in both English and Japanese and both feature solid voice acting. The main difference is that the English version tends to change a few things in dialogue and also utilize more profanity and familiar Western terminology for the English dub. Also, Oland sounds a bit more oafish in the English dub but in a way it does make sense. But for the most part, I felt that the voice acting was well done and enjoyed both vocal tracks.
Subtitles are only in English.
"Pumpkin Scissors - The Complete Series" comes with very few special features on disc 3 and disc 4 containing trailers for upcoming releases:
* Textless Opening and Ending Themes
"Pumpkin Scissors" is definitely an anime that people shouldn't judge by its DVD cover. Or even its name. I suppose I was a bit skeptical with the references to a pumpkin and scissors on the cover did not exactly generate any enthusiasm on my part but after watching the entire series, I can tell you that the series is definitely exciting, clever and for the most part, highly entertaining!
I enjoy the series because the "PUMPKIN SCISSORS" are always looked at as an underdog military/intelligence group that is not too important to the empire. But the group shows its strength by tackling corruption and accomplishing missions which are not easy by any means.
Lt. Alice L. Malvin is quite interesting because she is a daughter from a noble family but instead of living a life as a noble, she learns how fortunate she is to have food on her table but at the same time, because of her beliefs, she wants to see right with the people in the ravaged villages who feel that they have no voice when it comes to the Empire and Alice wants to be their voice and really wants to help people.
But what is interesting is that you see her character develop especially when you get to the final seven episodes. She's a changed person and her beliefs start to change.
"Pumpkin Scissors" also shows the side of post-war and how villages all over have been destroyed or people left to die by starvation and sickness. It was really good to see how animators captured the anguish of those who are suffering.
I did feel that the humor at times felt a bit kooky especially when you enjoy the violence and the action sequences for the series and some episodes go from dark but then you'll have a character like Oreldo flirting with a woman or cracking a joke.
But I really like the characters in the series. Anna has a pure heart of wanting to help the people, as does the corporal who despite seems to be lost because all he did was kill the enemies during the war and now that there is no war, trying to evaluate what peace is about and also trying to figure out his existence and his part of being in a group like Section III.
The show also does a great job in focusing on character development and granted there are not many characters on the Section III team, but you see each and every one of them overcome adversity someway and also with the help of each other.
An enjoyable series that is full of action, intrigue and suspense. A good balance of violence and a touch of zany and kooky humor. From start to finish, you'll find yourself feeling that "Pumpkin Scissors" is indeed a hidden gem amongst many anime titles being released right now. But it's a series that is worth checking out.
I highly recommend "Pumpkin Scissors - The Complete Series"!