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Gunslinger Girl: Volume 1 [Import]
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Gunslinger Girl: Volume 1 - Little Girls, Big Guns
In the 2003 broadcast series, Gunslinger Girl, orphans are given cybernetic implants and brainwashing to turn them into petite assassins for the Social Welfare Agency, a covert branch of the Italian government. Each girl has her own trainer/handler, who teaches her everything from marksmanship to table manners. Henrietta, the central character, works with Jose, who describes their relationship as "brother and sister." When Henrietta, whose dreary personality recalls Key the Metal Idol, isn't machine-gunning criminals under Jose's supervision, she plays the violin. Because Henrietta remembers nothing of her past life and feels no regrets for her murderous actions, Gunslinger Girl offers none of the pathos of Saikano. The overall effect suggests Koi Kaze re-imagined by Sam Peckinpah or The Professional: Gogol reenacted by the cast of Princess Tutu. Gunslinger Girl ranks among the grimmest anime series of recent years. (Rated TV 14: considerable violence) --Charles Solomon
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The basic premise for the show is that a special agency in the Italian government has used a new scientific technique to brainwash and condition people to train them into killers. The technique is more successful the younger the recruit. Using young orphans girls to under "conditioning" the girls are then handed off to agent who are called "handlers" who will oversee that the girls become trained killers.
The show has its share of particularly violent and graphic action sequences stemming from various missions the girls undertake. However the missions are more of a backdrop to exploring the relationship each girl has with her handler. Henrietta has a father figure type handler in Joze who is very kind to her. In contrast another character Rico has a very abusive handler, Jean who is critical of her performance and very rarely gives the praise she so desires.
The episodes on the fisrt disc devote one episode to each character to introduce to their personality and tell us about their past. The storytelling is slow but really pulls you in with its characterization and the beautiful piano heavy background music.
Its unclear if the future discs are building up to a major story arc or if the pacing will stay self contained episodes. Fans looking for non-stop action heavy on the jokes and fan service may need to look elsewhere. Anime fans who are looking for something a bit introspective done beautifully might want to consider adding this to their collection.
THe starter set is particularly a great buy. Coming packaged with a nice box and a BEAUTIFUL silk screened banner makes this a worthwhile purchase.
This is what I would call a serious anime - a work of art. A few series try to reach the level of Gunslinger Girl, but while reaching greatness they fail to understand that the greatest mystery, the greatest part of the story, is the relationship between characters. Lain, Cowboy Bebop, Witch Hunter Robin and Noir are up there, but they're all in a different class - they had different goals to set, to reach. I can't wait to see where Henrietta and her friends end up.
The plot: `Gunslinger Girl' is not about originality. The cloak and dagger "Agency" finds crippled girls whom undergo "6 Million Dollar Man" surgery to become assassins, and eliminate Europe's crime bosses. Apparently the process only works with children.
The episode plots are not too complex. `Gunslinger Girl' is light on actual action but is NOT slow moving or boring is any sense.
`Gunslinger Girl' is 100% dependant on style. I've seen few anime recently that have evoked this type of emotion through artsy style. The animation and music are very unique. Most of the score are renditions of well know gangster or action film themes. The closing credits play to `Scareface'.
Most anime fans are comparing this to `Noir' in that they have similar themes and focus heavily on the splendor of their settings in present day Europe. True it's similar to `Noir' the same way `Cold Mountain' and `Gone With the Wind' are both about the Civil War, but there's really no comparison.
`Gunslinger Girl' honors the best elements of Luc Besson's `La Femme Nikita' and `The Professional' while focusing heavily on the color white the way `Point of No Return' did.
This is a must for anyone whom likes anime.
Another girls with guns series that was recently exceptionally great was `Najica Blitz Tactics.' Same theme but it was a comedy and it moved at a much faster pace. All 12 episodes are now being sold in 1 pack at bargain basement prices.
See `Najica Blitz Tactics' if you want to laugh and be thrilled. See `Gunslinger Girl' if you want your jaw to hit the floor in total amazement, and end up in a week long daze like I am as I write this review.
It's a rather far-fetched premise, but if you can get over the general implausibility this is a highly enjoyable series. Far from being the non-stop action show one might expect, it is actually surprisingly gentle and introspective. A substantial amount of time is spent behind the scenes, examining the girls' relationships with their handlers (who usually act as "big brothers") and with each other. Characterization is solid, and you really care about these girls and their problems. One of them has trouble controlling her aggressive tendencies; another loses her trainer to a random accident and must confront her sudden lack of purpose in life. There is genuine sadness, such as when one of the girls is forced to kill a witness she befriended earlier in the story. To be honest, I didn't expect this much depth, so I was pleasantly surprised. After the first two episodes, a different girl becomes central to each.
This volume contains five episodes and runs just under two hours. The show is presented in widescreen with both English (5:1 stereo) and Japanese (2:1) soundtracks available. Subtitles are white and smaller than usual, but still readable. Extras include dossier files on each of the girls featured on this disc (the last girl, who has not yet been introduced, is not accessible here), clean (textless) opening and closing sequences, a neat little animation showing the layers of art that go into creating just one still figure, and trailers for this and other Funimation releases.
The opening theme song as the credits started was great and right from the getgo, the episode begins with an intro of a little blonde girl walking around, carrying a mean looking shotgun in her hand; carefully searching for something, but all we see is a room riddled with bullet holes and bloody, dead bodies laid around; Making me wonder, "what the hell happened?". Then a man calls some other people on the phone saying that the witness is not there. Then the scene cuts to another man and a little girl that go to another room where shady looking characters are hiding out and a blood bath starts. Then the story does a bit of a flashback that introduced the little girl named, Henrietta. She first started with the secret government agency called, The Social Welfare Agency, which is really a top secret program, that turns little girls into cybernetically enhanced, assassins!
From the very first episode to the last, Gunslinger Girl, had me hooked! It did not have much action, but when it did it was very violent and over quickly, demonstrating the girl's ability and profiency in killing the bad guys. The melee combat was kenetic and fast, the shoot-outs were bloodbaths and resulted in high body counts. Before any of that happens however, the agency's director and supervisors create a plan of attack. They discuss, strategic approaches to locations, estimated enemy count, possible risks and in case something goes wrong. They know how to cover their tracks before police gets to the scene of the crime. They try to cover all possiblities of a mission before they take action. This careful planning makes the covert element of the story more believable.
What makes the story so compelling however is not the action sequences, in fact, as I said before the action is very short and takes a backseat to the stories which unfold dramatically. The stories are mostly profiles about the little assassin girls which work in the agency; how they got picked, trained and assigned to be under their adult supervisors, known as "handlers". The handlers accompany the girls on these deadly missions, give orders to the girls and even join in attacking their targets. Some of the handlers are cold and uncaring to the girls- they see the girls as nothing more than tools of the trade. Other handlers act like big brothers and treat the girls like their little sisters. They grow weary of the girls safety and well being.
The little assassin girls are loyal and very obediant to their handlers; they are even willing to die to protect their handlers. Part of this loyalty comes from the conditioning (brainwashing) process and part of it comes from their emotional attachment to have a father/big brother figure. I'm glad that there was NO fan service and nothing that implied a lolita fantasy. Everything is very serious and interesting. It is this drama, complimented with the excellent script, voice acting, wonderful music, fantastic artwork which makes Gunslinger Girl, a MUST OWN anime! There is a total of 13 episodes in the whole three disc series, the Enlgish dub and extras on the dvds are excellent as well. Contains graphic violence, and mature themes, for adults only. I also recommend the anime called, Noir and Elfen Leid.