Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Month: December 2017 (page 2 of 2)

3WA 2017 #49: Gunslinger Girl

Previously, we had girls-with-guns up against a secret organization bent on controlling them. What happens when the girls with guns already work for the secret organization?

What is it?

Gunslinger Girl is a 13-episode anime series based on the early volumes of the manga series of the same name. It is succeeded by a follow-up series by another studio with the title of Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-. We’re focusing primarily on the first series here.

What kind of story is it?

In Noir, the fantastical element was the big shadowy secret society behind the plot shenanigans. In Gunslinger Girl, the fantastical element is that our young girls are brainwashed cyborgs. They don’t look it, of course. These cyborg shooters work for a secret arm of a branch of the Italian government, tasked with counter-terrorism activity. As a semi-realistic (keeping in mind, cyborgs) treatment of a grim topic like terrorism in the European theater, this isn’t entirely a cheery kind of show.

Claes is in training. She may be enhanced but she’s not field-ready at this point.

And yet. The actual focus is on the relationships between these cyborg girls themselves, as well as their relationships with their handlers, or “fratello.” (Big brothers, basically.) So you get a lot of “what does it mean to be human,” and how various parties deal with the fact that these girls, while useful, are both disposable tools of the state and doomed young mind-wiped children.

I’m painting a darker picture than the show warrants, perhaps, but it’s worth knowing all this going in. I usually like to leave a lot of details in these write-ups out so the new viewer can experience the joy of discovery. Since almost everything I wrote above is revealed in the first episode, though, I don’t feel like I’m taking anything away. This is a case of properly setting expectations.

Why do you like it?

Two aspects of this show appeal to me.

One, I like when a story takes one fantastical element (the sci-fi cyborg enhancements) and uses it to tell an otherwise matter-of-fact, grounded tale. You have cyborg assassins, what do you do with them when your job is to root out terrorists? Gunslinger Girl answers that question in a realistic enough fashion to be interesting and thought-provoking.

Two, a lot of the downtime between missions is spent exploring the ideas opened up by the cyborg enhancement concept. You’ve made these girls stronger, but the cost is that you have to keep them doped to the gills and worry about implant rejection and so on. There are other drugs used to ensure compliance, which of course raises a whole slew of ethical questions.

Not everyone takes to the supersoldier lifestyle. Take Rico, for instance.

So, yes. For what is ostensibly a girls-with-guns action show, it’s lighter on action overall than one might expect going in. I find it interesting, though.

What might one not like about it?

Did you come into this expecting an action extravaganza? Sorry. Less shooty, more talky. Still, by comparison to Noir, a whole lot less screen time is wasted with repetition and puttering around. By comparison.

The show starts you out with a jawdropping display of violence from Henrietta, so there’s that to look forward to.

Also, while there’s nothing overtly ooky on-screen about the fact that these young girls are emotionally bonded to adult men, there’s an inherent layer of ooky-ness about the whole thing.

Other thoughts about it?

I bought The Delgados’ album Hate thanks to the opening song to this series. I recommend against it.

The follow-up Gunslinger Girl series, Il Treatino, has… let’s call it “lackluster” visual production values and leave it at that. I couldn’t finish watching, though I’m told that it has a better-told story.

The follow-up series follows Triela here, who is arguably the best of the bunch.

Where can I watch it?

As of this writing both series are on Netflix, but I’ll point you to Crunchyroll anyway since they’re less prone to removing shows from their lineup.

3WA 2017 #48: Noir

Every so often a show comes along which resets an entire subgenre’s expectations. This week and next we’re going to tackle two of those in the same genre. Chronologically, even. While this isn’t my favorite subgenre, I can enjoy it if the right show comes along.

What is it?

Noir is a 26-episode anime from just after the turn of the millennium.

What kind of story is it?

It’s a Japanese take on a European-style spies-and-assassins tale, featuring young women as stone-cold killers.

I recommend laughing about Mireille’s last name (Bouquet) out of range of her hearing.

Why do you like it?

Noir’s strengths are its action, its style, its soundtrack, and the “unraveling the schemes of a secret organization” plot structure. Piece by piece, job by job, the protagonists work their way toward understanding who they work for and why. Along the way we’re treated to some exceptional fight choreography and animation work.

Third wheel or MVP? You decide.

Composer Yuki Kajiura wasn’t new to anime & video game work when this show came along, but it could be said that this is what really put her on the map. The soundtrack CDs are arguably a better purchase than the actual anime discs.

What might one not like about it?

While the music is of the highest quality, you will in fact get tired of a couple of the pieces because they get used at least once in every. Single. Episode. Usually to highlight a particular episode’s ever-so-slight progress toward uncovering the ongoing mystery behind “Les Soldats.” Oh yes, and the reveal of that mystery takes the bulk of the series, so be prepared to settle in for a lot of repetition with slight additional material, over and over.

(This music-and-animation re-use is a bit like the “transformation deck” in a magical-girl show: It’s a budget-saver. Even as high-end a production as Noir had to cut corners.)

And, let’s be clear, one of the primary characters is basically a blank slate. It’s the “highly capable amnesiac” trope, which if you want to gripe about that then you shouldn’t watch the Matt Damon Bourne movies either.

Not sure who’d win, Kirika or Bourne. I’m sure someone’s argued about this on the Internet somewhere though.

Other thoughts about it?

Lest you think I’m damning Noir with faint praise… you’re right. It is a classic in its own way but most of what I get out of the show is the inventive action sequences and a lot of great music.

It did signal the arrival of a brand of more-realistic “girls with guns” style of show, thus redefining an already poorly-defined subgenre. And it earns its place as a classic with some of the innovative action sequences.

It’s better to light a candle than to curse the grimdark.

Supposedly the two shows produced in sequence after Noir are part of an official “girls with guns” trilogy. I couldn’t really get into Madlax (despite the solid soundtrack) and didn’t even try El Cazador de la Bruja. If you finish this and are interested, well, by all means please feel free to try the others.

Where can I watch it?

There are a few options, Crunchyroll among them.

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