The basic premise: dehabilitated, parentless girls are healed, brainwashed and then forced to work as cyborg assassins for a government institution.
In my mind, there would have been a far easier way to make this anime. With almost no mental effort whatsoever, one could very easily use its pretext as a jumping board for a lighthearted, mindless action anime. The plot could have been the kind of meaningless, unimaginative action fluff found in animes like Naruto, Noir or Scryed. If one made the girls older and the men younger, one could effortlessly throw in a few love triangles as well. All in all, the series would most likely be outrageously successful, and there would be sequels upon sequels to harvest money from.
Or, even better, they could have transformed Gunslinger Girl into a manipulative, super-obvious morality fest. The message of the anime could oh-so-easily be the no-shit statement, "Its wrong to brainwash young girls!" After a few painfully preachy expository episodes, the anime could punctuate its "point" by finding an excuse to murder a million or so people, Saikano-style. This would ensure a hardcore following by anyone "with a heart," and would soon spawn hundreds of reviews on animenfo praising the animes "symbolism" and "realism" (have you ever noticed that people who say a work has symbolism without mentioning whats being symbolized are full of shit?).
Lets thank God the creators didnt do either of these two options. Instead, the anime opts for a much more intelligent approach. Rather than dwelling in the blatantly obvious (what this organization is doing to these girls is obviously wrong), it asks a much harder question: "Are these girls still human?"
The anime thinks hard on its seemingly unanswerable question, and carefully ponders the girls humanity. At the end, rather than have a traditionally violent climax, the anime answers its own conundrum. I wont reveal the direction the series goes in, but allow me to say that in the final episode it is very clear what the anime thinks these girls are.
To accomplish its study, Gunslinger Girl is very heavy on character development and somewhat light on actual storyline. Furthermore, action scenes are well done when they appear, but far less frequent than fans of Noir will probably expect. Many people may be put off by this somewhat unconventional method of storytelling. I, however, enjoyed the approach immensely. Contemporary entertainment nowadays seems to be focusing far too much on the What, When, Where and How. In my opinion, the Who and Why are much more important. The creators of Gunslinger Girl clearly agree with me.
Although not particularly necessary for this kind of character study, the animation is nonetheless surprisingly good. As mentioned before, when action scenes occur, they are nothing short of exceptional (unlike Noir and Witch Hunter Robin, they dont skimp out on blood either). The rest of the time, the animation is still pretty good. All of the girls character designs are deceptively pleasant to look at, with pretty, guileless faces that belie their true nature, while the "brothers" character designs realistically show the lines of guilt creasing their faces.
As for sound, I enjoyed the OP immensely. The rest of the OST is very introspective and classical, and while it isnt very good to listen to by itself, it works very well when combined with the anime itself. Voice acting is done in a very low-key, charming sort of way.
There are few anime characters that are as simultaneously frightening and sympathetic as the ones in Gunslinger Girl. Put simply, the characters are what make the show as compelling and memorable as it is. Over the course of the series, the viewer is constantly thinking about these girls' humanity. Are they the monsters they were manufactured to be, or the innocent children they were born as?
Over the course of the anime, the creators carefully weigh both sides. On one side, the girls at first glance certainly SEEM normal. In many ways, they ARE normal. They carry the same naivete characteristic of an adolescent girl and also share the overwhelming desire to please their (surrogate) fathers. The fact that their love has been artificially misplaced by the government doesnt make the love feel any less real. On the other hand, these girls have absolutely lost their morality. They no longer feel any guilt whatsoever for murdering hundreds of men, so long as they feel their "brother" (a euphemistic term the agency uses in place of "master") wishes them to. The total absense of hesitation with which these girls slaughter is remarkably chilling.
One of the animes best and most moving moments is an almost throw-away scene that effectively combines both arguments. When one of the girls feels that she may be temporarily removed from her "work," she panics; to stop killing, even for a little bit, would prove that she was unsatisfactory to her master. In desperation, she pleads, "though Ive only killed four people this month, last month I killed ten!" Do we love her for her earnest desire to be loved, or do we hate her for her amorality?
All in all, I really enjoyed this series. Gunslinger Girl could have easily devolved into one of the aforementioned anime archetypes, but instead it manages to maintain a good deal of its integrity and originality. Others may be put off by its generally philosophical nature, but those with an open mind will most likely be pleasantly surprised.
The Social Welfare Agency, an agency created by the Italian government to help those who have physical injures with rehabilitation is what the public is told. In reality while they do this, they also do counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism for the Italian Government. The groups while using regular people; Section 2 uses young females who have been fitted with cybernetic implants for their operations.
The episodes are character based and focus usually on one of the girls and their handler, though there are some episodes that focus on several girls and their handlers. Usually the episodes focus what happened to the girls in their previous life before coming to the agency and their new lives after getting their new bodies. The intent of the series is to make you think, and think you will. The girls go from terrible or bad past lives to new ones, which they now kill without hesitation and without remorse. Even with their new bodies there are terrible side effects to what has been done with them.
The subject matter of the show is almost something that has to be looked at. The idea of turning young children into cold-blooded killers is going to be off putting to some people and may be morally wrong. You want to feel sorry for the little kids because of what has happened to them, but at the same time you are shocked by what they have become and it makes you want to vomit in disgust. That is the intent of the show, to shock you about what you are seeing and at the same time makes, you think about what you are watching and why it is so gripping to watch.
While not ever episode does this, there are episodes dedicated to looking at the relationship between the handlers and their cyborg partners. Each handler treats the girls differently and has various viewpoints on their relationship with the girls. Some treat their partner as a sister, and others may view them as just tools to get the job completed. Now ever reason why they treat the girls as they do is not explained at least with the first season, the second season does bring this to light.
In terms of pacing, the episodes move along in a slow matter, but for this series, it does fit perfectly. Moving at a fast pace this series would ruin the effectiveness of what the show is trying to do and turn it into something that it is not.
Art and Animation:
As an upscale it is not bad looking, but this is not going to set the world on fire by HD standards. It is better than the DVD version and the images do appear better, but as a non-native HD show there is only so much that can done to make it look good. Some scenes do look better, but there are others that just don’t look good either on the DVD or BD version.
Even without taking into consideration that this is an upscale, the action scenes and overall animation are done well even when looking at the DVD version. The fight scenes are fluid and they do not feel boring.
Dub (English and Japanese):
Funimation did the English dub for the series and is one of their better dubs out that they have done in their history. Any listener of any Funimation dub or English dubs for that matter should be able to pick up the English VA’s in their respective roles. The voices for the girls are the highlight of the dub, which all of the English VA’s who provided their voices fit their characters and nobody sounds too old for their role. The other English VA’s who also give their voices also do very well. There are a few changes from the Japanese script in the English translation but the changes give a very similar meaning from the Japanese so it is not a huge difference between the two.
The Japanese dub is also very good and the voices fit the characters quite well. The Japanese females VA’s doing the voices for the girls do an excellent job with their voices and they fit very well. The other Japanese VA’s also do a very good job and it comes across as solid Japanese dub.
The music is another area where the show shines brightly. The OP which is called “The Light Before We Land” which was sung by the Delgados a Scottish indie rock band that disbanded in 2005. The OP fits the show nicely and fits the theme of the series greatly. The ED which is called “Dopo il Sogno ~Yume no Ato ni~” (After the Dream ~After The Dream~” also fits the shows tone nicely and is also sung well too.
The music that plays during the series also fits and gives the actions scenes that needed touch that it needs to make them fit and feel even more exciting to the watcher.
The extras from the DVD’s have been brought over, which include dossiers for the girls, five conversations (mini commentaries) from the VA’s who provided the voices for the girls in English (This are sadly in SD) two features which draw the girls, along with textless OP/ED, trailers, and two English commentaries from the ADR production staff and directors.
Where it can be obtained:
Gunslinger Girl Blu-ray can be obtained at any major online retailer that sells anime in large amounts or any anime specific distributor.
Gunslinger girl is a series that will make anybody who watches it think, be it pity to the girls and what has become of them, or disgust for what has become of them. While the subject matter of the series may turn some off, those that choose to continue to watch, will be get to enjoy the wonderful dub in both languages along with exciting action scenes and a wonderful music score.
Plot *** out of ****
Art & Animation *** out of ****
Blu-ray Image Quality ** ½ out of ****
English Dub *** out of ****
Japanese Dub *** out of ****
Music: *** out of ****
Overall Score: *** ½ out of ****
Pros: Good English and Japanese dub, excellent music, though provoking plot
Cons: Slow pacing, Video quality with the BD transfer, subject matter is very subjective and may be off putting to some.
The problem with Gunslinger Girl is that it's trying to be Neon Genesis Evangelion but in a much different way. It takes the cliches anime would have and turns it into a typical deep and intense anime. After my cousin showed me the trailer many years ago, I assumed this wouldn't have been a very good anime but as I got older, I decided to try it since little girls with guns sounds cool, but something didn't seem right. It took some time to figure out what was going on.
Henrietta is a shy and quiet little girl who has been tasked with the job of assassinating. In the episode I saw, she somehow turned crazy and started shooting on a rampage, which she doesn't seem to understand. The characters around her are thin. Artistically, the emotions that it conveys and the way the characters were created were okay.
Henrietta's dub voice actor did an okay job in voicing the character. The antic that the character did when she hit the guy with the case was cartoonish and she also came off as too violent.
Un montón de niñas desahuciadas son curadas para ser súper soldados de la mafia italiana, o algo así. Una premisa simple, que al parecer solo te dará un Shonen con lolis asesinas cuando tienes una forma en pañales de Evangelion, pero con lolis asesinas. Pareciera que está separada en pequeños arcos, de situaciones y personajes, donde exploramos el pasado de cada una y como afecta a su presente, aunque sus circunstancias son totalmente diferentes. Claro por esto no hay una trama o hay subplots que llegan a 2-3 capítulos máximo, pero igual que algunas otras series, esto le da puntos. Algunas escenas de gore innecesarias pero bueno, fue poco y no mal realizadas asi que no me quejare.
Aquí es donde se pone interesante la cosa. Cada niña para por diferentes circunstancias, que las llevaron a lo mismo, tener que ser resucitadas, algo que por ejemplo hizo Mira Nikki, pero con personajes totalmente cliché y baratos, que al final de cuentas no te importan un carajo. Primero exploramos a cada niña por separado, y como ya dije, viendo todas esas circunstancias pasadas que afectan al presente. Aunque todas la niñas tienen el mismo borrador, cada una toma las cosas muy diferente, y le da variedad a la serie cuando exploramos a cada una. También es interesante la relación con sus hermanos (o como se llamen) y esa como relación co-dependiente que realizan con ellos, no solo es que los quieran y ya, realmente no hay nada más para ellas, lo que las puede llevar a la locura cuando uno de estos hermanos muere (y tal como lo vimos). La interacciones entre las chicas, después de conocer a cada una y como comunican los hermanos también es interesante, no solo contrastamos lo que las niñas hacen y piensan en sus situaciones, sino vemos las diferentes aproximaciones con cada hermano, como “crían” a cada una de las chicas y los roces entre todos. Al final conoces a las niñas y puede importarte un carajo lo que les pasa, así que para mí, estuvo bien logrado.
Un final a una serie sin trama. Realmente solo se deja bien en claro la situación del gremio, mafia o lo que sea, frente a otros grupos similares, dejando las cuestiones éticas de si hacer a las niñas o dejarlo o que pedo y claro conocemos bien a las chicas y sus hermanos, dejando un buen sabor de boca, aunque en la serie realmente no haya pasado nada.
La premisa vende una serie totalmente diferente a lo que esperas, poca acción y mucha platica pero si sabes apreciar el contenido, te será una serie placentera, si no, pues te aburrirás como toda la gente que piensa que Shin Sekai Yori es mala. Espero que exploremos más de eso en la segunda temporada, hay muchas direcciones en la que puedes llevar estos conceptos y personajes (aunque me han dicho que no lo hace)