To stop the unstoppable you need the irresistible. To kill the un-killable, you need someone for whom death no longer has a meaning. And to catch the perfect serial killer, you need the one person who knows his methods the best… his last victim! Murdered and reborn, no longer human, the female cyborg named Balot exists for one reason: to track down the man who killed her and bring him to justice.
Source: Sentai Filmworks
PROPER MINDSET It is hard not to see the various Ghost in the Shell similarities; heck there is even a character named Shell! But it is also quite easy to tell how it is nowhere close as good at it; for it heads for a lot of rule of cool which tarnishes its smart aspects. Oh well, at least it looks nice. THE STAFF This trilogy of movies had a rough time while getting green light for production. It was originally planed to be animated by studio GONZO, but after its almost bankruptcy the project was handed over to a new studio on the block, called Go Hands. This studio and the director haven’t made any good anime so far (their roster is full of crappy ecchis) but the final product can’t possibly be any worse than that piece of shit that is GONZO. So I like this change. SCRIPT So what is this show about? It is based on an award-winning science fiction novel concerning the attempts of a law-enforcing organization to fight crime by resurrecting victims of crooks and using them against said crooks as witnesses in trials. In one such case, a young girl is resurrected to stand in trial against a casino owner who has the habit of killing his lovers. As far as the premise goes, Mardock Scramble delivers in spades, as we hardly get trials in anime and I never saw another show where the dead are used as witnesses. Closest thing you can find is avenging ghosts (Mononoke) and supernatural vigilantes (Gungrave). The pacing is good for this type of story; when stuff happen they don’t feel like they drag more than they should. When stuff are not happening though, you get very long and moody dialogues which are supposed to be offering immersion to the characters, as well as infodumping of how the futuristic technologies work. They are necessary to understand what is going on but they will also take out a big chunk of the duration in telling instead of showing, without necessarily making any of the characters or the technologies that memorable. There is also that casino scene which feels like it lasts forever yet it’s supposed to be a major mind game for a later development... which doesn’t feel that important after all and makes you think you were trolled. Despite the fancy sci-fi dressing, the plot is not complicating and the cast is fairly one-not. It is easy to follow and even resembles a typical action flick half the time. Also you need to suspend your disbelief a lot in order to accept some really crazy technological gizmos which border magic. To get a taste, at some point you encounter a flying talking gay dolphin which starts talking about the meaning of love. Ok... That aside, you also get some character motivations which simply make no sense in a serious setting. How is Shell remembering his past when it is constantly deleted? Why is Balot given so much access to super powerful technology when she is just a witness? How do you turn burned people to blue diamonds? How do you expect to get away with killing a witness when she has already been part of a trial and you are living in a world where everything is monitored? And many more like these which if you pile them up you just can’t take anything seriously, even when you are supposed to. CAST The characters are not complicating to understand, nor are their actions mysterious and multi-layered. They are definitely very confusing because they usually do things that seem too hard to buy. They are otherwise cool and extreme enough to pay attention to but also think and act usually in a very linear or simplistic manner. So they are fun but not high-caliber material. Here are the main ones:- Balot is the main heroine, a teen prostitute that is killed and resurrected with fancy technology to be a witness against her killer. She also gets this magic golden mouse called Oeufcoque (try to say that fast 10 times straight) which turns her to a super soldier that can do all sorts of fighting acrobatics. She is a tragic character; made to have a very weird idea of what love is. She only knows how to express it through sex and constantly feels betrayed and manipulated. Gets easily crazy on power and revenge too.- Oeufcoque the Pokemon looks like a cute little mouse but in reality is the most hax mascot you have seen in your life. It can transform to anything better than T-2000, it can sense danger better than Spiderman, it can talk more philosophical than an average GITS character, and still look cute as a button. - Shell is your typical megalomaniac villain who likes to make money, have sex, and turn women to jewellery. He also has this condition where he must constantly take medication and have his memories deleted. - Boiled is the evil henchman, an ex partner of the golden mouse. He seems to think he lives to constantly prove to others the vanity of life. He has cool gravity-control powers. - And finally we have some goons with the craziest names, such as Pussyhand and Rare the Hair. Each one has a body member fetish and loves to wear it all the time by ripping it off its current owner. Ok, these guys are basically one-dimensional comic book villains but sure are more fun than your average faceless mook. Yes, they sound interesting and memorable the way I describe them but in reality they are not. PRODUCTION VALUES In terms of looks it is superb. The whole of Mardock city is drawn to look like a fancy futuristic place full of aerial roads, digital machinery, holograms scattered for decoration, and lots of funky visual effects to give an emphasis on the heavy sci-fi setting. Some pieces of the music score are also quite good in setting the proper mood. It still has a few glitches in terms of fluent animation during battles and a few storyboard continuity (some poses seem off when the camera switches angle). There is also a HUGE amount of nude, sex, gore, and bloodshed in here, so keep it out of reach of kids won’t reach (damn rascals know how to use a BD player from the age of 4). I must say they are overdone at points just for attracting action and ecchi fans and not to offer depth to cast or story. They end up ruining the serious aspect of the show instead of contributing to the aesthetics. The way those body fetishists talk, for example, is something you would expect to find in a slapstick comedy. It is bold and cool though and I did have fun with the whole crazy premise of teen prostitutes and body fetishists being blasted to a pulp. LEGACY I doubt it will leave its mark in history other than being remembered as a half-serious GITS. Also, there isn’t much to gain from a second watch, other than watching the action and the sex scenes. It is very well made and quite eye catchy in terms of premise and setting but fails to make something truly memorable out of them. I enjoyed it as a whole but it definitely doesn’t try too much to be serious. There is way too much magical technology in here which makes all sorts of dangers to feel easy to overcome. Also the characters are too simplistic and defined through their sexual preferences or deviant fetishes to the point they become caricatures. [/spoiler]And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 10/10 General Artwork 2/2 (detailed) Character Figures 2/2 (cool, sexy) Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed) Animation 2/2 (has a few problems but overall it’s great) Visual Effects 2/2 (superb) SOUND SECTION: 8/10 Voice Acting 4/5 (some voices are ridiculous but overall they are very good) Music Themes 4/5 (not amazing but fitting with the feeling of the series) STORY SECTION: 7/10 Premise 2/2 (interesting) Pacing 1/2 (overall very good but really bogs down during the casino scene) Complexity 1/2 (a lot of terminology but down to it not complicating to follow) Plausibility 1/2 (good usage of sci-fi ideas but the superpowers are too much to accept) Conclusion 2/2 (solid) CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10 Presence 2/2 (cool / sexy / creepy) Personality 1/2 (over the top but not very deep) Backdrop 1/2 (simplistic but it’s there) Development 2/2 (overblown but solid) Catharsis 1/2 (solid) VALUE SECTION: 3/10 Historical Value 0/3 (none) Rewatchability 1/3 (you will skip all the talking and look for the action and the sex) Memorability 2/4 (you will vaguely remember how great it looks and not what the plot or the themes were about) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10 Art 1/1 (looks amazing) Sound 1/2 (sounds ok) Story 2/3 (it’s a good action flick but fails to do something great) Characters 3/4 (they are cool and sexy but lack depth) VERDICT: 7/10
What I Liked: Stunningly animated (even the CG car chase scene was done well!), brilliant mood and atmosphere, great character designs, good development of setting and world thus far. What I Didn't: Second half dragged a little. Some strange technology-related plot holes. Balot's issues are not really dealt with, but it's early days and true closure might not come until the third movie. Final Verdict: A fiery start to a hopefully interesting and imaginative Cyberpunk trilogy. It would be nice to see if by the third movie it decides on whether it wants to be a thought-provoking analysis of sex, death, rebirth and everything-in-between or a flashy technology-and-skimpy-outfits action Sci-fi with a skerrick of substance. My money's on it finding a happy medium.
I went into this movie without a clue about it except it's future setting and I must say the first 5 minutes of the movie really set the tone for the whole thing. Very blunt and graphic progression through out. Don't let my "grim" account of it in no way shade my enjoyment of this title. I decided not to do a full on review yet simply because I haven't seen the 3rd (and what I assume to be the final) movie in this series. And a such, to me, the story and experience is yet incomplete. Not that I shy from giving reviews on an incomplete viewing but I have to have very strong feelings about the show to do that, usually in a negative sense. While the premiss seems a bit weak or more to the point who gives a mentally and emotionally damaged teenager super powers and a transmogrifying sentient weapon? Japan apparently xP But, why complain? The show itself is very engaging and so far I think it will be a very solid title upon completion. Once I get a copy of subbed or even dubbed (as that's what I actually ended up finding first for once) I will be sure to do a full review on all 3 parts. Still, I don't have much reservation about saying this title is well worth the watch, especially if you're into a darker sci-fi that only anime can provide.
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