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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
"I wish I was dead..."
Spoken by 15-year old prostitute Rune Balot, these first words set the dispirited tone of the anime movie trilogy Mardock Scramble. The story is set in Mardock City, a cyberpunk world where the skyline is filled with skyscrapers, cars glide on fluorescent green roads, and everything sparkles like champagne. It's a stunning place to look at, but it’s also a savage place where cruelty and crime are often left unpunished.
Homicide has become so rampant that the government has authorized a controversial procedure to resurrect victims from the dead to help track down and testify against their assailants. This is one of the several unusual, and perhaps implausible, concepts in Mardock Scramble, but it's presented with such conviction that it’s not too difficult to get caught up in the moment and suspend disbelief.
The central plot-line, which is essentially about Rune’s revenge, is likely a catalyst for weightier themes. There are some fantastical action sequences, but the series tends to be more of a character study than a typical action-adventure. The conversations are philosophical, covering a wide range of topics such as the nature of memories and regret, free will, finding a purpose in life, and rebirth.
There’s a lot of hidden symbolism to keep your mind busy if you choose to look for it—such as the egg references that frequently appear. The doctor who performs the resurrection procedure is named Dr. Easter; "scramble" is, of course, one of the ways in which eggs are cooked; and there's a yellow shapeshifting mouse named “Oeufcoque”, which is French for “soft-boiled egg.” What all these egg references mean, I’m not sure.
Mardock Scramble has a consistently abrasive aesthetic. The art is usually intensely bright, or shrouded in shadows, or textured by noise that must've been hell for the video encoders to deal with. GoHands doesn't appear to have cut any corners or expenses with the animation, which, especially in the action sequences, looks painstakingly detailed. The visuals are rounded off with an electronic and ambient music soundtrack.
If you like science-fiction fantasy with a psychological twist, strong and stylish animation, and don't mind graphic violence, mental and physical abuse, and nudity, you should definitely check out Mardock Scramble. If you haven't read the synopsis yet, don't. The less you know going in, the more surprised you’ll be. Just sit back and get pounced by it.
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.
(Spoiler Free maybe)
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is a... interesting addition to my watched list, and while I rated it a 5/5 star for enjoyment, it is a show far from being said rating in terms of technical aspects.
The story is futuristic in nature and relies heavily on made up lore, technological advances, and other world building elements and while it does a great job setting up a unique backdrop with pretty aesthetic. the story itself has points of questionable decision making and hard to follow exposition about the world and lore, though what series with its own world and logic doesn't suffer from this eventually. That's not to say I was totally isolated, and it does the job at having memorable moments, but these moments are not constructs of the plot itself being clever or unique but stems from the characters.
Mardock at its core revels in its animation which at times can be a masterful work of art. It knows its weakness and plays around them excellently remaining visually stunning and accurately portraying mood and emotion throughout its atmosphere.
I must also commend Mardock on its use of nudity and sex, at least in the directors cut. While some may write this off as fan service and be disgusted with such indecency from Balot, I feel it gives her a more emotional touch to her characterization and mood. Showing you how deprived, worthless, or vulnerable she is.
The sound, or lack thereof, was decent, though I must express my love for the opening and ending songs as my favorite from the movie and series. However, everything else I would define as "in the moment" music befitting the scene at play but outside of said scene is forgettable. voice acting on the Japanese side I believe was superb, very good deliver. I will rewatch in English on a later date though upon initial testing to choose between English or Japanese I found the Japanese to be of better quality.
I have no shame in admitting I have a soft spot for the mentally tortured, and delving deep into the philosophical dwellings of one or more characters' mind. To explain the characters, or at the very least the two protagonists, Oeufcoque and Balot, I must explain the theme. Mardock Scramble is a story of finding oneself, finding one's purpose, their reasoning for life, what drives them to the bitter end. Are you a tool, a weapon, a person, a lover, or perhaps a shell? What is your worth and how far are you willing to go prove it?
This theme makes Oeufoque and Balot very alike, perhaps not in attitude or personality, but fundamentally at their core. They are a very dynamic duo growing individually and together; hoping to find a reason to exist.
The other characters I had no quarrel with and found some to be quirky and bewildering, which I will admit, charms me.
I could do a more in-depth slightly spoiler review like I did with Flip Flappers, though I don't believe this to be necessary for I thoroughly enjoyed the film and see no reason to break down scene for scene why I love the dark mood, or intricate character motives; that can be someone elses job for now.
A warning though is in order, if you wish to watch this movie it is best to have all three films for the first film ends on a cliffhanger (But Daimyo you just spoiled the ending!) trust me even now knowing that it ends on a cliffhanger you won't be expecting it when it happens. I watched the film knowing about the cliffhanger and was surprised when it happen and bursted out laughing at the screen, its that ridiculous, but I still enjoyed it and won't deduct points from my 5/5, can't say the same for story rating though.
Maybe I'll get around to "reviewing" the second movie, which i've already watched, but its more or less the same as what I stated here but with the "Plot Thickens" stamped all over. I might wait until the third film before reviewing the series as a whole.