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 Post subject: Gunslinger Girl
PostPosted: November 29th, 2008, 8:16 pm 
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I have finally seen the first season completely, after I began twice but always got stuck in the middle.

There is this secret Italian intelligence service that selects (nearly) fatally wounded little girls, supplies them with carbon fibre skeletons and super-powered artificial muscles that would leave the Six-Million-Dollar-Man stand in awe, erases their memories, and trains them to be anti-terror assassins because little girls are not very suspect.
Meet Henrietta, Triela, Rico, Claes, and Angelica. And Elsa (not really though). All of them were declared dead after criminal acts done to them. The names they have are not their real names. They receive their new names by their personal handlers, experienced former members of security services, like the military police, the Marines, or what have you. (I didn't know the Italians had Marines...)

While you do get to see some "(Loli) girls with guns" action, the series' focus is on ethical topics, as most handlers treat their personal trainees like robots who are void of all emotion, like a tool. On the other hand, the girls are conditioned to protect and rely on their handlers, they are, obviously unbeknownst to their superiors, emotionally dependant on these men, their loyalty bordering on love. Still, some handlers would be ignorant to that they are dealing with little girls, not with machines.
At first I found it pretty unbelievable that one might treat a living being like a lifeless tool, but rethinking I remembered that there are people who treat other human beings just like that because the color of their skin or their cultural way of life is different.
Some handlers treat their inferior just like a little sister, others have gone beyond that and have detached themselves already, facing the side effects of the conditioning, like failing short-term memory. Try to face the stress of someone around you who suffers from Alzheimer and you know how it goes. Turning away is only human. Not humane for sure, but human.
So, instead of a storyline, what you get is a collection of stories, including some time leaps, that illuminate the relationship of different characters. I think this is a very interesting approach, but some people might be deterred.

Overall, I'd say the tone is very depressive. These people save the girls from certain death, so initially you might think, well, they're slaves now, but they're alive and get some quality time now and then. But that's not quite right. Besides said side effects of the conditioning the audience learns that a cyborg's life span is limited. So they save them only to use them as long as possible, keep them in a cage (as comfortable as it may be), and largely fail to provide the emotional bonding that any human needs to remain sane. When an incident threatens the existence of the "cyborg section" - should I feel good or bad about it?

Said incident is the story of Elsa, which made me pretty furious.
Not because it was any much worse than the other girls' cases, but because of its presentation.

Spoiler
Elsa appears very late in the series. She's madly in love with her handler (I'd rather call it an exaggerated form of loyalty), but the guy ignores her beyond her killing capabilities. Deeply hurt by him forgetting moments and events that are precious to her, like the place where he gave her her name, she shoots him and herself.
Well, that is tragic, but that's not my main problem with that. The main problem is that Elsa appears right in the very same episode in which she dies! The character is never introduced, her existence never even being hinted at. She only appears in order to fabricate that kind of story because, I assume, the author did not want to waste any of the other girls - whose loss would have had a much greater impact on the audience. Too bad, a chance missed.
Instead you get this girl who acts bitchy and ignores her fellow dorm residents because she has only eyes for her handler - did they really expect any viewer to feel any emotional thread as to pity her death? It feels like these Star Trek episodes, where people who have never appeared on screen would suddenly have a few lines of dialogue, and you knew instantly that they were going to die...


I saw the last (13th) episode with mixed feelings. Most entertaining about it was Beethoven's Ninth, "Ode to Joy" (text by Friedrich Schiller), sung in German by the (Japanese and American) voice actresses. I enjoyed it a lot. A LOT. A very cute performance. At the same time we get to see a glimpse of humanity -
Spoiler
Angelica, the prototype, "expires", dieing while listening to Beethoven, watching shooting stars, and being read her favorite story by her handler, who has kindly decided to reopen himself to her at least on her death bed. (I have to admit that this is an interpretation, there is no medical personnel to confirm her death, she just climactically closes her eyes and does not react to him calling out to her several times.)


From an ethical point of view, "Gunslinger Girl" is simply a great piece of work.
I am also very satisfied with the (Japanese) voice acting, not fully, but very.
The soundtrack is, as I mentioned elsewhere, so addictive that I bought the original album by The Delgados. One of the best disks I have on my shelf.
The artwork is what I'd call superior. The designs are very well done, including backgrounds, and full fledged animations that, to me, do not show any weakpoints.

I am not so happy with the absence of a story line, the work essentially being a character analysis, and, consequently, with there not being a conclusion. The end of the last episode, no, the message of the whole thing is open to interpretation. It is clear that there is no salvation for these girls. They are servants, being treated rather questionably, and their life span is limited, and still they sit on the lawn, happily watching a meteor shower, and singing - note the apparent paradox - "Ode to Joy".

What does it tell me?


Enjoy the moment.

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 Post subject: Re: Gunslinger Girl
PostPosted: November 30th, 2008, 2:41 am 
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Hah! I remember when I first looked at the title of the series, I thought it would be a meaningless story, with some weak characters, I was wrong; I think the title sounds too brutal to be compared with what this anime is really about.
It 's not so much action oriented as it is character driven. Even so, the action scenes were drawn and choreographed impressively.

The story, as 42317, pointed out, basically focuses on the relationship between the girls and their fratellos, and questions the morality of using girls to do the dirty work of the government. The first episodes focus on character introductions and development, later it becomes a little dramatic as one finds the girls are heading to an inevitable end. Like Noir, the story has an European setting and feeling; it is based in Italy so it should be. But unlike Noir, there isn’t really a main antagonist.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the animation, everything was very detailed, from character designs, weapons, to backgrounds, I personally enjoyed seeing a Maradona jersey hanging in one of the early episodes.
I also loved Delgados' songs, “The light before we land”, the opening theme, was definitely touching, it suits the melancholic feeling of the series. “Woke from dreaming” was another great song, also by Delgados, played a couple of times. Delgados has quite some good music, so that also goes as a recommendation too.

Overall it’s a very emotional tittle with amazing visuals, some of the most exciting action scenes I’ve seen, a realistic atmosphere, an excellent soundtrack, and great characterization to boot.

Now, this was only the first season, a second season came out early this year. It is a continuation based on the manga, which is still ongoing. There were quite a few changes on the second season, including new voice actors for some characters, and more importantly a different art style. It was a different studio that picked the series, and It took me a few episodes to get used to the art. The story however picked up where it left, it introduced quite a few interesting characters. And it continued focusing on the ethical issues. The soundtrack however was inferior.
Either way, I think the series only takes you to one place, that is the manga, which gets really interesting later on, and I highly recommend it.

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 Post subject: Re: Gunslinger Girl
PostPosted: October 30th, 2011, 7:33 pm 
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I still recommend reading the manga, which is really close to a closure, a very fitting and tragic one. It just couldn't end any other way.
They did explain the characters backgrounds, it all made sense in the end.

I want to rewatch the two first seasons if i have a chance. I would love to see a third and fourth season, they didn't really cover much of the story in the previous two.

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