Gunslinger Girl Review

Gunslinger Girl Review

Gunslinger Girl Complete Series

FUNimation Distributes Madhouse Anime Based on Yu Aida’s Manga

Madhouse Studios’s Gunslinger Girl, which followed a group of preteen girls turned into ruthless assassins by a secret government agency, could have become a compendium of everything wrong with modern anime.

But director Morio Asaka’s sure touch turned Madhouse Studios’ adaptation of Yu Aida’s long-running manga into the Japanese answer to Luc Besson’s Léon the Professional. Now FUNimation has packaged all 13 episodes into a 3-disc set.

FUNimation Distributes Madhouse Studio’s Adaptation of Yu Aida’s Gunslinger Girl

Angelica, Claes, Elsa, Henrietta, Rico and Triela are preteen girls without a past. Passed on to Section 2 of Italy’s Child Welfare Agency, their memories have been wiped and bodies augmented with cybernetic implants. The girls have been paired with government agents and trained to become deadly assassins in order to handle the Italian government’s dirty work.

Henrietta Using Her Gun

Henrietta Using Her Gun

However, as the DVD box says, “Every weapon has a flaw” and these girls have serious weaknesses: despite their intensive training and bonding with their adult handlers, they still have the mind and heart of young girls. In addition, the ‘conditioning’ process they undergo not only shortens their lifespan but also plays hell with their long-term memories. And those flaws can explode in some pretty spectacular ways.

What separates Gunslinger Girl from the anime pack isn’t just the spectacular art and Toshihiko Sahashi’s haunting score – which combines jazz and classical elements to profound effect. It’s the richly-developed characters and powerful story, which delves into the lives of these shattered girls and their conflicted handlers.

Whether it’s the gentle Jose – who treats Henrietta like the daughter he doesn’t have – or the callous Jean, who always refers to Rico as a “cyborg,” these agents take very different attitudes towards their girls, which creates conflict within Section 2 as they accuse each other of being too harsh or too gentle with their charges. Despite treatment that sometimes crosses the line into abuse, the girls love their handlers unconditionally, and would willingly take a bullet for them. However, some handlers learn that hell hath no fury like a cyborg scorned . . .

Despite the well-plotted action sequences, the strongest parts of Gunslinger Girl are the quiet moments where there’s a personal realization, or an unspoken communication occurs between characters. Whether it’s Jose realizing just how dangerous Henrietta truly can be – both to himself and to criminals – or the girls defining their relationships with each other, it’s those moments that take this anime above the pack.

DVD Extras

There’s a lot on here, of varying quality. The “Gunslinger Girl dossiers” doesn’t add much more if you’ve already seen the anime, since it restates a lot of what happens. The “Building <insert character’s name here>” is interesting, if you want to see how the animators build each layer on the character.

The “Meet the Real Gunslinger Girls” featurette is a lot more interesting, since it features audio commentaries by the English dub actors, discussing their characters. It’s a fascinating glimpse into

Gunslinger Girl Crew

Gunslinger Girl Crew

how the actors relate to their characters – the similarities versus the differences – and how they approach their roles. The voice directors and the production commentaries are about what you’d expect, but their enthusiasm for Gunslinger Girl is clear and infectious. Finally, you have the inevitable trailers, plus the opening and closing songs without the credit crawl.

The Final Analysis

“Little girls with big weapons” is a standard trope in a lot of anime, but Gunslinger Girl brings something new to the party: an epic sweep plus a rich understanding of character. It says a lot about an anime when the quiet moments are the most powerful, and Gunslinger Girl brings those moments in spades. Combine that with the beautiful animation and haunting score, and you have a winner.

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