Friday, February 13, 2009

Review | Anime | Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino

GUNSLINGER GIRL: IL TEATRINO : Artland picks up the story of
the Social Welfare fratelli in this sequel to the popular anime 'Gunslinger
Girl'. The Social Welfare Agency has picked up the trail of the ruthless
terrorist organization the Five Republics, and in reply sends their fratello
assassins to infiltrate the group. But when Triela is defeated in combat by a
Five Republics assassin named Pinocchio, the Agency has their work cut out f0r
them as they try to find a new approach to capture the man powerful enough to
overthrow the Agency's undefeated cyborgs.

Nearly 4 years later, the fratelli are back, with a new director, new networks and even a new studio with a very different art style. I was inspired to begin the Gunslinger Girl series, actually, after hearing the Il Teatrino series' theme song, which I discovered somewhat accidentally while exploring Gendou's music directory. Already a KOKIA fan, my curiousity and expectations lead me to the show's beautiful, spirited theme Tatta Hitotsu no Omoi and ultimately the Gunslinger Girl series. After listening to the song in repeat about ten times, I managed to turn off my player long enough to watch an episode, and I had since been hooked.

After taking less than a week to finish the first series, I began "Il Teatrino", which continues the story of the Social Welfare Agency's ongoing war with the Five Republics terrorist group. A new art style almost makes you believe it's a new anime (Wikipedia is even armed with the characters' appearance comparisions), and in many ways, it is. The gunslinging continues, as do the emotional struggles the girls have, but the story lies mostly on the shoulders of a new assassin named Pinocchio. His family is slaughtered by an enemy group, and upon discovering he is the only survivor, he is taken in by the group's leader, Christiano, who trains him to become a ruthless assassin beginning at age 10. Pinocchio eventually becomes a determined killer, even going so far as to kill the unarmed young daughter of an enemy fighter in his early years. Despite this event continuously haunting him, he strives to follow his father figure Christiano's orders at all costs.

After a raid by the Agency, Triela fights one-on-one with "Pino", and to the shock of Triela and the Agency, she is defeated. Triela does not handle this well, as this is the first time she has been defeated. She begins to train herself to exhaustion in order to become stronger for her next encounter with Christiano's assassin.

This series, despite picking up from the first season, is actually in many ways not connected to the first season at all. Everything is new, which you can see by watching it, because the pace Il Teatrino is a lot slower, and at times, annoyingly slow. A lot of focus is put in unnecessary things a lot of the time, and this series seems more centered around Pinocchio than the cyborgs and the Agency. Pinocchio's one of those characters that you can't really put your finger on; his nonchalant, cold, and overall bland personality makes him a hard pill to swallow.

Fans of Gunslinger Girl will definitely want to pick this one up, but I wouldn't get overly excited, because the series certainly doesn't. It's very serene in the long run, and you don't have to worry about whether or not you're receiving a bigger dose than you need. You'll either watch until you think you've watched enough or you'll watch until you get bored and stop. That's the reason it took me nearly a month to finally complete, unlike Gunslinger Girl, which I finished within the week. Definitely one for your to-watch list, but grab a seat.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Monday, February 9, 2009

Review | Anime | Gunslinger Girl

GUNSLINGER GIRL : The Social Welfare Agency of Italy, on the surface,
rehabilitates those who have been physically injured. Underneath this harmless
disguise, they are an anti-terrorist organization with a grotesque specialty:
Terminally ill young girls that have been orphaned or abandoned are taken from
their bed-ridden states in the hospital and given cybernetic body parts along
with a thorough erase of all memories of their previous lives. The Agency trains
the girls as obedient assassins and teams them up with agents of the Italian
Government. Despite their conditioning, they are still young girls, and they
struggle with their emotions outside of the demands of the organization that
treats them merely as mindless tools.

I almost didn't watch this anime, for fear that it would be yet another Magical Girl rip-off about scantily-clad lolicon crime-fighters. I was surprised to find, however, that this was not the case at all; this anime is actually far from the typical bubbles and melon soda of anime youth and cuts straight into the darker side of the world. In the end, I am very pleased with this anime and happy I gave it a chance.

The anime centers primarily around the Jose/Henrietta fratello (Italian for 'siblings', a term used in the series to refer to the agents and their cyborgs) and Henrietta's struggle to express her feelings for her handler Jose. Jose is considered an oddball by many of the handlers at the Agency because of his loving treatment of Henrietta, choosing to treat her like a person rather than a machine. While it draws in confusion from the handlers, it gains longing from the cyborgs, who wish their handlers would treat them with the same respect that is given to Henrietta by Jose. Many of the cyborgs have strong feelings for their handlers, some of platonic respect and some romantic. The issue is, Jose happens to be the only handler in the Agency that expresses friendship towards his cyborg; Jose's handler co-workers treat their cyborgs as tools, and even refer to them as such, despite any attempts or desires the girls may have to form a bonding with their agents.

In addition to their strict military training, the cyborgs are schooled like regular girls, and are often tutored by fellow cyborg Triela, who is one of the older cyborgs in the series, aging at the time of her conditioning about 15-16. Typically the Agency only conditions young girls barely 13, stating that children are easier to condition and live longer, but Triela becomes one of the only exceptions, and the reason for being so is explained later in the dark sequel of the show, Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino.

Conditioning is easiest for children because of the development of their minds; their pasts and all memories are simple to erase and it doesn't take much effort at all to make the children completely obedient to their handlers at a stage in their lives when they need a figure to look up to. Conditioning of the cyborgs is not a frequent process, however, whereas the more the conditioning is increased, the shorter the lifespan of the girls become. Because of this, if a handler dies, the Agency won't recondition their cyborg to obey another trainer; the cyborg will merely be scrapped or kept for experiments.

The aptly named series does boast plenty of blood and violence, so this may be one to steer the kids away from completely, despite how interesting the "girls with guns" topic may seem. Even without the violence, the pace of the show and the complexity of the Agency's tasks probably won't keep a child attentive for long. Older fans of anime will probably draw out a lot more enjoyment, however, for the dramatic plot and beautiful storytelling on a brand new meaning of children being desperate for attention.

You won't want to walk by this one at the store, violence fan or non, if you enjoy the occasional mist in the eyes with some brain food thrown in. Gunslinger Girl is a wonderfully told story and a joy to watch. Another one for your Plan-To-Watch list.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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Monday, February 2, 2009

Review | Movie | The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME : Makoto Konno is a typical high schooler
who spends most of her free time playing baseball with her friends Chiaki and
Kousuke. On a day when nothing seems to go her way and everything leads to
disaster, she has an encounter with a mysterious man in the science lab of
school, and is suddenly endowed with the ability to leap through time. As she
goes back to various points in her week to fix the problems she runs into, she
begins to realize the terrible adverse effects that amount from her alteration
of time.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was very recently released on DVD in America, and was shown on several college campuses across the United States. Upon discovering an advertisement on an anime website about the movie, I decided to have a sit-down and watch the film.

Even though it was not a big box office smash, through kudos from viewers and film critics, "Toki o Kakeru Shōjo" soon soared to large heights and did considerably well thereafter, despite not being advertised as much as other 2006 anime features.

The movie begins simply and paces simply, but once Makoto's run-in with a shadowed figure in the science lab sends her flying onto a strange nutshell, the time debate begins. Makoto's most trusted adult figure appears to be her aunt Kazuko, who instead of brushing off Makoto's time-leaping dilemma, actually becomes the one who suggests Makoto's experience was a genuine journey through the fabrics of time. At first Makoto thinks this impossible and denounces it, but once she begins to take literal leaps that would otherwise severely injure her, she discovers she can really travel to any time she wants. And how do you reckon a tardy, accident-prone girl with bad grades use a time-bending power?

Naturally, this is all working out quite well. All of Makoto's accidents are instantly fixed, and she is not above hooking her guy friends Chiaki and Kousuke up with girls who watch them from afar. She doesn't mind bragging a little about it to her aunt, either. Her aunt's speculation, however, turns out to be a true one: You can't just one piece of the timeline; if one thing changes, everything changes. Makoto soon realizes this the hard way; to avoid her cooking accident, she switched with a classmate who ended up having the accident instead of her, and this earned her classmate school bullies that mocked him for destroying the kitchen. The next problem? The battered boy wants his revenge, beginning with the girl who made him switch with her in class.

Her relationships with her school friends are tested, and some sparks even fly, but Makoto is determined to fix everything. Despite her attempts, a wrench is thrown in by her new discovery: She can only leap for a certain amount of times before her ability goes away forever.

This movie tells a great story and pulls its weight at a great pace. Makoto's comedy turns to drama as time unfolds itself and Makoto begins to question the source of her ability. The reviews were definitely correct about this one, and the awards were well deserved.

Parents should feel fine about showing this to their kids, although it doesn't contain elements that may interest very young kids. This may be a movie for the middle schoolers of your family and older.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is beautifully put together and plays out the fable of how every drug has its side effect in a lively, humorous and touching way. This one is unquestionably going to my anime collection, and I think it'll make a great addition to yours, too.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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