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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