Based off of a manga by Yu Aida, Gunslinger Girl is a thirteen episode anime that has done well for FUNimation. It is one of the titles with an upcoming collection and recently they have decided to re-release the series as a more affordable way to visit the individual volumes. With a moody atmosphere, violent young girls, and fantastic sense of style it's safe to say that if you haven't seen the show before there has never been a better time to check it out.
The basic premise backing Gunslinger Girl follows the creation of an ultimate assassin team. The series takes place in Italy which instantly sets it apart from most other anime on the market. I don't know about you but I think it's always nice to see anime take a look at the world beyond the borders of Japan. That fact helps this show gain its unique sense of self-being though arguably it's the cast that propels it forward and ushers in that The Professional mentality.
The main stars of Gunslinger Girl are a group of girls that have found their way into the employ of the Social Welfare Agency. On the surface the agency deems to aid the injured, assist orphans, and help people out through charitable contributions. Deep within the agency is a hidden agenda that works directly for the Italian Government. With some nifty cybernetic implants and mental conditioning there is a military project at play to fix up some girls and induct them into their ranks as ultimate assassins.
In the world of Gunslinger Girl the girls who go through this project are placed in the hands of a trainer who helps them through the process and stand over them as instructor. These handlers are essentially big brothers to these little girls two work hand in hand within the confines of the assassin unit. During the first volume we are introduced to each of the five girls and their brotherly counterparts. One girl in particular does stand out from the rest as the series' main focus though.
As this volume begins we are introduced to Henrietta who is the newest inductee into the assassin program. She is the survivor of a brutal murder and finds herself suffering in the aftermath. With her trainer, Jose, helping her through the process of working in the Agency she slowly begins to bring her life into focus. I suppose it helps that Giuseppe seems to be against putting her through extensive brainwashing. This allows her to retain a lot of her humanity and emotions, but as you can imagine both of those things get in the way sometimes.
The other girls in the show are Rico, Triela, Claes, and Angelica. As you meet each of them in this volume you'll learn about their past, their personalities, and how they are as people. The muted manner with which the show handles the development of these girls helps give Gunslinger Girl a slow paced atmosphere despite all of the assassin training going on. Once again I have to go back to that Professional reference because in so many ways this show emulates the film though it tosses in the science fiction cybernetic flare to keep otaku pleased.
Throughout the five episodes on this introductory volume we are given a view at the show from the ground up. The development of the characters plays a big role here and despite the slower pacing there is still quite a lot of action. It seems as though the series wants to let you know that, yes, these girls are indeed killers. I have to say that the action is intense and along with the show's atmosphere, it's handled differently and more stylishly than you'd expect.
If you're looking for a powerful show with a unique atmosphere Gunslinger Girl is definitely one to check out. The interesting premise and setting helps the show stand apart from others and it's hard to deny the influence this project took from The Professional. Watching these young girls turn into cold-blooded killers at the drop of a hat (or flash of a knife) can be haunting with its effectiveness. I had a lot of fun with these five episodes and am sure that the best is yet to come.
Presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for anamorphic widescreen playback, the image quality for Gunslinger Girl is stellar. I suppose it helps that the design of the characters and world they live in is slick and stylish. Everything from the backgrounds to the purposeful animation gives the show a unique look. There is a good amount of contrast within the production of this show and you'll notice that some colors appear more prominently than others so they jump from the screen. Some compression artifacts crept in during the darker scenes but otherwise this transfer by FUNimation is impeccable and virtually flawless.
The sound direction here is another feather in the cap where the show's presentation is concerned. For both the English and Japanese dubs the quality is perfectly handled and there is fantastic voice work all around. Along with the dubbings it's safe to say that the musical scores help set the mood and solidly reaffirm the fact that the show takes place in Italy. The show comes with English 2.0 and 5.1 options as well as the original Japanese 2.0 track. Each audio selection here offers some fine quality though I have to give the most points in favor of the English 5.1 track. The sense of immersion is much better and the way the rear channels pick up the sound effects helps draw you into the show.
The first volume of Gunslinger Girl comes with a selection of Dossiers which are basically character profiles but are themed towards the show's premise. Also included are the ubiquitous clean opening and closing animations. I do have to say that this volume offers an interesting minute long video that assembles Henrietta from a blob of color into a full-blown piece of art. It's cool but not entirely relevant to the way that the show was produced.
Gunslinger Girl is just one of those shows that will leave its mark on you after you sit down and watch it. The deliberately slower nature of the series combined with a lot of action and character development compliment the atmosphere very well. This was one of the hidden treasures of 2005 and it's nice to see FUNimation re-releasing the title at an affordable price. Just about every aspect of this series felt inspired and the first volume is a great look at things yet to come. Check it out and you won't be disappointed.
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