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. Henrietta, Rico, Triela, Claes, and Angelica all proved to be unique in their own right and their relationships with than handlers were equally so.
In the previous volume of Gunslinger Girl we got to know the girls a little more and got plenty of action eye candy in the process. Henrietta and Triela took down a terrorist with an explosive personality and Rico got the chance to tackle some terrorists of her own. The show also introduced a new character, Elsa, and took the time to explore the detrimental effects of conditioning. It's safe to say that the second installment found its niche within the finely crafted atmosphere surrounding the show. Rather than knocking you over the head with off the wall plotlines and outlandish battle scenes, Gunslinger Girl is quite content to be serene in its approach.
And finally, here we have the last volume of this wonderful little series. Four episodes are all that remain and for the most part the show continues on the path it laid out in the previous installments. In the end was the trip worth taking? What happens to the girls?
Well, first of all I'm not going to spoil the end of the show for you; however I will discuss some of the events that occur during these episodes. As the third DVD begins Elsa and her handler, Lauro, turn up dead. Well, they turn up more than dead as there is a murderous conspiracy afoot. This brings the girls into focus, draws everyone together, and spreads the potential for an all out assault between Sections One and Two. These events doing necessarily carry through the entire way to the end but they certainly do have their impact on the proceedings.
I can't really discuss much more without revealing some of the ending plotline and if you have been watching the show from the beginning you'll thank me for this. The ending for Gunslinger Girl may have felt inevitable or destined but there are plenty of surprises in store and things to be appreciative of. It's just nice to say that this particular anime stayed true to its form from beginning to end and it never broke from its intended presentation.
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. Things rap up quite nicely here and I'm left with the strong desire to go back and re-watch everything again. From beginning to end this series is simply remarkable and original.
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.
Like the previous two volumes the final installment of Gunslinger Girl offers character dossiers, textless songs, and a building video for Triela. A couple of extra treats are included on this third DVD. First up is a commentary track which features the voice director and some of the cast talking about the show's English production and cracking jokes. For the most part they goof around and have a good time while making fun of some bits of the show. It's quite humorous and as far as anime commentaries are concerned this was probably one of the most amusing I have seen since Baki. On the drier side of things is a commentary about the production for Gunslinger Girl which features significantly less energy. Even so both tracks do provide some insight into the show and offer a glimpse at the English cast that put this release together.
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. So many things come together in the end that it's hard to describe some of what transpires without letting some spoilers come into play. All you need to know is that the show ends perfectly and this volume is just as good as the two that came before it. This show comes highly recommended if you have not seen it yet.
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