Pumpkin Scissors was one of those ADV shows that had a lot of promise when it was released. I recall the first couple of volumes that I was sent to review and enjoyed what I saw. Unfortunately shortly thereafter ADV began having issues with some of their licensing, so I was never able to see the remainder of the show. Thankfully the people over at FUNimation rescued the license and have put together a complete collection release. If you've been following our reviews then you know FUNimation already released the show under their brand in the latter part of 2008. That release was broken up over two sets, but for those looking to consolidate space this latest set is just the ticket.
The idea for the show started out back in 2002 as a manga and was a creative effort by Ryoutarou Iwanaga. When it was put into animated format it in 2006 lasted for 24 episodes and was produced by Gonzo. Generally when I see a show was produced by them my initial response is, "heck yeah!". They have a strong reputation for quality, and though they have the occasional stinker, I'm pleased to say that Pumpkin Scissors is not one of them.
If you have never seen this show then you should know there is a strong Fullmetal Alchemist vibe here. The show begins three years in the past with a lengthy and costly war coming to an end abruptly with a cease fire agreement. From that point on the ravages of war begin to surface all around the continent and the true price of conflict is beginning to be felt. Ex-soldiers have become bandits that prey on the weak, civilians everywhere are starving and living in squalor, and nobles have risen even higher in stature. In many cases nobles are above the law so they abuse their influence and those beneath them at their leisure. In these dark times the term "war relief" is something of a misnomer but it's that ideal that the Pumpkin Scissors brigade is aspiring to obtain.
Lead by Lieutenant Alice Malvin, Pumpkin Scissors' main duty is to travel around and restore order in whatever way they can. Sure they consist of only a few members and their essentially the laughing stock of the military but they have heart and they have purpose. With Alice's take charge attitude and penchant for jumping into the fray before she rationalizes things out in her head the group tends to find themselves in more trouble than they should.
Early on in the show we see just what Alice is capable of and learn that she's of noble birth, trying to do the right thing by the people of the land. She's a conflicted character who finds herself rebelling from the way her life was supposed to go, and doing what she feels is right. As a protagonist she's interesting and energetic enough to lead the rest of the group. Surrounding her is a cast of equally interesting characters, though I dare say that the most dynamic is a massive guy named Corporal Randel Oland.
Oland was part of an elite and mysterious squadron of anti-tank personnel known as 901-ATT. He is a somber individual with haunted eyes and expressions that belay the horrors he's seen. One of his most unique characteristics is a lantern attached to his hip which glows an ominous blue. With that lantern lit he loses himself in battle, doesn't feel pain, and becomes an unstoppable force of death. In the opening moments of the show we see him single handedly destroying a tank with a powerful gun. He's known as a Will 'o the Wisp and the lantern steals energy from his soul whenever he uses it. While watching Alice is fun in its own right, seeing Oland adjust to life within Pumpkin Scissors' unit is just as fascinating.
The development of Oland and Alice is arguably the driving force within Pumpkin Scissors. Their background is rich and well planned, the world around them feels custom built for the characters, and everything will draw you in time and time again. No matter what the mission of the Pumpkin Scissors brigade, the focus is often on the two main characters and how an element of their job relates to their past. There's definitely plenty of material here and it's nice to note that even in episodic stories, the content is well-played and presented.
If you missed out on Pumpkin Scissors the first time around with ADV, or even the second time around with FUNimation, this third time is a charm. The show is fascinating and extremely well-developed in just about every sense. From the background of the world to the history of the characters and how they all relate, everything just gels. This is a show that definitely deserves more attention than it has gotten and it's arguably one of the better series to come along recently. Consider it highly recommended and you won't be disappointed by picking this complete series up.
Pumpkin Scissors is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks great with a fine use of color, very little grain, no compression, and only a little aliasing here and there to muck things up. Considering this is a Gonzo production I can't say that I'm surprised by the solid picture quality. The animation is crisp and fluid and all around the designs are represented very well here. This is a fine looking show with a very unique sense of design and the transfer showcases those qualities.
Like most shows now-a-days Pumpkin Scissors comes with the original Japanese 2.0 stereo track and a beefed up 5.1 English one. The dubbing quality for both is very good though I found the Japanese track felt slightly more natural when all was said and done. Technically speaking both tracks offer crystal clear dialogue, sharp sound effects, and a nicely presented soundtrack. The Japanese selection felt a little flatter than the English one thanks to the 2.0 limitations though the 5.1 English didn't really raise the bar of expectation. Some of the sound effects didn't have the impact that they should have and directionality was kept at a minimum.
You're going to get clean animations and some trailers on this boxed set, but that's really it. Granted nothing else was included on the original release of the show, so I suppose you can't really complain.
I liked this show when I only had very limited exposure to it. I'm pleased to say that after watching the whole thing, my initial impressions still stand. Pumpkin Scissors is a unique brand with fascinating characters and a dark, deep world. It comes to life during through course of its 24 episodes and never really falters. Don't miss this creative vision. It's one of the better shows in recent memory and comes highly recommended.
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