The original Gunslinger Girl series has been around on DVD for some time now and it's been remotely popular with the masses. Just a year later a sequel series was released and it took a little while to get to our shores, but sure enough FUNimation has finally put it together as a complete series boxed set. You know what that means? If you loved the first you'll definitely want to pick this one up! It's more of the same really. For the uninitiated that means it's really, really good.
The whole concept of Gunslinger Girl came from the mind of Yu Aida, who penned the manga that started it all. The show is quite unique with regards to just about every aspect. The main stars of the series are young girls who happen to be cold-blooded assassins working for a faction of the Italian government. The whole thing came about when the Social Welfare Agency was founded with the goal to find lost or otherwise dead children a place in society. Their place so happens to be working for the government, killing people, becoming part cyborg, and losing all elements of their past and humanity, but that's besides the point. Let's just say that these girls would rather have a new uzi for their birthday rather than a pony.
There's a strong Professional vibe at work here and the entire first season was handled nice and slow. The plot was given plenty of time to come to fruition and the cast of characters grew exponentially the more time they were given. In the end the first season was a fascinating outing that offered incredible action sequences and a plot that moved at its own pace. I can't tell you how happy I am that the 13 episodes in the second season, Il Teatrino bring the same level of energy and sense of style to the table.
Il Teatrino picks up at a relatively undisclosed point in the timeline of the Gunslinger Girl franchise. It's more of a series of side stories and a light continuation at times than a full-on sequel. That's fine really. There was more to explore in the world before the final episode wrapped up from the original and the sequel kicks off with a story that will draw you in almost immediately.
The series sees the return of Triela in all her glory. In one particular episode she's going up against a group known as the FRF (Five Republics Faction) and butts heads with another assassin known as Pinocchio. This kid is the real deal and 100% human, unlike the girls. He has a very familiar tragic past, but since he works for another group his motives are slightly different as you'd imagine. Well, he beats the snot out of Triela and quickly becomes her nemesis. This little conflict is revisited towards the end of the series, and between those sets there are little pieces of information about his character that are peppered throughout.
Some of the other girls are still here and working as well. Each of the girls continues to be with their handlers and deals with their relationships in different ways. Some look for a sense of love, others for a sense of belonging, but throughout it all they continue to act as tools for the SWA. A few random missions are strewn about Il Teatrino and there are some arching plots as well as episodic ones. There's quite a bit to do about terrorists in the area and they create a nice diversion for the girls to kill and go ballistic on. It's during this time that Angelica is reactivated from her injury in the previous season.
No matter what's going on in each episode Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino remains a haunting series. The plight of these cybernetic young girls attempting to cling to whatever shred of humanity they have left is difficult to watch at times because it's so effective. There's a real "Pinocchio" vibe here, and the creator's decision to add a character of the same name kind of reinforces that sensation.
If you saw the first Gunslinger Girl and were craving more (something I'm sure happened), then Il Teatrino is everything you could have wanted. The show doesn't let up from start to finish and it continues to push the buttons of viewers as it moves the plot forward. If you're uninitiated to the world of Gunslinger Girl then some of what occurs here may be lost on you as it references the first season. Still, it's handled so you can get into it without any prior knowledge of the characters or world. Don't miss this one! This sequel comes highly recommended.
Presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for anamorphic widescreen playback, the image quality for Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is pretty damn good. The designs of the characters are quite familiar and the world has the same kind of vibe from it, which is nice considering a different production company handled the animation. The show utilizes a similar brand of contrast and colors to create an atmosphere unlike any other. The quality of the picture remains sharp as well with only a few moments where blocking and grain are noticeable, but not too distracting.
Il Teatrino hits DVD with English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound and Japanese 2.0 Stereo as its sources of output. Technically speaking the English selection packs more of a punch with fight sequences springing to life with greater directionality and presence on the soundstage. The English dub cast also did a fantastic job with the material, though I'm fairly certain some of the cast has changed. Whatever the case, it's a quality dub and matches the Japanese language to the letter. Great job all around with this set!
For bonus features there are some trailers, textless songs, and an original TV commercial for the show. There is also an interview with the Japanese cast member who played Marco. The interview is rather standard and what you'd expect with no real revelations, but it's nice to have something else to watch.
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is awesome. That's not really much of a surprise in all honesty. The first season was dynamic, unique, and stood out from the crowd in a major way. It only makes sense that the sequel would as well. The characters are painstakingly developed, the world is fascinating, and the show blends haunting retrospectives and kick-ass action like no other. Whether you saw the first season or not Il Teatrino is highly recommended. The second DVD includes an interesting feature which collects videos for the five main girls. Each girl's voice actor talks about the character at length and they really get into what they like what their part. The third disc kicks it up a notch with two commentary tracks. One 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. The second comes to us thanks to the production staff but it features significantly less energy than the voice actor one.
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 with the Viridian line. As stated check out the reviews for the individual volumes if you want more precise episodic summaries because they have been omitted from this review to save on spoilers. All you need to know is that this show comes highly recommended if you have not seen it yet.