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Gunslinger Girl: II Teatrino
While the original Gunslinger Girl has been available here in the States for some time the sequel, Il Teatrino, didn't come out until the latter part of 2009. Shortly thereafter a two-episode OVA was released as well. Both endeavors were successful as drawing viewers back into the world of young female assassins, and for the first time ever they are both available as a complete collection on Blu-ray.
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.
As far as the OVA is concerned the two episodes take place after the series and are more or less just a continuation of the character's stories. One episode focuses on Jean's character and we learn some things about his past that we didn't know from the two seasons of the show. It also looks at his relationship with Rico a little. The second episode is similar in nature and features Giuseppe and Henrietta's relationship as assassin and handler.
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. The inclusion of the OVA episodes is greatly appreciated as well. 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.
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is presented on Blu-ray with its the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for anamorphic widescreen playback. The show comes with 1080p high definition and receives AVC encoding. The quality of the image is very good, and comparable to the first season's presentation in many ways. The colors are bold and vibrant, with a nice amount of contrast in the show. The picture is a little on the softer side, there's some banding, and haloing in parts as well. Grain is minimal, however, and overall the show is a step up from the DVD transfer, though just not quite as sharp looking as other shows on Blu-ray.
Like we saw in the first season, Il Teatrino comes with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks for both English and Japanese. The quality is very good all around with dialogue, effects, and music all finding a welcome home on every channel with some very smart mixing at times. The English track is definitely the better of the two when it comes to the sense of immersion, but the Japanese offering is far better than its 2.0 counterpart found on DVD. Throughout this show the sound is clean, crisp, and carries an appropriate bass. English subtitles are included.
Il Teatrino includes textless animation and trailers for bonus features. During the move from DVD to Blu-ray it's worth noting that some features were lost along the way including some discussion with the voice actors from the show. It's not the biggest loss, but it's worthy of mention.
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is a lot of fun, though quite frankly so is the whole franchise. The atmosphere is unmatched and from top to bottom the sequel is everything you'd hope it would be. Some of the pacing may be off here, and some elements are slightly different than the first season, but throughout these episodes are successful. The inclusion of the OVA episodes is a nice touch as well and both really carry a nice continuity with the original season. Consider this (and the first) highly recommended!