In this debut edition of “From the Time Capsule” I pull Gunslinger Girl from the depths of the anime library.
In this column of The Critical D I use my MyAnimeList and generate a random number on http://www.random.org/ to choose an anime series. Generally, whether or not the number lands on “season 1/2/3+” or “ova” series etc, I will treat it as landing on the corresponding show as a whole. In special cases where the two seasons are completely separate, ie. Ghost in the Shell SAC 1&2, I will treat it as a unique selection. Unlike music, I do believe anime can be reviewed objectively and in the “From the Time Capsule” segment there will be a mix of objective and bias in the assessment.
MyAnimeList (Referred to as MAL [www.myanimelist.net]) is a useful free service that allows you to create a list to keep track of anime you’ve watched as well as record scores, tag, track archival, discuss shows on forums, and more.
Gunslinger Girl was a show that most likely would have evaded me forever had it not been for the second season’s opening “Tatta Hitotsu no Omoi (たった１つの想い)” by Kokia.
Oddly enough, this is the only show I have ever watched purely because of it’s opening song. I wouldn’t be able to remember today where I first heard it, but I was so hooked on the song that I ended up looking into what it was from and proceeded from there.
Gunslinger Girl started in 2003 as a Madhouse production and was picked back up in 2008 by Artland. The series spans 28 episodes between the two seasons and the 2-episode OVA addition to the second season. The production studio actually changed between the two seasons. Unlike many shows that suffer from staff changes, however, Gunslinger Girl held up quite well. Aside from the fact that the animation quality had not improved much over 5 years, the story kept it’s pacing without too much struggle.
Gunslinger Girl follows a group of young teenage girls who for one reason or another have become brainwashed and mechanically modified by a private organization to help carry out missions that usually relate to the assassination of a target. These girls are partnered with “handlers” that work with them as a pair to complete their goals. The show utilizes a good mix of well-done action, usually pertaining to gun violence, and drama that pertains to and helps build upon the character development that spans the entire show. The foundation is wholly dependent on how much the viewer enjoys the overlying plot of little girls shooting guns though. There’s nothing more that this show does to appeal to those who wouldn’t already be into it based on that concept.
As I mentioned above I got interested in this show for reasons not related to the story/plot/setting of the show, but I was not against the idea of watching killer lolis fight bad guys; it’s definitely something that’s a common theme in anime.
While Gunslinger Girl had entertaining action and decent animation to accompany it, the show won’t be remembered for these reasons, not in the same way as your Dragonball Zs or Attack on Titansi. So what part of Gunslinger Girl will stick with you through the years? What will you say about it to that guy you meet at a convention who brings it up for reason A or B? Unfortunately, the most memorable part, and what keeps you vested in the series and drives the suspense is the perverse “shock value” nature of the show.
The main girls in the show have rough histories and are put through horrible procedures relating to brainwashing, modifications, training, etc. Their relationship with their handlers can range anywhere from strict straight-to-business affairs, to what I can only describe as a Stockholm Syndrome-effected infatuation; combined with this they also have to cope with constant life and death situations. Often times these end with someone dying on either side. There are themes of memory recollection, disobedience, fear, and moral issues that aim to drive the development of the characters, many of which would be dulled had the girls been older women. I felt that this notion of “Oh my god, these poor little girls are being subjected to such terrible things!”, while cheap, was effective.
Using this type of “shock value” in anime by no means originated in this show, but was used to much better effect than for instance “When They Cry (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni)”, a show that was driven by a higher perversity to no productive end. Mix this in with some cute designs along with coolii gun action and a unique Italian setting, and Gunslinger Girl becomes a title that won’t be forgotten in this generation of anime culture.
Should you watch this?: If you like killer lolis, likable characters with traumatic back-stories, and/or gun action, then I would recommend trying it out. Otherwise, it may not necessarily float your boat.