Type: TV (12 episodes)
Reviews @ Archen's Anime Page
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Somewhere in Italy, there is a child welfare center that children go to recuperate after severe trauma. With modern technology they are brought back from the brink of death, or the former horrors of their lives. Now if this were a regular movie, this would be an inspiring story about struggle and human perseverance or something like that. As an anime however, that child welfare agency would actually be a front for a cybernetics program that transformed these girls into lethal cyborg assassins. No seriously, that's what this anime is about.
Does the end justify the means? Some in the government think so, which is why the program was developed and continues to be refined. One thing is clear, that the terrorist organizations and criminal factions around Italy need to be kept in check, and these girls are perfectly suited to the job.
Things aren't as simple as merely turning these kids into robots. While often their memories are wiped, they are still very much human. Odd how they are detached at times, yet also odd how much like teenage girls they can still be. Each girl is assigned a handler who acts as a guardian and supervisor in their mission. Are they tools or people? Are they thinking and feeling or are they jut programmed that way? Have they been given a new lease on life, or have they been robbed of everything? Each handler has to come to grips with their partner in a different way.
Teenage Girl Cyborg Assassins could not only be an alternate title for this series; it made me wonder how anything good could possibly come of this. And the odd thing about it? It's actually pretty good. It is however NOT a "check your brain at the door" school girls toting guns killing spree. If you're looking for that series, then Gunslinger Girl is most certainly the wrong title for you.
Each of the girls is different from the rest to the point where it's almost cliche, however their differences often highlight the plight of the others. Henryetta is a quiet girl, who is very much infatuated with her handler. From her story we see how a handler can struggle with the affection his partner projects. Rico maintains a cheerful disposition despite her occupation. From her story we see the joy of a new existence which would be denied to her in her previous life. Triela is exceptionally intelligent and self aware. While obedient and good at her job, she is also defiant and her handler decides it's best to merely manage her, not absolutely control her. Triela gives us a perspective of the girls still being thinking beings.
The guts of Gunslinger Girl however are wrapped up not in the girls themselves, but in their odd relationships with the handlers who treat them like little sisters, daughters, or mere tools. This becomes even more complex when you consider how handlers view other handlers, how the girls view other handlers, and so forth. Another subtext I enjoyed dealt with the memory loss of the girls due to their "conditioning". Often they tend to do routine actions which are important to them, yet they don't recall why. One of the handlers recounts the futility of teaching them anything because they'll eventually forget the lessens taught, but in the end the girls always seem to retain something from their experiences with their handlers; although often those things seem insignificant. How many things have we all forgotten that shaped our own lives?
After the introduction phase, Gunslinger Girl transitions to a bigger plot halfway through about a girl named Angelica. If you've heard others talk about this anime being directionless and inconclusive, it's probably because they didn't get the idea here. Angelica symbolizes the entire concept - her story is the encompassing idea behind it all. Gunslinger Girl is still in progress, so there's no series conclusion yet.
There are some problems with Gunslinger Girl too. The first two episodes are a real mess. Not only does the first episode do a bad job of introductions, the second episode is nearly a retelling of the first episode but does no better job of explaining anything. The story is slow paced, which you may or may not like, but is unusual considering the topic.
What you get out of Gunslinger Girl has a lot to do with expectations. It's a good drama, but not quite so much an action flick despite the sporadic violence. This is much at odds with an anime market saturated with vacant "girls with guns" themes. Turning young girls into cyborg assassins theme is also tough for some to accept. If you're not interested in the characters by episode four, I'd probably drop it. As a character focused anime, your interest in them will make or break the show.
Amadeo: I know what we should do with all these girls... Put them on a soccer team.
Olga: You Italian men are all the same.
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reviewed by archen in 2010