Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino Complete Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, September 18, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The girls are back and ready for more cold, brutal action that only a child can deliver.

What They Say
The girls of the Social Welfare Agency are no ordinary children. They are the grizzly remains of human wreckage pieced back together with cybernetic implants and trained to kill by the government. The oldest, Triela, pursues her targets with a ferocious enthusiasm - unwilling to settle for less than total annihilation.

Her mirror in this bloody stalemate is Pinocchio, a shell of a boy raised as an assassin by the FRF - a terrorist faction at war with the SWA. Cold and cruelly efficient, he wields sharpened steel as though it were his own hand. Once human, these shattered souls have become murderous machines with only vague recollections of what it meant to be real - and a brutal compulsion to be the last killer standing.

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!
Audio:
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino has a pretty solid bilingual presentation made for it with the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps while the English mix gets a bump to 5.1 at 448kbps. Each track has its strengths, though as is the usual case with DVD, the English 5.1 mix has some added clarity and distinction to it with its overall presentation. I found that I prefer the Japanese stereo mix over it as it has a fuller sounding forward feeling to it that’s more natural. Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is still primarily a dialogue and atmosphere show punctuated with moments of intense action and those come across very well, though they’re not overpowering or too strong. Dialogue is well placed in both languages which is a big positive considering its overall design and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in early 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its originally aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Spread across two discs in a seven/six split format, the show looks quite good overall with strong colors, plenty of detail and a generally clean looking transfer. The animation for the show is solid throughout and the transfer manages to capture that well, from the quiet scenes to the busier action ones. There are some really good backgrounds to be had here with the cityscapes and that detail shines through very nicely. Outside of some very minor line noise during the occasional panning sequence and some noise in a few backgrounds, this is a very pleasing transfer.

Packaging:
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is in the familiar packaging for a half season show from FUNimation as it has a thin slipcover that holds two clear thinpaks inside. The slipcover is pretty nice as it has a good illustration look to it with Triela as the central focus on the front while other characters are arrayed around her with serious looks. It has a light and soft feeling to it but one that fits in with the mood of the show as it offsets the hard edge. The back cover is the other half of the wraparound which focuses on Pinocchio and Cristiano and has the same kind of feeling, especially with the light pinkish colors used for the hands. Inside we have the two thinpaks, designed in reverse, with the front covers having some really intriguing rough pieces of artwork. The first has a city scene with Giuise and Henrietta inserted into a real world scene that’s been shifted to a drawing. The second focuses on Claes as she sits in a room with a book on her lap with a look that really lets you know who she is. The back coverse are simple with a very hard to see image of either the girls’ rooms or a part of the city while also listing the episode numbers and titles. Each cover is reversible with a different image, one of Angelica in a station and another of Triela in her usual attire outside. The back covers are the same as the other side so you can easily reverse these if you’d like.

Menu:
The menu for this release is pretty nice in its simplicity as it uses illustration pieces done similar to what we saw in the thinpak cases of the different characters in an almost watercolor style. Each menu is framed with a neat deep dark red letterbox piece with something from the city that’s a little hard to make out at first. With a simple bit of music to it, it sets the mood just right with something that really does feel Italian. The logo and menu navigation is kept to the middle of the image which is decent but might have been better served in one of the letterbox sections. Submenus load quickly and it’s very easy to navigate and get around in. As is usual, this release ignores our players’ language presets and defaults to English language.

Extras:
The extras for this release are really odd and lacking in a teasing way. The basics are here in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences for both the first and second types as well as about four minutes worth of TV commercials. The big extras is a five part series of interviews with the cast of the Japanese performances which run about twenty minutes. The odd part is that we only get the second installment with the voice actor for Marco. It opens by talking about the five part series of interviews (and none are listed as being included outside of this one, so it’s not false advertising), but it’s just weird that we only get this one interview.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Four years after the original series aired in Japan, a sequel series came out with another thirteen episodes worth of cute girls with guns. But unlike most cute girls with guns shows, this one aims at something rather different as it's focused on a serious series of events in the real world and it uses very young girls for the cute girls part. That can be something of a conflict for fans that want usually see somewhat older, bouncier and flouncier girls running about. Gunslinger Girl aims for something a little more highbrow, especially after the first series.

Gunslinger Girl revolves around a group of young girls who have had their bodies rebuilt using near future cyborg technology, essentially making “bionic girls” that are in the employ of the Italian government. Using girls who are in dire medical straights, often where they're in horrible accidents and would die otherwise, their memories are wiped and they're given new names, new lives, working for the Social Welfare organization. It's here that they're paired up with adult male handlers who give them a name and work to train them as obedient highly skilled assassins. The training is continual and the girls generally are problem free, though there are occasionally issues that crop up that require them to be worked on, physically and psychologically.

Il Teatrino gives us more of a full story for the season whereas the first one tended to focus on smaller character stories with an underlying subplot. In Il Teatrino, the F.R.F., Five Republics Faction, is continuing their ongoing attempt at disrupting the country in an effort to build a strong separatist movement. The F.R.F. Has had its share of problems though and become factious itself as internal dissent and power plays are the order of the day. This is the backdrop in which a man named Cristiano has moved as he works to employ his people to destroy a bridge which is the focus towards the end of the show. Familiar from the first season, we see the beautiful Franca working the scene again as she brings Franco to her side and also begins to work with a man named Pinocchio. It turns out that he's actually Cristiano's adopted son and is trying to be something of an assassin himself for Cristiano since he believes he owes him so much.

While this plays out in the background at times, it comes to the foreground when various members of the government team end up coming across them, either in protecting the daughter of someone or just running across them through happenstance and coincidence. There's an amusing sequence where Henrietta breaks a kaleidoscope given to her by her handler, Giuse, and they take it to an antique shop to be repaired. The man behind the counter is actually someone working for the F.R.F. Though neither side really is aware of it. These kinds of instances are minimal, which is good, but they provide a few small ties like this throughout in order to keep it close to a cat and mouse game but not quite.

Similar to the first season, a lot of the show focuses on the individual girls and their stories, which primarily deals with their handlers. Some are more situational based, such as Triela as she copes with a failure when going up against Pinocchio. It's shattered her confidence and has questioning her ability, something that isn't good for a cyborg that's supposed to be without problems. Henrietta is less the main character now as her problems revolve around trying to please Giuse, something that isn't easy nor is it something she really knows how to do. In a way, he doesn't really know either what it is since the whole situation is difficult enough still. The character that makes out the best for individual stories is Claes, the young girl who doesn't actively go out on missions but rather serves as one that's used for research. An entire episode is devoted to spending the day with her as she remembers part of her past with her last handler and the kinds of training she had, especially in regards to education.

In a lot of ways, Il Teatrino is just like the first season in how it plays out. One of the big differences this time around though is the “total involvement” of the original creator, Yu Aida, as they have a very hands on role in the story. I wondered how that would affect things and as it turns out, I felt this season was much weaker than the first season. I can't pin it down exactly what it is that bothers me, but it feels like it's missing something critical. The character animation is solid, but it doesn't feel as warm and rich as the first season. The stories are somewhat similar, but they lack a real strong connection for the viewer to latch onto. The first season focused on all of the girls in a fair amount of detail and the loss of that here doesn't help. There aren't strong stories to connect everything together either, which makes the character weaknesses of the girls all the more apparent. It comes across as a weaker and more unfocused show that spends too much time on the uninteresting character of Pinocchio.

In Summary:
When I saw the first season, I was enamored of its conflicting coldness and warmth. It played the assassin game very well; ruthless, quick and brutal. It also made you care about these young girls and that they had gone through, before they became cyborgs and after. With Il Teatrino, it lacks that warmth in a significant way. The story doesn't work to connect you, the girls are spread out more so there's less time with them individually that matters and the stories themselves simply aren't all that interesting. Perhaps Aida's “total involvement” changed the tone of the show in a way that made it less appealing, less of what the previous season was. It almost feels like something of a slightly hollow shell of what it was. The trappings are there, but something isn't inside.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Cast Interview - Marco (Kazuki Yao), Original TV Commercials, Textless Songs

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 59.98
Running time: 320
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gunslinger Girl