Using the latest in cybernetics, an Italian agency rehabilitates brutalized young girls – into lethal assassins.
Writer/Artist: Yu Aida
What They Say
After Henrietta barely surives the savage murder of her family, Italy's Social Welfare Agency takes her in and repairs her injuries using the latest in cybernetic technology. All traces of Henrietta's past are wiped from her mind as she becomes one of the Agency's most lethal assassins.
Despite her progamming, Henrietta is troubled by fragmented memories. Her handler Jose must keep her feelings in check and ensure that she stays on mission; a task made all the more difficult by Henrietta's striking resemblance to Jose's late younger sister.
Collects volumes 1-3 of Gunslinger Girl in an omnibus edition.
The Gunslinger Girl manga was originally released by ADV Manga but has since been picked up by Seven Seas. In addition to continuing the series where ADV left off, Seven Seas is rereleasing previously released volumes in omnibus form, and the first collection contains Volume 1 through 3. Having not read the ADV releases, I am unable to offer a direct comparison of the two, but I understand that Seven Seas relettered and retranslated the text.
The illustration of Triela with her firearms and teddy bears from Gunslinger Girl Volume 3 was used for the first omnibus collection cover art. A few other cover illustrations are included as extras at the end of the book, but all the pages are printed in black and white. The print job is wonderfully crisp and truly does Aida-sensei's exquisite artwork justice. The binding is satisfactory as is the paper stock.
Two pages of translation notes are included at the end of the book, and footnotes for abbreviations are provided throughout. In keeping with the European flavor of the story, Italian titles are used, and some Russian and German text is also included. Sound effects are translated with overlays, but some pages still have the original Japanese alongside the English sound effects.
Girls with guns. The combination might lead one to believe this is a shallow series involving gratuitous sex and violence, but while Gunslinger Girl serves violence in spades and contains a couple unnecessary panty shots, it's actually a thought-provoking manga.
Its basic premise: an Italian social welfare program which ostensibly rehabilitates brutalized young girls actually turns them into cyborg assassins for a counter-terrorism group. Because the process has its side-effects, each girl is assigned a handler tasked to ensure she stays on mission. From this flows a complex, multi-faceted story. There are of course the clashes between the cyborgs and the terrorists they were created to fight, and these include some exciting and well-rendered (if graphic) action sequences. However, even more interesting are the interactions between the cyborgs and the handlers who have their absolute loyalty. And then there are the characters' individual stories. Whether cyborg, handler, or terrorist, each bears scars from past events, and all struggle to live with the physical and emotional consequences.
Though there are several fratellos (cyborg/handler pairs), Aida-sensei tends to focus on one pair at a time. One of the nice things about the omnibus is that Henrietta, Triela, Rico, Claes, and Angelica each get highlighted over the course of the book. Despite their common mission, each cyborg has a distinct personality, and each fratello its own dynamic. A main component of the plot is the cyborgs' "conditioning" induced loyalty, and it's interesting to see the different ways that loyalty manifests and how each handler views it.
For those familiar with the anime, this first omnibus volume encompasses all of season one and goes part way through the events of season two. The character designs are basically the same, but though the storylines of the anime and manga cover the same territory, they're not an exact match. For instance, in the "Death of Elsa" arc, the anime includes scenes while Elsa is still alive whereas the manga only addresses the events after her death.
Both tragic and beautiful, Gunslinger Girl paints a complex portrait of children who cling to their humanity despite being used as lethal tools of the state. This is definitely NOT a title for young readers as it contains graphic violence, made all the more disturbing because cute little girls are blowing people's heads off. For mature readers, however, the grisly assignments of the Agency take a backseat to the personal dramas of the cyborgs and their handlers, who struggle to make the best of their often bitter lot.