Gunslinger Girl Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2005
What They Say
Henrietta is quickly becoming regarded as one of the most efficient assassins at the Social Welfare Agency. However, life for the other girls at the Agency is not so sunny. Enter the prototype and the problem...
The prototype: Angelina was a young girl out on an errand one day when a car mysteriously ran her down and left her for dead. Reborn as Angelica, her training proves to be a much needed distraction for all of the Agency employees. As the assassin develops, so do the problems inherent in the conditioning process. Can Angelica and her handler overcome these setbacks in order to continue with their work at the Agency?
The problem: Elsa, the Agency's newest recruit, is as cold as they come. When Henrietta reaches out to her, a cold shoulder is all she gets in return. Elsa's handler brings Henrietta and Jose in on a hit and strained tensions place the mission in jeopardy. Can Jose hold things together and make it through one more day?
Four more tales of the girls, their handlers and the world they live in are explored methodically and dramatically in this volume.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese comes in one mix which is a good sounding stereo mix that's pretty active across the forward soundstage when it comes to the action scenes as you can hear the bullets from their firing point to their landing points. Dialogue is what most of the show is made up of though as well as some mellow incidental music and that plays out well across the stereo mix. We listened to the two English mixes, which is done in both stereo and 5.1, and they came across well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series goes for a very much real-world look with its backgrounds and overall design, especially in the colors which are a bit muted, and overall the transfer for it here represents it very well with lots of detail visible. When the show switches to lighter and more bright outdoor scenes, such as a calm moment with a bright blue sky, it's like two different shows but it highlights each of the worlds the characters live in. Only a few very minor areas where there was some large areas of color for a brief time showed a bit of blocking but that was with the upconversion set. Otherwise, this is a very clean and attractive looking transfer that captures the intent and atmosphere of the show very well.
Triela gets the front cover for this volume with a great looking illustration of her holding her weapon while a breakdown of it is behind her in a technical form. The artwork for the character is nicely detailed and the colors and lighting style used works really well for it. The back cover continues with the white and slightly gray feel as it provides a really nice piece of artwork of Triela as well as a few other shots of her and the characters from the show. The summary is done in small type along the side but it works well while it's followed up by the episode numbers and titles and listing of extras. FUNimation has been doing better and better with each release in designing the technical grid and this one, covers everything that you want to know spec wise about a release before purchasing it. Though no insert is included, the reverse side of the cover provides a full image of three of the girls sprawled across a bed in different positions while holding onto their weapons and chatting. This is a really nice looking image and a good way of using the back side of the cover.
The menu layout uses a similar style to the front cover but doesn't copy it entirely; the top two thirds of it a mixture of a headshot of Triela while both to the side and in front of her you get the schematics to some of the weapons she uses. The bottom is kept pure white and has a really good image of the logo and volume name as well as the basic navigation pieces, all of this set to a good length piece of instrumental music that ends nicely. The menus are quick and easy to navigate and with a more traditional layout for the language selection it avoids some of the confusion of older series they've released. Access times are nice and fast and our players' language presets were ignored for the subtitles since they're authored as "1" or "2" instead of "English", though the audio portion did play correctly.
The extras on the disc are somewhat minimal but pretty much what was expected. The opening and closing songs are provided in textless form in the songs section which look and sound good. A section of dossiers on the girls is included though I skipped it due to potential spoilers while there's also a little video segment that shows how Triela is drawn in great detail. This is a neat little piece on how the artwork is layered piece by piece and only serves to impress you with the skill of the person creating it. Also included is a section where you get to meet the girls behind the girls, which is where you can select one of the characters and hear their English voice actress talk about them while clips from the show play featuring that character
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the first volume of the series was a touch heavy in leaning towards tales about Henrietta, it did display its desire to tell tales about all of the girls and to keep each episode fairly self-contained. This continues strongly in this volume and more stories about the various children, how they came into the program and how the program itself was in the early days. The pacing and style is very much what was established in the first volume and works wonderfully here.
In terms of getting background on how some of this came together, the story focuses on Angelina as she was one of the first to go through the program and had multiple levels of implants given to her. Her past is just as sordid as a lot of the other girls and a fair bit tragic as her own parents were out to kill her by running her over with a car in order to collect the insurance money to help pay off their debts. She managed to survive and ended up with a rather caring handler who creates amusing fairy tails for her in order to distract her mind from what her body and life is going through. The story goes back and forth between past and present, since in the present she's going through conditioning again. The past tales are the most interesting though since it shows her as part of Section 2 making their first combat operation and taking out a group of terrorists. Though they don't go into great detail, it covers so many little areas about the girls, the handlers and the situation in general that it's a really fascinating piece.
One of the main focuses of each of the stories always seems to come back to the relationship between the handler and the girl. This gets examined again in an episode that brings a new girl named Elsa into the section and the conditioning for her seems to be going well but just like every other new girl, she's extremely cold at first. Henrietta reaches out to her to try and bring her into the group but she's rebuffed. This in turn has Triela telling Henrietta how she used to be the same way when she first came into things and that Triela wasn't keen on talking to Henrietta either when they first met. The relationship between the girls is told in contrast to the methods of the two handlers. Giusse and Elsa's handler each have very different approaches and even though they can go out and be social, neither really likes the way the other works. Their discussions on it are interesting since it shows much of their mindset and how similar each is to other handlers we've seen already in previous episodes.
That's not to say it's all introspective material. With the way the show is paced, once it hits an action sequence it's just at the right time and it flows perfectly with the way each story is told. They don't linger on the action and it's not over far too quick either which is a really nice part of it. Elsa's story has an interesting assassination put into play while the story with Angelina focuses on the first missions by section 2 and some of their training attempts. There's also a really good episode that focuses on Henrietta and a couple of the others being brought in to take down one of the Republican Faction guys who is plotting to blow up Spain Square with the help of some outside bomb makers. This is a really well done stakeout operation that mixes the Social Welfare Agency folks with regular police and government types and shows how difficult it is for them to work with each other.
What continues to impress me the most with this series is just how gorgeous it looks. The people involved in the backgrounds for this series should be paid several times over the regular rate considering the amount of detail given to it. This really looks stunning when you get into the various parts of the city that's so old and full of important locations and such. In the one episode where they hit the museums and wander around the city a bit, it's just such a treat to see such backgrounds and locations that the city truly is a character all of its own in the series.
Gunslinger Girl manages to be a really quiet and under the radar series that needs to be seen more and talked about more. It's a very simple and almost clich�d setup but it's told in such an excellent way and in a setting that it sets it apart from all the others. Even then it's more than that since its how the story is told, with its pacing, the characters themselves and the slick action sequences. This is a fantastic little show that's getting a solid release.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Building Triela,Textless Songs,Character Dossiers,Meet the Girls
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gunslinger Girl