Gunslinger Girl Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Kim Wolstenholme
Review Date: Monday, September 04, 2006
Release Date: Monday, July 24, 2006



What They Say
The girl has a mechanical body. However, she is still an adolescent child.

The grizzly murder of a fratello gets Section One involved, with an investigator sent in to get to the bottom of the "cyborg problem". As the agency scrambles to protect their girls, Henrietta and Jose find themselves on an impromptu vacation, having been sent away "for their own protection". What are they hiding? And what does Henrietta know about the deadly truth?

Then the Agency uncovers a plot which could be used to wipe out the terrorists' stronghold once and for all. Things got terribly wrong, and in an all-or-nothing attack the girls find their lives on the line. Could this be the end of the girls and the Agency? Could their lives be over before they've really begun?

The Review!
A final contemplative note for the Gunslinger Girls as the final volume concentrates on the mortality of the girls.

Audio:

For the final volume I went back to the original Japanese track, which is just standard stereo. The Japanese track unfortunately isn't as immersive as the English remix as only the front speakers are used, but it does make some good use of left and right directionality. I also spot checked the English track and noticed no problems.

Video:

On a couple of instances on this volume the picture quality seemed a little soft and lacked definition. This was more noticeable during the first couple of episodes, and it's hard to say whether this was an intended effect or due to the authoring process. I noticed no other problems with the picture throughout the remaining episodes.

Subtitles are in the usual yellow MVM font and are clear and easy to read.

Packaging:

Review copy only, no packaging supplied.

Menu:

Angelica takes centre stage for the menu on the second volume, in a nice pose on the right hand side of the screen. The menu options are listed to the right of the screen and the cursor is in the shape of a machine gun and it's easy to see which option you are about to select. Once again the main menu has music which is accompanied by the sound of gunshots, this time round the Gunslinger Girl logo spins round whenever a gunshot is heard. I must admit to preferring this menu to the one on the previous volume. As per other MVM releases all sub menus are static and silent, but menu access times are quick.

Extras:

For the last volume of the series MVM have provided a really nice set of extras. The standard clean opening and closing are included, as is the Building Triela slideshow (although unfortunately we don't actually get to see Triela being 'built'). The main bulk of the extras come in the form of 2 commentaries, one focusing on the production of the series and the other focusing on the voice direction. Both of these commentaries are interesting, although the large number of people involved means that it's slightly hard to remember who's actually talking. Some interesting topics are discussed on both commentaries and it's clear that the people involved really liked the show. Finally trailers are included for Blue Gender and FullMetal Alchemist.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

The opening episode on this disk contains quite a surprise. Elsa and her handler have been murdered in the middle of a park during winter. It's not surprising to find that Laurell has been killed, after all he was only human (and not a particularly nice one at that), but it is very surprising to see that Elsa has also been taken down as well. From the previous episodes we've been led to believe that these girls are practically indestructible, as we've seen them take some serious punishment and still carry on after their target. However it appears that the girls do have a weakness, but who could have found this out?

The Agency is soon on the scene to investigate what happened, and they are closely followed by Section One, who also wish to carry out their own investigation. There is little love between the two sections of the Agency " Section One are only getting involved to try and look for a reason to shut Section Two down as they don't agree with the cybernetic program. What follows is a nice two part episode as Section One and Two battle it out " one trying to hide the truth about the murders, the other trying to find out a bit more about the girls and what actually happened to Elsa and her handler.

It's no surprise really that Henrietta and Guise take centre stage in these episodes, even though they are sent off on a last minute holiday shortly after Elsa and Laurell are found. Undeterred the two agents from Section One follow Guise and Henrietta to Sicily, where they find out quite a lot about what the girls go through and how they are managed by their handlers. These two episodes are nicely done, and are a nice break from the episodes where we see the girls out in action with their handlers. It's actually episodes like this that make Gunslinger Girl such a good series, as it's not afraid of changing the pace and slowing right down to enable us to get to know a bit more about what's going on.

The last two episodes kind of revolve around Angelica who we met in the last volume. Angelica was the first prototype and we are aware that she is experiencing some problems with short term memory loss. This episode sees her back in action when the girls have to get involved in the kidnapping of a Senator's daughter. As Section Two are involved right from the beginning the kidnappers don't actually kidnap the correct girl, instead they get Claes who has also been put back in active service for this mission.

Claes more than proves her worth in this mission, even though, since the death of her handler, she's only been used as a lab rat. It's clear that she's perfectly capable of working on her own even without the direction of a handler and she is perfectly happy to be in the thick of the action along with the other girls. Unfortunately things don't go at all well for Angelica whose also back in action after a long period of recuperation. Angelica's bad luck starts when she hurts herself in a training session, and then during the mission she gets herself cornered by one of the kidnappers. By the end of the mission Angelica is back in hospital and it's clear to both the girls and Angelica that she's coming to the end of her usefulness.

From the beginning of the series, Gunslinger Girl has never really given us any explanations about the situation with the Agency, neither what they do or what conditioning the girls receive. After the first volume I was full of questions as to what was going on, but when I realised that these were not going to be answered I just sat back and enjoyed the show for what it really is " a character study. It's not important how the girls were chosen, or even why young girls were chosen in the first place, what is important is how they are adapting to their new life.

In summary-

Upon finishing the series, I admit that initially I was a bit disappointed, but on reflection this disappointment turned to admiration for the series as a whole. From the beginning Gunslinger Girl has challenged the 'girls with guns' genre and the ending is a perfect acknowledgement of that. Instead of ending with a huge shootout with the girls in danger, instead we are treated to the girls watching a meteor storm and singing Beethoven. This is actually the perfect ending to this series, because it has been about the girl's right from the start " how they get on with their handlers, each other and the realisation of what they are. At the end of the series we are reassured that they do know exactly what they are, and are actually OK with what they do.

Gunslinger Girl has a good mix of action, character development and story and, most importantly, didn't outstay its welcome. This is a series that has deserved the praise that has been heaped on it, if only for trying to put a different angle on a very clich├ęd genre and succeeding quite brilliantly.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Clean Opening ,Clean Closing,Building Triela,Voice Director Commentary,Production Staff Commentary

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42" Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: C-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: œ19.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gunslinger Girl