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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, September 02, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2007



What They Say
First, 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 safety. " 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 go 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!
Bringing the series to a close, the darker side of being a cyborg is given time as death haunts the girls.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Angelica takes the final cover which is the most appropriate for it as we get a nice looking shot of her with her weapon in hand that's just big compared to her small frame while the technical schematic for it is behind her. With the soft purple of her sweater being the main color here, it looks really good against the mix of black and white for the rest of it. The back cover continues with the white and slightly gray feel as it provides a really nice piece of artwork of Claes 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 five of the girls standing around the edge of a coliseum and looking down towards the lighted center.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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. The new extra for this release is a commentary track by the director.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the second volume of the series built upon what we enjoyed with the first and impressed us so much more as we took in more of the atmosphere and overall design of the show, the third volume with its four episodes pulls back from the large canvas of stories that were being presented and focuses in more on the characters, the dialogue and the emotions behind everything.

The opening two part tale is in particular a very interesting piece that follows up with the Elsa character that we got introduced to in more detail in the last volume. It opens with Henrietta and Giuse taking a vacation to Sicily Island while Section 2 goes through the process of investigating something quite serious that happened. The day before they left on their trip, Elsa and Laures were found murdered in the park pretty brutally and there's no sign of who may have caused it. The incident has brought in Section 1 to investigate at the same time since they're still wanting to have the entire Section 2 group disbanded and brought down so they don't have to compete for resources and other issues. A pair is assigned to work on the case which the Section 2 folks know will be tricky to deal with.

One of the background plots which is what this two part storyline focuses on is that the cyborgs aren't quite ready for prime time yet and there are issues. As we learn the truth fairly early on about what happened between Laures and Elsa, you see the Section 2 people working on taking the new information to build up the weaknesses that are inherent in them. Since it can be used against them, and knowing that Giuse will not handle the situation well, they send him off in order to draw the Section 1 folks off as well. Since part of their goal is to learn more about the cyborgs, letting Giuse be the one to explain what they're all about with the conditioning, the apparent love between the fratello and the way the relationship truly works since he's the one that can explain it without the harshness of the other Handlers.

Though not really a two part story, the last two episodes carry through with a particular arc that deals with Angelica. She's still not quite up to speed since returning to active duty from her hospital visit but she's still trying and trying to get it right. Marco continues to be pretty much cold and uncaring with her which is his style of being a Handler and she continues to do her best to try and please him even though she still has issues. When the next big mission comes up she insists she's ready for it. The mission is quite fun as it brings in some nice action as the daughter of a senator is about to be kidnapped so they replace her with Claes and allow her to be taken and tracked. They lose her along the way though and through a bit of amusing luck, find out their location in the mountains.

As an action sequence, it's a lot of fun to watch as the five girls and their handlers work over the mountain villa and deal with all the terrorists in there. Particularly fun to watch is Claes get in on the action without an automatic weapon and doing the kind of moves that are needed in order to help her comrades. It's a great action piece that basically defines the last one of the series before the show goes to finish out by focusing on Angelica some more and what happens at the end of a cyborgs lifespan if it's reached before being taken out in the line of duty. Much like many of the earlier episodes that dealt with the relationship between the Handler and the girl, this one works by being so honest about the emotions of the characters, whether they're outwardly visible like Angelica's are or if they're so well hidden like Marco's. How it affects everyone is given time here since it does something different for each person. It's really nicely played out right down to the final few moments of the show and while it sends it off on a somber note, it's the right kind of note for the series as a whole.

In Summary:
In describing Gunslinger Girl to anyone based on just the basics, it's easily something that you can imagine being nothing but clich� ridden guns with girls that would appeal to only the creepiest side of male fandom. What we instead get is a very moody and almost elegantly animated show that avoids a lot of those clich�s and isn't really all that much with the fanservice. While it is very violent, it's placed in a setting we rarely see which adds to the enjoyment of the show since it's not something we've seen in all the other shows. These are all well done character studies of a situation that's closer to reality than a lot of people would like to think about and offers some interesting ideas on ways to deal with it. I can't recommend this series enough, it's made a huge impression on me.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Voice Director Commentary,Building Triela,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
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: A-
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.
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gunslinger Girl