Pumpkin Scissors Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, September 28, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What They Say
Some casualties of war never heal. Yet for those who remain in power, the spoils can be sweet indeed. In the aftermath of the Great War, Lt. Alice Malvin is charged to take command of the Imperial Army's Intelligence Section Three, an elite team where even the newest member hunts down tanks with a handgun. Their code name: Pumpkin Scissors. Her mission: to sharpen IS3 into a deadly instrument of justice, and to expose the corrupt power-mad nobility who prey on the weak. But as Malvin starts to peel away the layers of a government cover-up involving a defunct super-soldier program, she discovers the existence of a military technology decades ahead of what the Army has! As terrifying secrets crawl out of the tomb in which they were buried, war becomes hell in the first stunning volume of Pumpkin Scissors!

The Review!
Three years after the war ended, a group of soldiers in a special section work to rebuild not only the country but the relationship with the average citizen.

This series features a solid bilingual presentation that does a good job of using the atmosphere of the series both in the creepy quiet moments as well as the big action scenes. The original Japanese stereo mix is encoded at 224 kbps and has a good design across the forward soundstage. Depth is well placed, directionality is fairly regular across it and it has a fair bit of overall impact when needed. The English 5.1 mix is bumped up to 448 kbps and adds a bit more in terms of bass and impact as well as some enhanced directionality. In listening to both language tracks, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2006 and 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Having seen so many Gonzo series in the last couple of years I really wasn't sure what to expect anymore in terms of visual presentation. Pumpkin Scissors is fairly traditional for them in that there isn't any special processing going on or visual tricks to heighten the look of the series. It's not plainly or poorly animated but it doesn't have some of their usual signature standout aspects. Colors look solid and rich when needed while also having a murky and dank look when appropriate. Cross coloration is very minimal with only a few brief instances alongside some aliasing. There's very little visible in terms of noise in the background or within the characters themselves which results in a very smooth and pleasing presentation.

With a title like Pumpkin Scissors you can't be too surprised to see shades of orange on the front cover. The design for it is rather simple as it features the characters of Alice and Randel together in an action pose. The background works in the black and orange shades while including a rather small logo along the upper left corner. The bottom strip contains the volume number and title as well as the Gonzo and ADV Films logos. The back cover, a sideways piece, features a trip of shots from the show at a different angle while below is more orange in which the summary and production information is contained. The very bottom has a decent long technical grid that covers everything you need to find on the fly. No insert is included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu is done in theme rather nicely if in a simple way as it features a file folder from which various items have spilled out from. The single piece of artwork is that of the character artwork from the cover done as a photo. The piece of paper clipped on top of the folder has the navigation strip while a few other odds and ends are strewn about the screen. The music used is perfect for the setup here as it builds up nicely before it starts to cycle over again. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets.

The extras are minimal in that all that is here are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Pumpkin scissors is a twenty-four episode series based off of the manga by Ryoutarou Iwanaga, which happens to be released by Del Rey in North America. That series has only reached about six volumes worth in Japan, most of which was published by the time this series started airing, so a good deal of what was in the manga has likely ended up in this incarnation. Pumpkin Scissors starts off with some striking similarities to Fullmetal Alchemist through its designs and layout but there are few similarities beyond that.

The series revolves heavily around the military which means lots of uniforms, lots of soldiers grousing and plenty of civilians who are generally upset about things. The world that's presented in this series is one that's suffered from a long war which had finally ended three years ago. The ravages of that war are still afflicting everything however and the country has not recovered much at all. The poor are still poor, many towns are still disconnected from the central government and people simply don't trust the military. They have good reason for that since not only did the war go badly but a large number of soldiers turned into bandits when it was over and now roam the countryside.

It's into this setting that we're introduced to Section 3, a part of the Imperial Army's Intelligence Division. Strangely named as Pumpkin Scissors, the group under Captain Hunks is setup to handle mostly peaceful missions that involve war relief. While Hunks is the Captain of the group, he rarely leaves his desk during these opening episodes and leaves most of that to 2nd Lieutenant Alice L. Malvin. A noble by birth who lives rather affluently, she has dedicated herself to the war relief effort as a way of giving back and having an understanding of the people. Her view of nobility is unlike most others which causes a fair amount of grief among her family and generally keeps here away.

The group is rounded out with a pair of Warrant Officers named Martis and Oreld who had grown up together and have a certain kind of give and take with each other. Along with Sergeant Major Lili Stecchin, the group has a small and simple feel to it but is usually eager to do their jobs and perform them well. They're not exactly black sheep of the military but they're not all that high up in its rankings either. What the group is missing is some serious muscle and that's where Corporal Randel Oland comes into play. A soldier who retired after the war, he runs into the Pumpkin Scissors group during one of their missions and ends up helping out simply because he's a good natured and "gentle" person. With the state that the country is in, Alice doesn't have to do too much convincing to get him to join the group and help them.

These opening episodes revolve around the standard ideas of introducing the characters and world setting in an episodic format. Bringing Oland into the group is the main impetus of these episodes as it lets us get familiar with Pumpkin Scissors through his eyes while also getting a bit on his own background. Though he's a generally quiet and unobtrusive character he's also the most dangerous. One of the technological advances in the war was that of tanks, something that has been fairly unstoppable by most other kinds of forces. Oland's history is a fascinating one as he's part of a group of experiments; illegal of course, that went to change the human body in order to create a superior soldier. Oland was part of the 901 Anti Tank Troopers, a group of men that are able to withstand immense pain in order to get close enough to a tank to use a handheld gun capable of shooting through the armor. We get some look at his past here but there is far more to it that is slowly being teased out and is one of the main draws of the series.

The series features some strong character designs overall though it takes a bit for them to really settle in. Gonzo series have had such diverse offerings as of late with some striking designs that seeing something that's like this makes it feel almost generic. The further you get into the series however the better it all starts to come together, especially when the group starts working and operating together. Oland towers above the rest which gives it all a really interesting feel, especially when dealing with Lili. The relationship between Alice and Oland is where most of the focus appears to be working towards and these first few episodes use their designs to that advantage.

In Summary:
Pumpkin Scissors is an interesting series in its first volume. It doesn't stand out strongly in its design or story but its execution is solid and it layers some interesting hooks throughout it. The comparisons to certain aspects of Fullmetal Alchemist are hard to ignore but they're also things that admittedly draw me to this. There is a nice mixture of light comedy in all of this but it is much more focused on being serious and straightforward which is quite welcome. Pumpkin Scissors is an oddly named show that has some potential to it but hasn't leapt off the screen to highly impress just yet.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

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: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pumpkin Scissors