Gunslinger Girl Box Set (Viridian Collection) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 300
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger Girl Box Set (Viridian Collection)

By Chris Beveridge     January 22, 2008
Release Date: December 11, 2007


Gunslinger Girl Box Set (Viridian Collection)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Officially, the Social Welfare Agency is a government sponsored corporation that's in the business of saving lives. In reality, it's an agency on the fringe of technology. They give terminal patients another shot at life using cybernetic implants. This conditioning process then shapes the patient into an efficient machine for handling all of the government's dirty work.

Having survived the brutal slaughter of her family, Henrietta awakens to her new life at the agency with a re-built body and no memory of the past. She has been teamed with her handler Jose, who is responsible for her training and conditioning, turning her into the perfect killing machine. Henrietta strives to find her place within the agency, doing her best to win Jose's affection. But can Jose control her? Can he balance the needs and desires between the assassin and the developing adolescent?

Contains all 13 episodes.

The Review!
The girls with guns concept runs with adolescents this time around but plays it very straight and seriously.

Audio:
Gunslinger Girl has a pretty good audio presentation to it and its technical aspects are solid. The English 5.1 mix is encoded at 448 kbps and packs a good punch throughout many scenes, but it's in the bass that it really stands out. The Japanese mix, done at 256kbps stereo, is a good sounding 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. 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 were some large areas of color for a brief time showed a bit of noise but that was very minimal overall. Otherwise, this is a very clean and attractive looking transfer that captures the intent and atmosphere of the show very well.

Packaging:
The Viridian Collection edition of Gunslinger Girl diverges from the previous releases in terms of packaging, both the single volumes and the previous collection and re-issues. This edition is one that is a love/hate relationship piece because of how flimsy it feels in the long term. The package has nothing really solid to it and is just slightly thick cardboard in a few places. The slipcover has a really nice piece of artwork to it with Henrietta in a chair with her usual outfit which shows off far too much of her bottom. It's dark and moody with the way the light comes in and it pushes the sexuality of the show as well as the violence with all the weaponry. The logo is along the side and the Viridian Collection logo is in gold along the top which draws the eye nicely. The back of the slipcover has a few shots from the show in a little grid and there's a layout which includes a look at the lead girls, which really shows just how young they are. There is a decent amount of text which covers the setting as well as the summary of the premise. The extras are all clearly listed and the back cover has a very clean look to it, enough so that it makes the brown color used work in its favor.

It's what's inside the slipcover that's more problematic from a design perspective. It's really a flip book for lack of a better phrase and the discs are inside the cardboard pages. The front of the book has the great artwork of Henrietta and Rico outside of an orange building while the back of it features the other three girls with their respective cases. The interior has a sweet image of Henrietta with her gun as she sets on the bed. The rest of the interior is made up of the "paper sleeves" that hold the discs. Each page features a listing of the extras, episode numbers and titles. It looks good and it really fits in with the theme of the show while not being overly blunt about it. But in the short time that I've had the release, it's been flattened out a fair bit due to the lack of sturdiness. This just needed something a bit better to keep it in place and it would have been a very solid little release. Still, I'm surprised that FUNimation went to do a redesign on the packaging at all considering it's a priced down re-release. They could have simply put the three discs inside a flippy hinge keepcase, reworked the first volume or box artwork and called it a day. I much prefer the overall design and layout of this release.

Menu:
The menu layout uses a similar style to that of the original releases cover art but doesn't copy it entirely; the top two thirds of it a mixture of a headshots of characters 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:
Disc 1: The extras on this 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 and there's also a little video segment that shows how Henrietta 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.

Disc 2: 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 and there's also a little video segment that shows how Rico 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

Disc 3: 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 and 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)
Based on the manga series by Yu Aida, which is now at nine volumes as of this release, it's anime incarnation was a show that I was very unsure about prior to its initial release. While it presented itself with beautiful imagery because of the setting and character designs, it was playing up the entire girls with guns aspect in an manner that was very unappealing. Perhaps it was just the time, having young kids myself, but the concept is one that while workable was just marketed in a way that did not appeal to me.

Once in the show itself however, it quickly captivated me. With a short run of episodes, crisp writing and a wonderful sense of atmosphere, Gunslinger Girl really hit just about every mark right in its approach. Instead of loud and boisterous girls who are flagrant with the violence or overt with their sexuality, it's a very restrained piece of work that very much wants to be serious. The challenge is to not make it too dark and serious less it become an unintentional parody. Thankfully, Gunslinger Girl walks that fine line almost perfectly and turns out to be a fascinating piece of storytelling. The restraint that people show within this, and their uncertainty about the approach and their role in it, takes center stage often but never to the point where it overwhelms. Even better is that it really is an ensemble piece where we have a couple of central characters from which everything else is touched upon.

In essence, Gunslinger Girl is the Bionic Man concept applied to little girls and set in Italy with an emphasis on terrorism and the military. The idea revolves around a section within the intelligence community through which young girls are brought in to be "upgraded" with technology and given conditioning and training to become expert assassins and operations personnel. The girls are chosen from those that have been in tragic accidents and aren't likely to live without such medical procedures, and the conditioning they go through allows their memories to be erased so that they're blank slates in a way. Their conditioning can be applied at different levels, based on how they perform and how their Handlers interact with them. The more caring and understanding a Handler, the less conditioning required as the basic level of loyalty and devotion is increased naturally.

Though the series is very much an ensemble cast, the central pairing is that of Henrietta and Giuse. The pairings are called "fratellos" which is basically brother and sister. The approach works well and gives the pairings a bond to work off and grow with. Henrietta and Giuse are quite enjoyable to watch as Giuse is certainly caring – too much so according to other men in the section – and Henrietta has much growth to go through as she learns her role. We see her from the days when she was first named by Giuse and various aspects of her training, introduction to the other cyborgs in the section and several missions as well. Her relationship with Giuse is one of the main focus points as we see how they work together the most.

That focus is point is very well contrasted to the other girls and their Handlers, which makes up a good chunk of the show. While the fratello of Henrietta and Giuse are really the leads of the series, it's in watching how the others interact that gives it such interest and diversity. Some of them are a bit cooler towards each other, such as Jean and Triela. Others are completely cold with each other, which is what Elsa goes through, enough so that she's even ostracized by the other girls in the dorm. Some are fairly close as we see with Claes and her handler and then you have a pair like Angelica and Marco in which neither knows the right way to really handle it. Putting the different men together with the girls, and having the men of different ages and experiences, really changes how the relationships are. There is considerable baggage for some of them, but it is how it all comes down to the personal interactions and approaches is what brings in such diversity.

The series isn't all introspection and character relationship issues as the entire point of the section these girls work in is to deal with terrorist threats to Italy. The Republican Faction, an ultra left organization, has a number of things going on throughout the series that the girls have to deal with. You have simple missions where they simply know where a hideout is and have to take it down to removing a police chief who is aiding and abetting the group a bit too much. There is one really strong story towards the end where all the girls work together on a mission involving the daughter of a politician who is going to be kidnapped. The girl is swapped out for one of the cyborgs and the entire team has to go in to retrieve her once they discover the location of the terrorists. With the serious nature of the show in general, the operations are given a very realistic and tense feeling where it's a lot of quiet before quick bursts of action. There's a realism that stands out in this series that features innocent looking girls wielding very deadly weapons with ease.

Visually, the show succeeds very strongly. With its setting in Italy, we get to see a lot of locations that outside of the "anime norms" and that gives it a whole other life. The research that went into it looks quite strong and the amount of detail in the backgrounds pushes the realism up a few notches. There aren't a lot of bright colors here that has it standing out, but there is a certain depth and richness to the palette that's used. A few scenes do come across as feeling a bit "plastic" like when it comes to outfits and character designs, but this is mostly early on in the show before it really finds its rhythm. The character designs themselves are very strong as well, particularly with the men. While it's hard to say that these are Italian men, particularly since the section is made up of a few other nationalities as well, they don't look like the typical Japanese adult men we see in other series. Combine this with the designs for the girls, which are cute but not disturbingly so, and you have a very solid balance. There is a definite innocence to them at times but it isn't a hand that's overplayed, which again gives rise to that feeling of realism.

In Summary:
Revisiting Gunslinger Girl a few years after its original release, I found that it definitely played out more enjoyable in marathon form than single form. The overall narrative and structure of the show, which was based on a limited number of stories from the manga at the time, has a better flow to it when taken this way. The smaller threads of the characters lives and how they're coping with their situation is more apparent. The tragedies become more pronounced as well, but taken in the scope of everything it really does hit home just how terrible all of it really is. The girls lives are shortened because of their enhancements, but most of them would have been dead otherwise. There isn't a way to win this for any of them, and that tragic part of it is very appealing and well played here. While there are some issues with the way this is packaged, overall it's definitely a solid presentation and reminded me again why I liked the work that Vision Wise did with FUNimation's DVDs. If you've passed up the series in its previous releases, this is definitely a very good way to check it out now that the second season is underway in Japan.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Building Henrietta,Gunslinger Girl Dossiers,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Building Rico,Building Triela, Meet the Real Gunslinger Girls,Voice Director Commentary,Production Commentary

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.

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