Two standalone stories that allow the handlers a little more time to shine..
What They Say
The girls of the Social Welfare Agency are no ordinary children. They are the grizzly remains of human wreckage pieced back together with cybernetic implants and trained to kill by the government. The oldest, Triela, pursues her targets with a ferocious enthusiasm - unwilling to settle for less than total annihilation.
Her mirror in this bloody stalemate is Pinocchio, a shell of a boy raised as an assassin by the FRF - a terrorist faction at war with the SWA. Cold and cruelly efficient, he wields sharpened steel as though it were his own hand. Once human, these shattered souls have become murderous machines with only vague recollections of what it meant to be real - and a brutal compulsion to be the last killer standing.
Contains OVA episodes 1-2.
Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino has a pretty solid bilingual presentation made for it with the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps while the English mix gets a bump to 5.1 at 448kbps. Each track has its strengths, though as is the usual case with DVD, the English 5.1 mix has some added clarity and distinction to it with its overall presentation. I found that I prefer the Japanese stereo mix over it as it has a fuller sounding forward feeling to it that’s more natural. Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino is still primarily a dialogue and atmosphere show punctuated with moments of intense action and those come across very well, though they’re not overpowering or too strong. Dialogue is well placed in both languages which is a big positive considering its overall design and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released at the end of 2008 on DVD, the transfer for these two OVAs is presented in its originally aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Similar to its TV episode brethren, the show looks quite good overall with strong colors, plenty of detail and a generally clean looking transfer. The animation for the show is solid throughout and the transfer manages to capture that well, from the quiet scenes to the busier action ones. There are some really good backgrounds to be had here with the cityscapes and that detail shines through very nicely. Outside of some very minor line noise during the occasional panning sequence and some noise in a few backgrounds, this is a very pleasing transfer.
Since this is a single disc release outside of the TV series which was done in the double thinpak with slipcover release, we get a clear keepcase here with no artwork on the reverse side. The front cover is really nicely done with a painted style that has the two men walking along the rocky shore while the girls are ahead of him enjoying their time with their handlers and the scenery. It’s got a really nice feel to it in comparison with the strictly from the show designs that many covers use. The back cover is a little more traditional with a dark background that brings down the mood a bit with a series of small frames through the center in which there are various shots from the show. The summary is kept minimal and there’s a few taglines to promote the show. The two episode titles are clearly listed and the discs extras are well laid out also. The only downside is that in the technical information they list the show as having a runtime of 35 minutes when it’s really just under fifty, which is an odd thing to do. I was even surprised they didn’t try to push the nearly 30 minutes of extras as a plus here as well. No show related inserts are included and as mentioned before, there is no reverse side artwork for this clear keepcase.
The menu for this release is pretty nice in its simplicity as it uses illustration pieces done similar to the cover of the different characters in an almost watercolor style. Each menu is framed with a neat deep dark red letterbox piece with something from the city that’s a little hard to make out at first. With a simple bit of music to it, it sets the mood just right with something that really does feel Italian. The logo and menu navigation is kept to the middle of the image which is decent but might have been better served in one of the letterbox sections. Submenus load quickly and it’s very easy to navigate and get around in. As is usual, this release ignores our players’ language presets and defaults to English language.
The extras for this release push the strangeness we saw from the TV episode release even further. The basics are here in that we get the clean closing sequences for both the two episodes. The big extras is a five part series of interviews with the cast of the Japanese performances which run about twenty five minutes. The odd part is that we only get the fifth and final installment with the voice actor for Hirscher as conducted by Triela’s voice actress. It opens by talking about the five part series of interviews and it’s just weird that we only get the two interviews total between the two releases. I can only assume it’s a licensing issue but a truly strange one.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Some seven months after the TV series finished airing in Japan, fans were treated to two more direct to video episodes that… well, they don’t serve as an epilogue. Nor a continuation of any particular story. They’re simple a few more episodes that for the most part revolve around Jean and some of his issues as the main tough guy of the series who works with one of the brightest and happiest of the girls in the group.
The two episodes that are here have some tangential plot to them, but more than anything else it’s about mood and atmosphere. The connection to these characters in the Il Teatrino season has not been there for me like it was in the first, and I pretty much put that on Yu Aida’s shoulders as the original creator is involved in this particular season. Though more faithfully adapted from the manga by all appearances, it has not made for engaging television in the slightest. The characters seem to lack a kind of warmth and humanity that shone through before and the storyline from the second season when it did appear was less than compelling.
So I went into this two episode OVA release with some amount of trepidation. The first episode takes Jean to the grave of the woman he nearly married some years ago and he runs into Fernando, who would have been his brother in law. Fernando is still very unhappy about how everything happened and he holds a huge chip on his shoulder towards Jean, but what makes it difficult for Jean on top of everything else is that Fernando is apparently involved in some left wing group that he’s likely going to have to hunt down at some point. This starts a rolling story towards figuring out who he’s working with and trying to kick the legs out from underneath it before it can get into serious trouble.
The second story is a little more unusual as it again focuses on Jean to some extent as he and Rico along with Giuse and Henrietta end up taking some time out from everything after a bit and go to an old beach house where the men used to go. As it turns out, this is one of the places that Jean used to spend time with Giuse along with Enrica, Where it turns badly is that in settling in, Giuse has Henrietta try on one of the outfits that’s in the closet. The clothes belonged to Enrica before she died, and that sets off a wave of emotions in Jean, both towards Giuse and towards himself over what happened in the past. Jean has been a difficult man to watch because he plays things from a distance with Rico, though there are times when he is close with her, but by and large he’s disconnected from someone trying so hard to please him and to show him she can do things right. Her nightmares indicate her own fears about this, though they aren’t terribly explored unfortunately.
The Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino OVA release is a pretty solid piece overall but it is in the end more of the same of what we saw in the TV season. The characters feel a little more human and connected here as we see some of Jean’s weaknesses, but it lacks the emotional impact and power that we saw in the first season of the series. There isn’t a lot of real meat to the stories here, it’s more about the atmosphere than anything else, but what we do get is pleasant enough though not terribly engaging. It’s a nice little additional bit to the series but it doesn’t really add anything to the property overall and could be seen as a bit weak by some for a way to close out the series itself. In the end, it’s alright but nothing to really write home about.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Closings, Interview Session
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.