Gunslinger Girl Vol. #1 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger Girl Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     May 12, 2005
Release Date: May 17, 2005

Gunslinger Girl Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Officially, the Social Welfare Agency is a government sponsored corporation that's in the business of saving lives. At least, that's the ruse. 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?

Who are these girls?

They've been given a second chance at life... But at what cost?

The Review!
Terminally ill children are recruited and rebuilt into cyborg assassins in Italy and paired up with partners in one of the more mellow and relaxed series of recent memory.

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.

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.

Using a close-up of Henrietta with her gun out set against a white backdrop that has a technical layout of one of her weapons, the front cover is definitely distinctive and with the white spacing will stand out among other covers. The look and detail of Henrietta is really nicely done here as well and I like how the technical design of the gun was something that was also used in the trailer for the show which brings in some continuity. The back cover continues with the white and slightly gray feel as it provides a really nice piece of artwork of Henrietta 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, though still a bit too small I think, 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 three of the girls sitting out on the grass in their regular clothes all with what's probably closest to a smile from each of them. This is a really nice looking image and a good way of using the back side of the cover.

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 Henrietta that shows a bit of blocking unfortunately 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.

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 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gunslinger Girl is a series that I approached with little real confidence in. A series with young girls in schoolgirl outfits or other outfits designed to make them cute that are used as assassins was something that I agreed could be interesting if done right but not something I thought could be done well in the current climate of the sexier it is the more likely it'll get made. Having been a big fan of the Leon movie and hearing of the similarities, I had some hope but was prepared for the worst.

To my surprise, it manages to avoid a lot of the real clich�s that I thought it would be rampant with. I ignored most of the pre-publicity for it since I like to go into a show knowing as little as possible especially if I'm going to review it. Taking place in Italy, the first two episodes cover pretty much one operation from different perspectives and extended views so that you can get a feel for what is essentially the main character of Henrietta. Henrietta is a young girl who was terminally ill but rebuilt into a cyborg with enhanced physical attributes that would make her an ideal assassin. Each time a young girl is brought into the real side of the Social Welfare Agency, she's paired up with an older male partner that becomes her brother in a sense. The brother takes on the task of training his sister in all she needs to do her job while also ensuring that her conditioning, which wiped her memories out, is in place so that it allows her to function in public as well as more professional settings.

For Henrietta, that comes in the form of Giuse, a man that looks to be in his late twenties who is convinced that a lessened amount of conditioning will make for a better operative. That belief hasn't been paying off too well though as Henrietta has a hair trigger sensibility about her that causes her to snap at the wrong times. Whenever Giuse is in trouble or even looks like he's in trouble, she reacts with powerful force that's not held in check at all. When a waiter at a restaurant is removing the silverware and one of the items is a knife, she instinctively leaps across the table, twists the guys arm and gets ready to stab him with the same knife before anyone can tell what happened. When she does these things in the field, often times it's not that bad but it's been causing problems and that means Giuse gets grief not only from his boss but also from others who have their own sisters to take care of.

The opening two episodes do a rather good job, even if there is just a bit too much repetition of animation and situations, of bringing us fully into the fold of what these girls have gone through and where they are now. Focusing on Henrietta, we get to see her induction into the agency and some of her earliest moments with Giuse in training. I find it interesting to watch how he teaches her how to shoot or snipe like he would anyone else but that it's such a small girl instead. It has plenty of similarities in tone and style to Leon but it is definitely its own show. I was also really pleased to see that as we get to know all the girls, none of them were really sexualized at all or made to be much sexier than normal. There's not big moments of guys oogling over them or their brothers coveting them. It's such a welcome change from what you'd expect that when combined with the very mellow and relaxed music the series takes on an interesting pace and plays out very well.

Over the course of the five episodes, we end up getting to know several of the girls and their stories, though not completely for some of them, as well as their relationships with their brothers. Each one is different from the others, such as Claes whose brother is a former Military Police captain who doesn't even talk to her for the most part. Or Jean who is so completely professional with his girl or Rico who is a mixture of the others. It's fascinating watching how even of these men deal with the girls, some of them wanting to treat them like normal girls when not on a mission while some practically ignore them entirely. The show mixes in some of the basics of Italian law and politics to serve as the reasons behind various operations as the agency's real goal is the elimination of problems and trouble within its borders. Wrapping all of these elements up together with a very mellow and relaxed soundtrack and you get a very moody piece that avoids several clich�s.

In Summary:
Gunslinger Girl is an interesting show that takes a fairly standard story and wraps it up with a slightly different take and treats it all very seriously. Instead of getting something that's all bouncy and bright or comical, it's a very serious and violent piece that has some great action sequences to it. Those aren't the entire focus of the show as opposed to the relationships between the assassin and her handler and the way the organization is dealing with the various levels of conditioning the girls go under. With it being just thirteen episodes over three volumes, it's a very light commitment to a very serious and moody piece that slowly sucks you in.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Building Henrietta,Textless Songs,Character Dossiers

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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