From the moment you hear the wistful opening by Scottish group The Delgados, Gunslinger Girl promises style above all else.
The story centres around a government agency intent on developing experimental cyborg assassins, highly trained killers with artificial enhancements that grant them superhuman reflexes. For this project, the agency has adopted a group of young girls, most of which are survivors of accidents or at deaths door. Their memories are wiped, and they are “conditioned” and taken for treatment.
There’s an obvious dilemma here – can we enjoy a series that basically shows us the brainwashing and abuse of children for use in military operations? Thankfully, this issue isn’t lost on the show itself, and surprisingly it forms the meat of the series. As these innocents are systematically corrupted, each trainer handles the ethical dilemma differently – some simply attempt to the leave the project, whilst others protect their charges like younger siblings and care for them – but the central conceit still remains. These children are victims.
The writing excels in this series – although we’re given plenty of action sequences, the philosophical questions and day-to-day dilemmas remain thought provoking and engaging viewing. Quite where all this will take us in the long run is anyone’s guess, but for the 5 episodes on this disc, I was fascinated.
We get to meet most of the girls on this disc, each having their own episode devoted to their training, which helps provide a rounded worldview. Our principal protagonist is Henrietta, the lone survivor of her family’s assassination, who develops an unhealthy interest in her handler’s well-being.
Animation is functional, but the beautiful locations and stylish design steal the show. The battles are choreographed to perfection, and fans of ADV’s Noir will adore this series.
There’s lots of value here too – 5 whole episodes make up for the lack of extras, and the usual dual language option gives purists and casual viewers the popular sub and dub package. The English Dub is excellent, but somehow the children are that bit creepier with the original Japanese soundtrack.