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DVD Review

DVD cover

Mardock Scramble
Film 2 - The Second Combustion (Director's Cut)


Starring (voice): Megumi Hayashibara, Norito Yashima and Hiroki Touchi
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 25 March 2013

Balot and a severely injured Oeufcoque seem to be at the mercy of an obsessed Boiled. Dr. Easter comes to the rescue and the group escapes to Paradise where many secrets of Mardock lie and where Balot will need to come to a decision herself about what she will and can do...

Picking up without a break from the cliffhanger that closed the first movie, The Second Combustion finds cyborg waif Rune-Balot and her shapeshifting AI partner Oeufcoque embroiled in a vicious firefight with the implacable mercenary Dimsdale-Boiled. Rescued by Balot's patron Dr. Easter in an unlikely aircraft dubbed 'Flying House Humpty' (writer Tow Ubukata's motif of egg-related names showing no sign of letting up), the team flee to the hidden facility Paradise, where Balot and Oeufcoque have a welcome opportunity to heal their wounds and catch their breath before the next dangerous mission.

Paradise turns out to be a haven for others like Balot, resurrected by Easter's unlicensed Scramble 09 technology and coming to terms with the precariousness of existence after death. Continuing the Alice-like theme introduced with Humpty, Balot encounters in turn a fellow resurrectee named Tweedledee and his male lover, cyborg dolphin Tweedledim (Ubukata evidently feeling that no cyberpunk story is complete without a cyborg dolphin). Balot and Oeufcoque rekindle their friendship in the idyllic setting of Paradise, which with its flowing waters, lush gardens and lavish anti-gravity architecture is gorgeously portrayed. It isn't long before Boiled and his allies come calling, though, and the bloody fate endured by one of The First Compression's nastier villains when he runs afoul of Paradise's defences closes the first act in satisfying fashion.

With their break over, Balot and company resume their plan of action against Balot's original killer, the vile criminal Shell, the latest phase of which involves a heist on a high-end casino to uncover evidence in the case. Ubukata and director Susumu Kudo side-step expectations here; while the casino scenes, revolving around Balot and Oeufcoque using their posthuman abilities to cheat at blackjack, are well-executed and predictably tense, the movie doesn't close with an adrenalin-rush climax like its predecessor. With Balot finding herself drawn to a worldly-wise older woman working as a croupier, an extended dialogue on the nature of fate closes out The Second Combustion, perhaps deliberately evoking the contemplative style of the Ghost in the Shell movies and TV series, still its strongest influence.

Though running for barely over an hour, The Second Combustion feels decently paced, condensing the casino sequence that takes up more than 300 pages of Ubukata's massive novel into a breezy half-hour. There's time for development for the villains too, as the dialogue between Boiled and his client Shell shows a rift between them, while brief flashbacks of Boiled's murky past give us hints of the humanity beneath the remorseless killer's exterior. The visual splendor of Paradise, while feeling occasionally reminiscent of a 1970s progressive-rock album cover, is suitably excessive and the character animation and music retain the high quality of the first movie. If the upcoming third and final movie succeeds in channelling Ubukata's sometimes indulgent narrative into a coherent sci-fi adventure in the way its predecessors managed, Mardock Scramble will stand as a spectacular late flowering of the cyberpunk aesthetic.


Richard Hunt

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