Gunslinger Girl
Volume 1

Starring (voice): Yuuka Nanri, Kanako Mituhashi and Eri Sendal
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 06 March 2006

Officially, Italy's Social Welfare Agency is a government-sponsored corporation that's in the business of saving the lives of children. At least, that's the ruse. The reality is far more sinister. The Agency operates on the fringes of advanced technology, giving young, female terminal patients another shot at life with the help of cybernetic implants and psychological conditioning. The process effectively shapes the patients into efficient killing machines specifically designed to handle the government's undercover dirty work...

Gunslinger Girl combines elements of Luc Besson's Leon and La Femme Nikita to produce a 13-part saga recounting the exploits of a group of young girls conditioned to become ruthless, government-trained assassins.

Set in modern day Italy, this series follows a number of girls who have all been taken from hospitals from all over the country. Each has been cybernetically enhanced, brainwashed and trained to be assassins by a secret branch of the Public Corporation for Social Welfare, also known as Section 2. Each of the girls has a trainer, also known as their "brother", assigned to them. These individuals are employed to train each girl in the art of combat as well as ensure that their missions are carried out successfully.

The first episode, Fratello (Siblings), introduces us to one of the girls, Henrietta. She was brought into the employ of Section 2 when her entire family of six were killed in a vicious homicide attack. Henrietta has her memory erased and is put under the supervision of Jose.

Being new to the Public Corporation for Social Welfare himself, Jose is unskilled in the rearing of a mechanised body and he ends up treating Heneritta more like his daughter, buying her gifts, educating her and protecting her, far from the harsh measures that the other girls receive from their brothers who treat them more like an expendable machine. While on an important mission Henrietta loses it and opens fire without the express permission of Jose. But what is it that made her lose the plot? Is it poor training? Or something much deeper?

Orione (Orion) - Eager to get to the bottom of why Henrietta lost it while on a mission, Jose take her to a restaurant to help her train how to interact normally. However, when a waiter clears away some unused cutlery, Henrietta believes that Jose's life if in danger and quickly incapacitates the poor man. Jose starts to become more attached to Henrietta and starts to treat her like a little girl, instead of a cyborg.

Tagazzo (Boy) - While on a mission to stakeout a hotel, Rico bumps into a young bellhop named Emilo. The two form a quick bond, but Rico's brother (Jean) is suspicious of why she took so long to complete her mission. Rico keeps her new friend a secret from Jean, but can she really have any friends in this line of work?

Bambola (Doll) - Triela and her brother are after a member of the Mafia who will testify against his boss. Triela is suffering from period pains and issues with her working relationship with Hilshare. Why does he treat her like dirt when she makes a mistake, and like a lap dog the rest of the time.

Promessa (Promise) - is an Angelica Claes tale that sees the history of her and her brother. We get to witness her first mission, an attack on a group of subway youths, as well as her relationship with Captain Raballo - who is reluctant to bond with her.

Not only is the quality of the scripts and animation far superior than most of the anime currently in production, but the music is more cinematic than we have come to expect from this genre. Toshihiko Sahashi's score is beautifully composed. Never intrusive on the action, it does add that little extra emotion to the moving moments in this series. The theme tune, The Light Before We Land, is particularly catchy.

Extras are a little thin on the ground and include Building Henrietta (which shows the various layers that are used to draw Henrietta - a bit of a pointless extra, really); textless opening and closing credit sequences; and trailers.

If you're looking for a light-hearted series then you'd better look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you fancy some intelligently written animation with a dark edge to it, Gunslinger Girl is worth checking out.

Darren Rea

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