The Lab Ratz | Gunslinger Girl Season One - Review
What has the opening sequence by The Delgados, from their Album "Hate" has to do with the entire Gunslinger Girl Season One anime?
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Aida Yu

Gunslinger Girl – Season 1

Review : Anime

Vintage (Year Released) : 2003

Production Studio : Madhouse

Based on the Manga by : Aida Yu

No of Episodes : 13

How could you not want to watch a series called Gunslinger Girl? The title is enough to bring forth images of gun totting Girls shooting whilst kicking the baddies. Pure action and gore fills the imagination coupled with sadistic violence. Unfortunately NOT! I stumbled upon this anime even before the manga and if you search for reviews on Gunslinger Girl, you will find very opposing views on this anime. The question for me was, is it really an anime series worth keeping and watching over and over again? Well, guys and girls, this is my humble opinion of the anime series Gunslinger Girl – Season 1, not only after numerous times, but years later as well!

Never failing to amaze me is the  Opening Sequence, which used an English Song! This was one of the first anime that i knew to have adopted an English track , “The Light Before We Land” by The Delgados, from their Album “Hate”. It was only later that I heard other animes like Paradise Kiss or Ergo Proxy using and English Track for their opening or closing credits. What I found interesting is that both Gunslinger Girl’s opening and ending sequence tied very nicely into the overall anime and it set my expectations for this series. After becoming familiar with the story, the anime can be summed up from the lyrics of both these sequence which I must credit the production house Madhouse for. To me it has always been about the small details that really makes a good anime into a great one, or am I overthinking it?

In truth there is no better place to be
Than falling out of darkness still to see
Without a premonition
Could you tell me where we stand?
I'd hate to lose this light
Before we land
And when I feel like I can feel once again
Let me stay awhile
Soak it in awhile
If we can hold on we can fix what is wrong
Buy a little time
For this head of mine
Haven for us

- The Delgados

Gunslinger Girl is not an action packed anime. In fact it is totally the reverse. From reviews that I have read over the years, many have commented that the guns used in the anime, from the depiction in the artwork to the firing sounds are very accurate, but I guess I would have to take their word for it cause guns are prohibited where I live. The whole idea of Gunslinger Girl is very simple; take a young girl who has been through an extremely traumatic experience (just imagine if you  were the sole survivor when your family was being massacred in front of your eyes, not to mention you were subjected to abuse as well) who were rescued by the “Social Welfare Agency” then giving you cybernetic implants which also brainwashes your mind. This brainwashing methodology is called “Conditioning” in this series. You are paired with a handler (who is a guy either ex-military, ex-intelligence agency, etc,) which has a colorful, err, I think shady would be a better word, background and this new pairing is now called a Fratello (brother, sibling). The premise for this anime is set in Modern Day Italy. Mash this three factors together and that’s where the shady fun begins … or is it?

Honestly, this anime is more of a spy thriller of sorts, with a good dose of action at the right time. For season one, many reviews did complain of how plain the backgrounds were, or just how totally adorable the characters were hence sticking out like a sore thumb, but I felt otherwise. As a whole, yes, it was a slower paced anime,but I found the pastel water colour background scenes (which at times lacked detail but was well done never the less) and the cuteness of the characters were integral to the anime as whole, setting the right tone and atmosphere as they weave their tale of deception and counter deception. Throughout this series, I found myself asking; young girls who barely even reached puberty, being brainwashed to follow a grown man’s every instructions? This is the crux of season one, where it introduces both the girls and handlers, their experiences with each other, exploring their back stories and characters. Lines are blurred many a time, as the girls kind of lack the maturity on understand their conditioning …. is it brotherly love, lust, longing or mere loyalty? At what lengths would you go to protect your older brother or is it something more? This is also quiet true of their handlers, but is downplayed throughout the series.

Even the ending theme is very poignant for season one. Sung in Italian, it was the perfect still shot end credits that set my hair on end. Gunslinger Girl season one, is to me a tragic story that consistently sets my mind reeling no matter how many times I watch it. I loved all the cuteness and “sibling” love in this anime, but many a times I didn’t know how to sympathize or empathize with the characters. When you look into those big anime eyes in this series, sometimes you get the feeling of loneliness and emptiness as each tale unfolds. Like I mentioned, could you really call this love? Can you say that being a fratello is grounds brotherly/sisterly love when one party is brainwashed? This anime reveals just the right amount of each characters motivations, but manages to make you guess what it could be in reality. The ending episode closes off with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Ode to Joy which gave me some hope, but after picking up the Manga, I felt so hopeless. Anyhow, I leave you with the ending lyrics of Gunslinger Girl’s Ending Credits, the track “Dopo il Sogno” sung by Yume no Ato ni.

Listen, Sweet Mary,
Restore, I beg, my pleasantness.
Ah! Yes, be the guiding star of my path,
To come with you, sweet will be death for me.
Listen, Hail Mary,
His sorrow, his sad accents, let him hear the mercy of your heart.
To you who is blessed among women, Mary,
My prayer flies, pure it rises to you.
Listen, Saint Mary,
Restore, I pray, my calmness.
Let all souls who cry take refuge in her arms.
Ah! Break, Mary, the trap that prevents you.
Listen, Sweet Mary,
His sorrow, his sad accents, let him hear the mercy of your heart.

- Yume no Ato ni

I really liked Gunslinger Girl Season One and will only recommend it if you like the Slice of Life anime Genre. If you are in to Mecha or Action Anime, I don’t think this is right for you. If you like war, espionage, history or dramas, this maybe the anime for you, as it is pretty slow moving and involves quite a fair bit of character development. Overall, this series does things right; right packaging, atmosphere, pacing, haunting soundtrack and animation. Will watch it again in the future! By the way, I only watch the original Japanese version with English Subs. Till next time! 🙂

Note : English Lyrics for Dopo il Sogno taken from user Makemegray on Animeforum.com

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