Anime: Gunslinger Girl #2: Vita, Passione e…Pistole: Life, Happiness, and the Gun

Vandemar

imageGunslinger Girl #1 introduced us to the wards of the Social Welfare Agency, a secret government group that supposedly dedicates itself to the care and well-being of orphans. The SWA is actually a secret government group that takes in these orphans and makes them into cybernetically enhanced killing machines, hiding heavy weaponry behind the wide eyes and cute little moppetness of young girls. The concept itself is a bit of a jolt, and Gunslinger Girl #2: Vita, Passione e…Pistole: Life, Happiness, and the Gun is an even bigger jolt than the first volume. Now that the characters are established, it’s time to get down to business.

6: Gelato (Frozen)
A subway train races down a tunnel. A bomb ticks away ominously. The bomb squad gets there in time, but was it just a feint? The Social Welfare Agency moves in Henrietta to investigate.

image7: Protezione (Protection)
A trip to the art museum lets us and one of the girls get an education in art, but the Social Welfare Agency seldom lets its operatives go on vacation. This turns out to be an undercover operation, keeping on eye on the terrorists from the previous episodes, and on a former art student who knows more than just paintings.

8: Il Principe del Regno Della Pasta (The Prince of the Kingdom of Pasta)
Henrietta continues to struggle with her emotions and listening to her Handler, while Giuse continues to struggle with his emotions and keep Henrietta at a safe distance. Angelica, too, is having problems and needs to see the doctor, while her Handler fights to keep his emotions intact.

9: Lycoris Radiata Herb (Be Struck Off Herb)
This episode introduces Elsa, the Agency’s newest recruit and a cool, cool killer. Elsa is a bit of a loner and is very cool to Henrietta, which creates some tension on a tough mission.

Gunslinger Girl #2 is another technically sound DVD, for the most part. The animation is outstanding. The attention to detail in the artwork is astonishing. A couple rides on a moped and their hair moves realistically, while the shadows and light patterns on their jackets change as if they really were moving through city streets. The way shadows fall on people’s faces, a use of shading that makes them just pop to life, all of it combines to make an engrossing series.

imageSound is not neglected, either. Gunslinger Girl’s opening theme is a combination of chugging guitars and vocals, mixing depression and optimism in precisely the same mix of sad/happy the series itself uses. The ending theme is operatic-style singing with organ, very elegiac and appropriate for the show. Within each episode, the music is tastefully used to set mood. Gunslinger Girl usually leans on a score based on piano and strings, but it’s not afraid to, say, dip into jazz if a jazz piece would be a little more fitting. It’s subtle, but very effectively used. The sound effects, too, merit a mention. I talked about it in the review of my first disc, but nothing sounds canned. Rifles all sound different. It’s so careful and precise that you can actually hear the faint metallic click of an automatic pistol’s slide hitting the stops before it moves forward again. This is incredible, especially when some series can’t even be bothered to draw complete backgrounds or buy gunshots that don’t sound like they were recorded on cheap cassettes.

The extras are a nice group of dossiers and textless songs, with some other things fans of the series will enjoy. The most interesting extra on the DVD is Meet the “Real” Gunslinger Girls, which allows us to get inside the head of the voice actors who play our favorite characters. Unfortunately, my being on the Sub side of the Sub-Dub divide means I don’t get to enjoy their work as much as others, but as someone who’s into “Making Of” type featurettes, I find it interesting to listen to the voice actors talk about their craft. Speaking of subtitles, unfortunately, they had some glitches. I saw a few words here and there that seemed like typos or randomly thrown in words. I also spoted spelling variations in names here and there, too, sadly marring an otherwise high-quality presentation.

Gunslinger Girl’s second volume continues the first’s tradition of storytelling. For a series about girl assassins, it focuses a lot more on the girls and a lot less on the assassinations than you’d think. This is a story about human relations, and the humans just happen to be cybernetically-enhanced little girls packing assault rifles bigger than they are. That’s not to say the action scenes aren’t exhilarating, but I feel I should warn you that this is not a fast-paced series. It’s a very good series, though, taking its concept and running with it in an unexpected and entirely enjoyable direction.

Technical/Extras: 9.8
This would be a solid 10 if they could decide whether Jose is Jose or Giuse. I expect some variation between Japanese and English, but not in the subtitles themselves. And there were a few moments where the subtitles didn’t seem quite synced with the moving mouths.

Entertainment: 9.5
Still a very good series, prone to wandering between exposition, but very enjoyable for it. It’s like a rambling conversation over wine with a good friend.

Overall: 9.7

Episodes: 6: Gelato (Frozen), 7: Protezione (Protection), 8: Il Principe del Regno Della Pasta) (The Prince of the Kingdom of Pasta), 9: Lycoris Radiata Herb (Be Struck Off Herb)

Extras: Gunslinger Girl Dossiers, Textless Opening and Closing Songs, Meet the “Real” Gunslinger Girls, Building Rico, Trailers

Shannon “Vandemar” Drake is the Community Development Manager for Warcry’s efforts in all things that aren’t games. He also serves as Site Manager for FMA Warcry and frequently contributes to the hubsite. He will talk about anime until you roll your eyes and walk away, which makes him sad. He’s currently watching Samurai Champloo on Orson’s PSP.

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