Gunslinger Girl, Volume 4

Chimaera

With five short stories, the little girls with guns of Section Two deal with plenty of action and drama. While not everyone gets equal “panel time”, each girl makes her presence duly felt in a fashion that leaves the reader with no complaints.

One important thing to note is that the Gunslinger Girl anime only captures part of the story so if you haven’t checked out the first three volumes, you should. There’s no real back-tracking for the uninformed reader to explain what’s going on, which is fine. In these chapters, we take a look at what is apparently a typical day for Claes (who is now being looked after presumably by Jean, Rico’s handler), Henrietta’s apparent crush on her handler Jose, Rico’s outing to the opera Tosca, Jose and Jean’s family background, and Triela’s assignment to watch over the unusual Mimi Machiavelli. Triela gets a lot to do in this volume. In addition to coming to terms with her recent defeat at the hands of a Padania agent, she starts to remember bits of her past. There’s also the usual dose of political machinations tossed in for violence and flavor, but the true story here is naturally focused on the little ladies of Section Two. Each chapter is a small “episode” by itself with a definitive beginning and end – it is easy to see how it can be adapted into anime form later on. Fans of the series can only hope this will be the case!

There’s a lot going on in Volume 4, but surprisingly none of it feels rushed along and things unfold at a natural pace. As an ensemble cast, Gunslinger Girl shines brightly when it gently glides along the violent surface and provides a sensible balance between blood and drama. It would be far too easy to fall into either extreme and GG sensibly stays away from doing so.

A cyborg named Beatrice also gets a very brief cameo but no explanation or back story is provided for her – this gives the sense that the agency is actually much larger than the main ensemble and it is likely that she will come into play later. The departed Elsa is mentioned briefly, and it is good to see that the girls are getting by with less brainwashing involved as time goes by.

Featuring Claes on the cover, the colors are well done and the style is consistent with the other volumes. Claes is also holding a book of the opera “Tosca”, a definite and clever nod to Chapter 20 inside. With her weapon hung nearby almost as an afterthought, Claes gives the impression that there is more girl than guns to be found here, but the inner flap features Rico, weapon drawn and a smile ready to go.

The book is meant to be read in traditional manga style – top to bottom, right to left. There is no flipping going on. The framing is very clear, and it is usually obvious who is saying what – or narrating during a particular tale. The translation was smooth and professional, and given the references made by the girls, you can tell their education does not suffer for their training – especially in the cinematic realm. Claes watches American movie “A River Runs Through It” in one chapter, and Henrietta references “Roman Holiday” in a later one. Rico gets to dress up and go see Italian-set Tosca. The “sound effects” were also well done.

This volume of Gunslinger Girl picks up neatly where the last volume left off and is a must have for followers of the series. Intelligent and thoughtful, it is one of the few series you actually stop to think about after you put it down.

Entertainment: 9.75
Section Two’s girls are diverse and sweet, but remarkably skilled – the action is well balanced with the drama.

Technical: 9
Not always obvious who’s saying what, but a good attention to detail artwise.

Overall: 9.75

Age Rating: Teen+
ISBN: 978-1-4139-0341-6

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