Anime Review: Gunslinger Girl / Gunslinger Girl II: Il Teatrino

Note: This review is spoiler free as all my reviews are–you may discuss specifics in the comments though.

One of the frustrating things of anime is finding people to watch with, or getting buy-in.  It is such a kick-ass type of entertainment, I really wish everyone I knew would watch.  And there’s something for everyone–girls, guys, sci-fi, etc. None of my inner circle of friends watch it.  I have convinced the wife to watch Clannad.  She also marathoned Nana right with me (that’s chick crack, there is no female on earth that will be able to resist that one).  But back to this anime, you see the posters of the movie and it’s ‘cute’ girls, with giant guns, and then one immediately rolls their eyes. I’d never be able to get anyone to watch this, I’d lose them as soon as they saw that official poster below. Too be honest, I’ve been overlooking it for a while, it wasn’t even on my to watch list, I only stumbled on it because I’m running out of stuff on Netflix to watch.  After watching this I’m learning that for Anime, never judge a book by its cover so to speak.

Gunslinger Girl Official Poster

Yes. This would be a hard sell to non-anime fans, but it’s really not what it looks like.

The idea here is that adolescent girls nearing death through various tragic circumstances are given a chance on life as their bodies are rehabilitated–and actually they’re physically improved.  It comes with a price–a mind wipe.  Each of the girls are assigned an agent, who trains them and on whom they go on on various missions for the agency.  The cyborgs get, well, lets just say they tend to get “attached” to their training agents. So this anime is really about those relationships. In the second season we also get some insight into the motivations of terrorists that again raises the moral issues without answering them. This is depicted through a group that’s working for a political party going up against the agency (there’s political stuff, but the particulars are not important here).  There is also the implicit issue of the morality of all of this that is going on in the background–but actually it’s not addressed and that’s actually a good thing, as it lets you enjoy the series without having your mind biased ahead of time.  As you can see from this description, the violence and shooting of guns–which is there–is actually the background, not the focus.  I’d hesitate to call this an action anime actually.

Other than the plot, I like the attention to detail in the setting of the series.  It takes place in Italy, and you get lots of lush visuals and even background voices in Italian. Visits to Castello Saint Angello, discussions of paintings, and that sort of stuff.  Even more impressive on the detail front is that apparently, the guns are ‘real’ guns in that the design and names of the guns in the series are real–I wouldn’t know anything about that, but those of you into firearms might like that.   Lastly on the background is the outstanding score, lots of piano keys, and opera sounds, and classical compositions, fitting of the setting in Italy.

What’s great about this series is that given the large cast, everyone gets treated well.

Lastly, I’ll close in observing two ways that I differ from most other reviewers of this anime .  First is I think Il Teatrino (Season 2) was just as good as the first.  Same good music and great character development.  With the large cast here–there is no main character–it is a chance for everyone to get the full treatement. Second–and I think many people get this wrong, it is not all romantic relationships from the cyborgs towards their handlers. There’s clearly master-servant, brother-sister, father-daughter, teacher-student, etc dynamics.  In some situations though, yes, there is the romantic overtone.  See if you can figure out which are which.

Anyway, outstanding anime, with high rewatchable value.