Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger GirlType: TV Series
Episode Count: 13
Genre: Drama / Suspense / Sci-Fi
Vintage: 2003

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 31 Jul 2006

Grade: A+

I think the creators put it best in their tagline for this series… The girl has a mechanical body. However, she is still an adolescent child.

Plot Summary
Italy’s Social Welfare Agency rescues children from the brink of death, truly a noble cause… at least that’s what the government would tell you. In reality, while they do rescue children who would otherwise die, their reasons for doing so are much more nefarious. What the Social Welfare Agency does is take these girls, gives them cybernetic implants, brainwashes them, and trains them to be skilled assassins. These girls are then teamed up with a member of the SWA in a fratello, or brother-sister pairing. Think Luc Besson’s Léon. These fratellos then carry out missions ordered by the government, in secret. Just how do circumstances such as these affect the lives of the girls involved?

The Review
So, you want to see a show where cute 12 year old girls demonstrate their skills with some serious firearms? I regret to inform you that this is not the show that you were looking for…

That’s not to say that Gunslinger Girl is completely devoid of action. We get to see the girls of the Social Welfare Agency take out terrorists and other anti-government factions, but that isn’t really the point of the show. It’s really about how each girl looks at her situation and how it affects her life.

Gunslinger Girl is one of the most challenging shows in my collection. By using an easy draw (girls with guns), the creators take this otherwise predictable plot device and produce a character drama, rather than taking the easy route of a fan-servicey action show. Instead of cheering the girls on as they punish the Italian government’s targets, you’re drawn into the lives of each girl (primarily Henrietta, but each girl’s story is given an episode to bring you up to speed) and end up feeling sympathy for them with the situation that they are in. Each fratello works in a different way. Some of the handlers (as they are called) treat their girls well, while others are cold and harsh, or even detached. These relationships mold each girl into their own unique persona, which is a combination of their brainwashing and conditioning, and their feelings as adolescent children. That is where this series excels in posing a moral dilemma. It does so in such a grand fashion that there is a good chance you’ll shed a tear or two by the end of the series.

Gunslinger Girl is a beautiful work of art. The real-world setting and subdued score are immersive, and make for a world that is easy to get lost in. A show that you feel rather than watch, if you’re looking for something introspective that’s a little different, Gunslinger Girl is an excellent choice.

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