Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 24, 2010 by Dennis Amith
“Gunslinger Girl” is an anime series for those looking for a series that is more serious and dramatic but also incorporating action. As a Blu-ray release, the shining point of this release is its lossless English and Japanese audio.
Image courtesy of © Yu Aida/ASCII MEDIA WORKS. Marvelous Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season
DURATION: 13 Episodes (325 Minutes)
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16×9), Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment
RATED: TV 14
Release Date: March 16, 2010
Originally created by Yu Aida
Directed by Morio Asaka
Series Composition by Junki Takegami
Music by Toshihiko Sahashi
Character Design by Hisashi Abe
Art Director: Hisashi Ikeda
Anime Production by Madhouse Studios
Featuring the following voice talent:
Ami Koshimizu/Alese Watson as Claes
Eri Sendai/Caitlin Glass as Triela
Hitomi Terakado/Monica Rial as Angelica
Kanako Mitsuhashi/Luci Christian as Rico
Yuuka Nanri/Laura Bailey as Henrietta
Brina Palencia/Mamiko Noto as Elsa
Cynthia Cranz/Rie Nakagawa as Ferro
Dameon Clarke/Masashi Ebara as Hirscher (Hilshire)
Eric Vale/Mitsuru Miyamoto as Jean
Jim Fornoda/Norihiro Inoue as Marco
John Burgmeier/Hidenobu Kiuchi as Jose
Troy Baker/Masami Iwasaki as Alfonso
Officially, the Social Welfare Agency is a government sponsored corporation that’s in the business of saving lives. In reality, it’s an agency on the fringe of technology. They give terminal patients another shot at life using cybernetic implants. This conditioning process then shapes the patient into an efficient machine for handling all of the government’s dirty work.
In 2002, mangaka Yu Aida had her first manga “Gunslinger Girl” published in the monthly shonen magazine “Dengeki Daioh”. A year later, her manga series was adapted into a 13-episode anime television series airing on Fuji TV. The manga and anime series would continue with another 13-episode anime television series titled “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-” in 2008 and has also inspired video games for the Sony PlayStation 2.
The “Gunslinger Girl” anime series would feature anime production by Madhouse Studios and feature Morio Asaka as the director (“Chobits”, “Rozen Maiden”, “Street Fighter”, “Galaxy Angel”) and series composition by Junki Takegami (“Aoki Densetsu Shoot!”, “Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor”, “Inuyasha”, “Naruto Shippuden”). Character design would be by Hisashi Abe (“Chobits”, “Spirit Warrior”, “Devil May Cry”), art direction by Hisashi Ikeda (“Millenium Actress”, “Perfect Blue”, “Ghost in the Shell”) and music by Toshihiko Sahashi (“Hunter x Hunter”, “Fullmetal Panic!”, “Mobile Suit Gundam Seed”).
The series has been released several times by FUNimation Entertainment on DVD but the series makes its High Definition on Blu-ray along with the sequel “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino” which both were released on March 16, 2010.
“Gunslinger Girl” revolves around the Social Welfare Agency which is a charitable institution sponsored by the Italian government. Known by the public to help those who are physically injured, the truth is that the agency is a a military organization that specializes in counter-intelligence and counter terrorism. Their soldiers, young orphan girls enhanced with cybernetic implants and are taught to kill and pare of the SWA’s “Section 2″.
The girls have synthesized muscle implants giving them super-human strength and reflexes, as well as the ability to be resilient to any damage. Each of these girls are partnered with a trainer/handler and together they are known as a “fratello”. Some handlers are caring for the girls they are partnered with but for the agency, they look at these girls as weapons and also as expendable.
The main characters of “Gunslinger Girl” are:
- Henrietta/Jose – Henrietta’s family were massacred and she was assaulted and left for dead. She has suffered from psychological trauma and had wanted to die. But since being brainwashed and conditioned for the agency, she is an assassin who feels a strong bond with Jose and cares deeply for him. As for Jose Croce, his counterparts think he has gotten to close emotionally with Henrietta.
- Rico – Born with severe birth defects, she was signed over to the agency by her parents when she turned 11. But since joining and receiving a new body with the agency, she is happy. She is the only cyborg girl with memories of her past life.
- Triela - Rebellious and masculine, she is one of the elder Cyborg girls that tries to help her counterparts. But for some reason, she is losing her memory.
- Claes - A peaceful cyborg who is used more as a test subject since the death of her handler. Claes enjoys gardening and reading books more than engaging in violence.
- Angelica - A girl that was nearly killed by her father trying to collect insurance, Angelica is the first cyborg of the agency.
“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” consists of 13-episodes on two Blu-ray discs. Here is a spoilerless summary of each episode:
- EPISODE 1 – fratello – We are introduced to Henrietta and her handler Jose and learn about how Jose cares for his cyborg while his counterparts feel he’s getting to emotionally close to her.
- EPISODE 2 – orione – Jose’s caring for Henrietta wants to give her another perspective of life outside of murdering.
- EPISODE 3 – ragazzo – We are introduced to Rico and her handler Jean and both go on a mission.
- EPISODE 4 – bambola – It’s Christmas time and Triela is sent on a mission.
- EPISODE 5 – promessa – We learn about a cyborg named Claes and her handler Raballo.
- EPISODE 6 – gelato – Henrietta, Rico and Triela go out on a mission.
- EPISODE 7 – protezione – Rico and Jean meet a man named Filippo and go on a tour through Florence.
- EPISODE 8 – il Principe del Regno Della Pasta – We are introduced to Angelica and her handler Marco.
- EPISODE 9 – Lycoris Radiata Herb (Cluster Amaryllis) – We are introduced to a cyborg named Elsa and her handler Lauro.
- EPISODE 10 – amare – Cyborgs and their handlers discover news about the death of one of their cyborg’s and handler’s.
- EPISODE 11 – febbre alta – Continuing the storyline as Jose and Henrietta try to learn about the deaths of a cyborg and her handler.
- EPISODE 12 – simbiosi – Angelica is injured during training and now the head of the Social Welfare Agency questions the value of Section 2.
- EPISODE 13 – stella cadente – The cyborg girls go see a meteor shower.
When “Gunslinger Girl” was released on DVD, I know that when I first saw this series, I was happy about how this series tried to capture the settings of Italy, the pureness of the faces of the cyborg girls and then the violence and action sequences.
With that being said, this upconvert on Blu-ray is what one would expect from a series released in 2003. You’re not going to get vibrant colors, you are going to see edge enhancement and truthfully, unless it was released 2008 or later, you’re not going to get gorgeous HD picture quality from this television series. And it’s important that people know it’s a TV series and not a film or OVA which tend to have much more production and a bigger budget in terms of animation and artistic backgrounds.
With that being said, the painted artistic backgrounds are well-done and the character designs (especially facial expressions) based on Yu Aida’s work is also well-done. There is some artifacting and aliasing but I didn’t catch any discoloration problems and I believe the series utilizes DNR (Digital Noise Reduction).
There is a hazy look towards “Gunslinger Girl” but there are episodes such as the final episode that utilizes earthtone colors that do pop but for the most part, the series is not exactly too vibrant but somehow, the look and feel tends to work well with this series.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” features lossless Dolby TrueHD English and Japanese 5.1.
Anime fans have been wanting lossless audio for their Blu-rays especially for the Japanese soundtrack and so far, FUNimation Entertainment has listened with “Ouran High School” and “Gunslinger Girl” series on Blu-ray both receiving lossless Japanese audio.
But I had the opportunity to test out the audio tracks on both vocal tracks and although the series is dialogue/front-channel driven, when the series does include gunfire and machine guns, that is where you will notice the use of the surround channels. Lossless audio is well-done during those action sequences. Also, a good amount of ambient noise such as dogs barking to footsteps can be heard through the surround channel as well.
As for the music, the music is also integrated into the surround channels as well. “Gunslinger Girl” definitely takes advantage of the beautiful musical scores by using it on the surround channels. I don’t recall hearing much LFE though. The series is pretty much center, front and surround channel driven.
As for subtitles, subtitles are in English.
“Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” contains the following special features on disc 2:
- Building Henrietta – (1:05) A musical feature showing how the character of Henrietta is colored and shaded including her weapons and accessories.
- Building Rico- (1:07) A musical feature showing how the character of Rico is colored and shaded including her weapons and accessories.
- Meet the Real Gunslinger Girls: A featurette featuring the English voice dub actresses talking about their characters including Henrietta (Laura Bailey, 4:42), Claes (Alese Watson, 3:00), Angelica (Monica Rial, 4:44), Rico (Luci Christian, 4:48) and Triela (Caitlin Glass, 4:17).
- “Simbiosi” Production Commentary – Audio commentary by the production crew in regards to “Simbiosi” episode and discussion of Italy and writing the English dub for the show and mixing the audio.
- “Simbiosi” Voice Director Commentary - Audio commentary by director and voice talents Christopher Sabat, Laura Bailey, Chris Bevins and Eric Vale. The four discuss their involvement directing the show.
- Dossiers: Dossiers for Henrietta, Claes, Angelica, Rico and Triela. With your remote, you can view text-based information of each character.
- Textless Sons – Textless theme songs for the Opening theme “The Light Before We Land” and the Closing theme “Dop Il Sogno”.
- Trailers - FUNimation Entertainment trailers.
“Gunslinger Girl” is an interesting anime series and some may find comparisons to Yu Aida’s work with Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” in that children are being used by their government as weapons.
The series is not your typical jovial or comedy-driven anime series and nor is lighthearted. The series is about a group of girls who have been brainwashed and cybernetically enhanced to become assassins. But even with their brainwashing, these young girls have been damaged emotionally and psychologically.
This first season focuses on the girls dynamics with one another but also how they interact with their handlers. Some who feel possessive of their handlers and some who push them away. If anything, the series does feature these girls on missions but deep inside, these girls have suffered some unfortunate situations and although wiped out from their memory, you can’t help but feel bad for them because they tend to have emotions that they don’t understand.
In a way, I’m happy to see this serious released on Blu-ray for the fact that many have clamored for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that is much more serious and dramatic. The good news is that “Gunslinger Girl – The Complete First Season” and its sequel “Gunslinger Girl ~Il Teatrino~ – The Complete Series” fits that bill, the bad news for those expecting the latest and best looking anime series on Blu-ray are not going to be happy that these two series are slightly older series that are being upconverted to BD.
So far, there have been a split of anime fans. Those who just want anime on 1080p and are satisfied to have anime on Blu-ray and those who are not thrilled to see upconverts and want native-HD anime on Blu-ray. For me, I’m in the middle and can easily understand both sides.
But I’m not going to complain. “Gunslinger Girl” was a popular series and yes, it has been released several times on DVD but you’re getting a Blu-ray release with slightly better visuals but much better audio quality with both English and Japanese soundtrack provided via lossless. Also, you get a good number of special features in this release.
So, if you have never owned this series on DVD or looking to upgrade your collection to Blu-ray, “Gunslinger Girl – The Complete Series” is an anime series worth considering for your anime on BD collection.
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