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Gunslinger Girl, Vol. 3
A region 2 DVD review by CNash
"It's just the thought of these little girls who can kill terrorists
and speak three languages... and here they are, singing Beethoven
in the bitter cold. It's a shame they have to be cyborgs."


I feel I've made all of my most pertinent comments on Gunslinger Girl's sound and visual effects in my review for Volume 1; if you have yet to read it, that review goes into more detail about the background to the story and the characters. Also note Volume 2.

This year's most emotionally heart-rending animé, Gunslinger Girl draws to a close with Volume 3 (released 31st July). Cracks begin to show in the structure of Section 2's cyborg operation when a fratello (girl and handler) pairing are murdered in unknown circumstances, Section 1 is brought in to investigate, and Angelica begins to fail missions more and more often.

Volume 3 contains four episodes; 10-13 of 13:

10: "To Love"
Elsa and Lauro, her handler, are found dead in a forest clearing. The head of Section 1 decides to send in two operatives to investigate not only the murder, but the nature of Section 2's fratello.

11: "High Fever"
The Section 1 agents meet Henrietta and José in Sicily, where they're taking a vacation, and Henrietta shows them what being in a fratello really means to her.

12: "Symbiosis"
Angelica's condition worsens as her handler Marco reluctantly allows her out on missions. This culminates in a raid on the revolutionary faction's main hideout, where Angelica is almost killed.

13: "Falling Star"
Despite Angelica's failing, life goes on as normal for the girls of Section 2, with only a rare meteor shower to brighten their spirits.

It's rather sad that only here, in the final volume, does the series present characters who may not be as comfortable with the idea of adolescent killing machines. The two agents from Section 1, who investigate Elsa and Lauro's deaths, seem at first to be merely curious about the brainwashing "conditioning" process and the level of the girls' devotion to their handlers, but – even though it isn't said on camera – you can tell that inside, the agents aren't as happy to be using the children in this way as the Section 2 handlers, who are used to the whole process.

And that, I suppose, leads back to Gunslinger Girl's overriding question: if you could save a child's life by giving her cybernetic implants, would you do so, even if it meant signing her life away to be used as an assassin? After watching the whole series of this thought-provoking animé, I think my answer would be "yes." As the series goes on, the viewer gets a closer look at how these girls live. They have emotions, personal relationships, and a desire to grow and become more than what they are. They're not puppets controlled by a sinister government agency. The relationships between the girls and their handlers is what shapes their personalities; if they're treated like tools, then that's what they'll be.

It's interesting to see how the ones who don't have a very personal relationship with their handler, like Triela and Claes, are the most level-headed and unencumbered by emotions such as love. This doesn't make them any less of a person; just a different person than someone who's been shown affection, like Henrietta. The bond between Henrietta and José, I thought, was not developed as much as it could have been. Most of the non-action, character-based episodes are about Henrietta, and I was expecting José to crack under the strain of having to do this to a young girl all the time – but I suppose that would undermine Gunslinger Girl's most prominent message: life goes on, despite even the most horrendous circumstance. The girls have to take every day as a blessing, and have only the little things – the meteor shower, etc. – to give them happiness in their lives. As I predicted when I first saw the series, there's little or no character closure here. There doesn't need to be.

Gunslinger Girl is an animé that is able to scatter its viewers' emotions, and poses some of the most thought-provoking questions that I've ever seen. The deliberate "floaty" overexposed animation technique benefits it greatly; my thought was that it makes the girls' lives seem less "real", which is precisely the point – their lives aren't "normal" or "real" by any stretch of the imagination. More than any other series I've seen this year, Gunslinger Girl shows us that there's more to life – and more to the genre – than guns, action and explosions, and I for one would like to see more series that are unafraid to challenge viewers' moralities and ask poignant questions.

sound and vision

The anamorphic widescreen transfer is consistent with previous volumes, with colour and detail generally pleasing, and the slight softness and sometimes overexposed look looking very much like deliberate artistic choices. There is a very slight shimmer to the picture in places that could be the result of an NTSC to PAL conversion.

Again we have the Japanese 2.0 original soundtrack and the 5.1 surround redub, and again the English track is sonically superior with better voice matching to the original than many animé series.

extra features

Volume 3 is the only volume with audio commentaries; in fact, there are two of them. The Production Commentary features sound and visual editors, plus the packaging designer for the series. Discussions range from the process of putting the localised English language version into production, to some marketing techniques used for the series. Meanwhile, the Voice Director Commentary – featuring all four ADR directors, two of whom also provided character voices – is much more fun. Just like the Burst Angel commentaries, the directors goof around and make lame wisecracks at each other, while also providing great insights into how the actors were cast, and how they all viewed the series.

Once again, there's a quick featurette on character design – this time, Building Triel, which isn't all that it appears – the viewer is told that "Due to security issues, the Social Welfare Agency declined to disclose details of Triela at this time", and instead shows another image of Henrietta. Text-free opening and closing credits are provided, plus the obligatory trailers: Blue Gender and Fullmetal Alchemist

Gunslinger Girl, Vol. 3

Japan 2002
125 mins
Morio Aasaka

DVD details
region 2
16:9 anamorphic
Dolby surround 5.1
Dolby stereo 2.0
Production commentary
Voice director commentary
Character design featurette

release date
31 July 2006
review posted
30 July 2006

related reviews
Gunsliger Girl,
Vol. 1
Gunsliger Girl,
Vol. 2

See all of CNash's reviews