Reviewby Luke Carroll, May 29th 2010
Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino- Collection
These are no ordinary children
The girls of the Social Welfare Agency are no ordinary children. They are the grizzly remains of human wreckage pieced back together with cybernetic implants and trained to kill by the government. The oldest, Triela, pursues her targets with a ferocious enthusiasm - unwilling to settle for less than total annihilation.
Her mirror in this bloody stalemate is Pinocchio, a shell of a boy raised as an assassin by the FRF - a terrorist faction at war with the SWA. Cold and cruelly efficient, he wields sharpened steel as though it were his own hand. Once human, these shattered souls have become murderous machines with only vague recollections of what it meant to be real - and a brutal compulsion to be the last killer standing.
In a time period not too far from our own, a number of young girls who are in dire medical straights are given a second chance at life. They're brainwashed, fitted with an array of cybernetic parts, and with the help of their male handlers, are trained to become highly skilled assassins working for the Social Welfare Agency, a secret Government run department aimed at eliminating opposing factions. In this direct sequel, much of the deep character driven storytelling that made the first series so compelling has been put to the side in favour of a more well rounded story that has the terrorists taking on a much more important role.
That terrorist group is none other than the Five Republics Faction. Mentioned in the previous series as being behind most of the terrorist ploys the girls were sent to foil, the F.R.F takes on a much more central role this time as they begin plans to destroy a bridge in the city. Under the guidance of one of the F.P.F leaders, two explosive experts and a young boy assassin named Pinocchio are enlisted to carry out the terrorist attack. Although the main plot does take the back seat for most of the series whilst the girls are given various tasks that involve the F.R.F, the series still manages to retain much of the attention on Pinocchio as well as the explosive experts Franca and Franco, giving them a back story in the process and a reason for doing what they do.
Unfortunately, the impact that the first series had just isn't there this time, and the rather patchy history to Franca and Franco makes it very hard to care for these two at all. The series does at times try to recreate the deepness of its predecessor with a number of segments and an episode dedicated to fleshing out a little bit more about the girls, however they're few and far between, and the whole episode is a rather unthoughtful filler that had already been covered for the most part in the previous series. On a more welcoming note, we are treated to a few interesting back stories of the male handlers, some of which provide little twists to show just how close some of the cast actually are.
Presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen, Il Teatrino visually looks rather nice, although it certainly doesn't shine as often as is did the first series. Considering the massive change in budget, a new animation studio and a new director for the series, it's something that was expected. The cast has also been given a slight makeover, thankfully though its nothing overly drastic. Overall the visuals have if anything, been given a more conforming look than the previous series. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is very much personal choice.
As with the first series, the audio is nothing short of wonderful. The background music is full of wonderful piano pieces never overdoes itself, and the opening theme "Tatta Hitotsu no Omoi" by KOKIA begins with an instrumental and vocal piece that would pierce through even the worst speakers. With this series, we are treated to a 2.0 Japanese and 5.1 English track. The English dub is would certainly come close to being one of Funimation's most credited casts ever assembled. As a result, the dub is very listenable, and the translation work doesn't deviate too often from the original dialogue. With the series being primarily vocal though, the 5.1 surround never gets used to its full potential.
On the extras side of things, we are presented with the same features that the US release received. Included is an interview with the Japanese seiyuu for Marco, a number of original TV commercials, Textless versions of all the opening and closes throughout the series and a set of Madman trailers. A rather surprising but meaningless oversight is the mentioning of "Doll" being a textless opening on both the dvd and the dvd case, when in reality it is the closing song for the series.
When the first series came out, it took the 'girls with guns' idea and turned it into a rather deep tale that made you feel for the cast and the tragedy that their situations really were. Although much of this has been pushed aside, the addition of a much more rounded story with Pinocchio and the perspective given from the terrorist side certainly brings forth a similar yet different satisfaction. Despite these changes, when the series wants to get you deeply, it still can; just don't expect it to happen as much.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : B+
+ Much more well rounded story, Male Handlers are fleshed out much more
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