Reviewby Theron Martin,
DVD - Box Set Season 1 Part 2
(NOTE: Since episodes 21-24 are the only new episodes to be released since July 2008, this review will primarily concentrate on those four episodes.)
As commoners crash the noble's party with accusations against Marquis Paulo and Section 1 maneuvers for their power play, Alice takes action by challenging the Marquis to a duel. Though she claims to fight for the integrity of the nobles and to bring the Marquis to justice, far more stands at stake as commoners who feel they have nothing to lose thirst for justice and a pair of intimidating bodyguards step forward to fight in the Marquis's stead. While Alice fights her battle and struggles to keep the situation from collapsing, Oland must confront his own nature, and decide on his own identity, in a connected battle against a flail-wielding opponent while the rest of Section 3 looks on. Commander Hunks still has a trick or two up his sleeve, however, and as everyone soon learns, Alice is not a woman to be taken lightly.
For all of their laudable moves in 2008, Funimation also created a debacle in their handling of the late individual volumes of Pumpkin Scissors and a couple of other titles. What would seemingly be an easy task – i.e. just releasing the final individual volume – has been mishandled greatly in Funi's rush to produce and release 12-13 episode seasonal boxed sets of many of their acquisitions from ADV. As of this writing, the release of volume 6 of this series has been pushed back yet again (to February 10th), forcing fans of the series to either break down and pay a second time for episodes 13-20 or wait an addition 2½ months beyond the Part 2 release date to see the final few episodes. Given that two release dates have been missed so far, there's no guarantee Funimation will make this one, either. They owe fans of the series an explanation on this whole mess.
Regrettably, the final four episodes will not offer much satisfaction for having endured the long wait. Sure, they deliver a few strong moments, such as the creepy intensity of Oland finally turning the tables on his foe, Alice gaining her second wind in the central fight, Commander Hunks getting the better of his Section 1 rival with his typical deadpan style, or Lionel's classic expression of fearful exhilaration as he realizes just what he has found in his fiancée Alice, but every good scene is weighted down by the sad struggle to stretch less than two full episodes of actual plot into four in an approach reminiscent of shonen action series at their worst. Whatever other problems the series may have had, it generally briskly moved its story along in 1-2 episode mini-arcs, but here it eschews that structure in favor of a fight scene that lasts the better part of three episodes. Any attempts at political and military intrigue get bogged down in the weak efforts to create an incessant threat level from the commoner mob and the tiresomely overplayed Rodalian mercenaries. When the writing backs itself into a corner in the final episode, it resorts to a less than convincing capitulation of guilt to partly resolve the matter.
The end of the series is also a mixed bag. It does provide a semblance of a wrap-up, does show Oland's acceptance of his role in the scheme of things, does semi-successfully promote Alice as a paragon of what it truly should mean to be a noble in this world (i.e. noble in character as well as station) and does bring the series squarely back to its “war reparations” foundation, but it also leaves a number of plot threads dangling, including a major one about the whole scheme involving the masked man. It also ends with a sense that Alice's story has only begun to be told. Unfortunately a follow-up series seems unlikely even though the story clearly is not done.
The fight choreography and animation actually aren't bad at all - the psychological aspects have some merit and Alice's “secret technique” is an interesting, if questionably effective, fighting method based on the name of an actual historical weapon – but the feature duel between Alice and the Rodalian mercenary cannot hold a candle to the deft footwork and smooth movements of equivalent scenes in Le Chevalier d'Eon. Other factors that have been consistent technical strengths remain, such as the sharp costume designs (especially Alice's dress), the frightful confluence of artistry and music in Oland's lantern moments, and well-defined character designs in major roles, as well as consistent quality control. The commoners have less distinctive appearances, but overall this is still a good-looking series and its final episodes do offer just a little fan service. The effectiveness of the musical score varies more, though it does retain its strong original opener and more high-spirited closer through to the end.
If you liked the English dub in previous volumes then the final few episodes will do nothing to disappoint you. Likewise, if you did not like the English dub in previous volumes then the final few episodes do little to win you over. Most roles hit the mark and the English script interprets little beyond what is necessary to make the dialogue sound smoother in English, creating a fully serviceable if not especially exciting impression.
Funimation has crammed all twelve episodes in the second half of the series onto a pair of thinpacked disks which come in their own artbox. It does not offer any Extras beyond company previews, however.
Pumpkin Scissors had a chance here to finish on a high note and pretty much blew it. While it does succeed in casting Alice as a strong heroine, it wastes some good technical merits and a few worthy scenes with trite, laconic writing stretched annoyingly thin. This could have been so much better.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B
+ A few strong individual scenes, sharp character and costume designs.
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