Reviewby Theron Martin,
The devastating war between the Empire and the Republic of Frost concluded in a cease fire just as Alice, the idealistic, gung-ho, and naïve third daughter of the noble Malvin family, graduated from military school. The ruin of war left much to be done, however, so Alice found her way into Military Intelligence Section 3 (aka Pumpkin Scissors), a division devoted to “war relief.” Though looked down upon by many as nothing more than a propaganda tool, Alice sees great value in helping commoners recover from the disasters of war, whether it be dealing with soldiers turned bandits, nobles who have taken to abusing their subjects, or personally guaranteeing that people will get paid to help clear a tunnel of debris. Her dedication and mission attract the attention of Randel Oland, a calm, scarred giant of a man who was formerly a Corporal in the dreaded 901 ATT, a supposedly non-existent anti-tank platoon legendary amongst tank crews for their zombielike fearlessness and combat prowess against tanks. Drawn in by the potential good that true war relief could do, Randel agrees to join Pumpkin Scissors – fortunately for them, since they occasionally have need of someone who can go face-to-face with a tank.
Want to see a faithful anime adaptation of a manga? Finding a tighter example than the first three episodes of the anime version of Pumpkin Scissors compared to the first thee double-length chapters of Ryotaro Iwanaga's original manga would be tough, as for much of their run the anime episodes follows their corresponding manga chapters line-for-line and panel-for-panel. In fact, the only significant discrepancies so far are that the anime didn't fully animate the Intervals and shunts the parts about the baby, which are scattered throughout the second chapter in the manga, into a separate episode (the 5th) in the animated version. If you have read the manga then you have also effectively seen the anime, and vice versa.
Evaluated independently, one of the two main reasons the Pumpkin Scissors manga works is because of its intriguingly atypical choice of subject matter. Its first volume packs enough exciting action to qualify as an action title, but those scenes are more the consequence of the storytelling than the focus. By focusing on the aftermath of the war and the complications it brings, rather than the events which caused the devastation, Iwanaga takes a road less traveled in action and/or war-related manga. A dual splash page in the prologue, where Oland gazes out across a ruined city in the wake of the cease fire announcement and simply asks “why did they wait so long” sharply defines the series and gives the reader something to think about even when the content occasionally briefly lapses into silliness. By comparison, the first volume's efforts to play up the horror aspect of Oland's status as a Gespenster Jäger (i.e. Death March Trooper) prove only passably effective; the vocal performances and musical backing in the anime makes a big difference here.
The interesting, likable, and nicely complementary pair of lead characters is the other major reason. Alice is too dedicated and enthusiastic for her own good but well-meaning nonetheless and full of the kind of passion which can easily draw a reader to a character. She can act without thinking because she simply does not know any better, and has such a powerful sense of justice that her mortification over discovering that she has unconsciously taken advantage of her status as a noble leads her to overreact in an attempt to make amends for her own perceived thoughtlessness. In many respects she is a child struggling to take her first unsteady steps into adulthood. War-worn and battle-scarred Randel represents her diametric opposite, a man who has seen and done too much and knows how things work. Where Alice is fiery and passionate, Randel is remarkably calm and low-key for a character of his nature, but he lacks a purpose in life or a sense of how to make things better. His encounter with Alice gives him the inspiration and motivation he needs, while his presence acts as a safety valve for Alice and his nature provides the sledgehammer sometimes required to break through the obstacles in their missions. A respectable cast of supporting characters also helps, though none of them get more than a fraction of the development of the leads.
The greatest strength of Iwanaga's artistry lies in its well-staged action scenes, which convey the full sense of movement and danger the imagery is supposed to suggest and throw in a fair amount of strong graphic content for good measure. Its appealing character designs rely very little on typical cutesy stereotypes or standard manga styling (although all of the main characters being adults may also have something to do with that) while also paying great attention to the particulars of noble dress and uniform designs. Detailed renditions of tanks and other military equipment are primarily based on early 20th century German equipment, and background art appears in sufficient detail when needed. In fact, the only thing the artistic effort really lacks is color, which may not even occur as an omission to readers who have not seen the anime version yet but is a glaring absence for those who have. Not all anime adaptations of manga benefit greatly from colorization, but this one certainly does, and the color picture on the front cover pales by comparison.
Del Rey's English production retains all the original Japanese sound effects while pairing them with innocuous English translations. It fronts the volume with the standard two-page explanation of honorifics, although the frequency of titles and ranks used in this volume, and the corresponding lack of characters referring to each other by name, virtually eliminates the need for (and presence of) honorifics. Four pages of translation notes follow the last chapter, including explanations on how and why the German titles used in the series were not translated literally. The volume ends with a four-page dialog-free preview of volume 2.
Those who get their initial exposure to the Pumpkin Scissors franchise through the first volume of the manga should find it to be a solid start to an action series featuring strong lead characters, a good concept, and occasional small touches of humor. Those who see the anime first may find this volume redundant, however, as the animated version of the same content does everything just as accurately and some things a little better.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ Strong lead characters, interesting concept, well-drawn action scenes.
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