Reviewby Jacob Chapman, Jan 8th 2010
Gunslinger Girl OVA
After the bridge bombing fiasco has settled, it's business as usual for the Social Welfare Agency, and the Rico-Jean fratello are off to Venice to take down a Mafioso and clean out a den of terrorists. After the dust settles, Guise arranges for a vacation to his family's old sea cottage, inviting Henrietta, Jean, and Rico to come along. The girls find respite in the exquisite grandeur of Sicily, but Jean only finds himself haunted by visions of the past. Meanwhile, Triela stays at the dorms and reminisces with Claes about what they've all gone through.
It's been stated many times that Gunslinger Girl's second season, Il Teatrino, is a disappointing step backwards from where the series had started in artistry and storytelling. However, if there was one thing Il Teatrino possessed that its predecessor did not, it was an engaging plot, full of political intrigue, moral ambiguity, and poignant climaxes to character arcs that had been left hanging from the first season. The conclusion to Il Teatrino was satisfying enough that an OVA doesn't seem terribly necessary, so what do these final two episodes offer?
Sadly, not much of anything. The first episode, The Light of Venice, the Darkness of the Heart, is a complete throwaway as Jean and Rico track down more terrorists hiding out in Italy's famous tourist city where gondolas abound. The terrorist threat itself is not very well explained and rapidly disposed of, and while Rico is given room to expose her inner anxieties, it's nothing we haven't seen before in better episodes of the series. The second episode, Fantasma, appears to be just as trivial but takes an interesting turn halfway through. Throughout two seasons of Gunslinger Girl, only one lead character has never been sufficiently explored: Jean. His bitter mistreatment of Rico has never been explained to even the slightest degree, but when faced with a ghostly figure he's been trying to forget, it all becomes clear. The events that made Guise and Jean react so very differently to their fratello are left largely vague, but their emotional response to the past tragedy is communicated very well in this one key scene. Despite being entrenched in unimpressive filler, Jean's revelation of character after being such a cold fish for 26 episodes is quite rewarding.
Rewarding though it may be, it only opens the door for the series to be continued rather than tying up the second season, which was already succinctly tied up and simply gets revisited during Triela's short scenes in the OVA. This DVD is largely forgettable, for completionists only, but will certainly satisfy fans who wanted to see more of Guise and Jean's souls laid bare…along with their chests in the beach scenes. At the very least, it's a harmless excursion for the story.
The art and animation are congruous with all of Il Teatrino, which is to say it doesn't look very good. The animation, handled by Artland in place of Madhouse who produced the first season, is at least acceptable for an action series. Still, it's loaded with speed lines and jerky transitions, while the conversation-heavy scenes are merely boring and minimalistic, so it doesn't do the series any favors either. Either way, there isn't much action in this OVA to pick on. The real detriment to the series' visuals is the revised art style of Il Teatrino, a creation entirely different from the first season of Gunslinger Girl. (There's also a new voice cast if you're watching in Japanese.)
At best, the new character designs are boring. The handlers' angular faces and smaller eyes make them look more like Ken dolls than conflicted adult characters. At worst, the new designs are garish and unattractive as most of the damage is done to the gunslinging girls. The generic moe-fied faces take all the subtlety out of the girls' expressions, and make the series' focus on them as victimized little girls a moot point now that they look more like plastic figurines. Visually, the series seems burdened with a malaise of flatness. The characters, the backgrounds, and the lighting are bland and lacking in any dimension or expressiveness.
The music is reminiscent of Kou Ohtani's score for Il Teatrino but sounds far less refined. Most of the selections are forgettable, and many overused synthesizer pieces are grating rather than charming. Even Claes' theme, an echoey rendition of Scarborough Fair, returns in a simpler incarnation that lacks the beauty of the original. Performances in either language are solid, but due to a lack of good material to run with in the OVA, there isn't much to comment on beyond that. The series' second season voice cast returns in the OVA, while the English version retains its cast from the first season onward with the exception of Hilshire, who is played by J Michael Tatum replacing Dameon Clarke.
Extras include the clean closers for both episodes (the opening song is not used in the OVA, sadly,) and a myriad of trailers. Also included is a conversation-style interview between the seiyuu for Triela and Hilshire wherein they discuss their experiences working on the show and compete to see who can draw a better picture of Pinocchio. Of course, no one informed Masaya Matsukaze which “Pinocchio” to draw. It's probably more enjoyable than the OVA itself, which possesses none of the beauty and subtlety of the original series, but also lacks the intrigue and excellent writing of Il Teatrino. As such, it doesn't really have anywhere to go.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C+
Art : C
Music : C+
+ Satisfying character development for Guise and especially Jean
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