Gunslinger Girl Volume 1: Ragazzine Piccole, Armi Grandi (Little Girls, Big Guns)


Rating: TV-14

Laura Bailey as Henrietta
Luci Christian as Rico
Caitlin Glass as Triela
Alese Johnson as Claes

Special Features:
Building Henrietta
Starter Set includes 24″ x 36″ burnished bantam banner

Other Info:
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (16:9)
Region: 1 and 4 (NTSC)
Soundtracks: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Stereo, Japanese Stereo
Subtitles: English (optional)
Running Time: 125 Minutes

Gunslinger Girl originated as a manga by Yu Aida serialized in the magazine Gekkan Comic Dengeki Daioh, and was adapted into a 13-episode anime TV series that aired in Japan in 2003-04. This DVD contains the first five episodes of Funimation’s English adaptation of the series.

From the DVD cover: Officially, the Social Welfare Agency is a government sponsored corporation that’s in the business of saving lives. In reality, it’s an agency on the fringe of technology. They give terminal patients another shot at life using cybernetic implants. This conditioning process then shapes the patient into an efficient machine for handling all of the government’s dirty work.

Having survived the brutal slaughter of her family, Henrietta awakens to her new life at the Agency with a re-built body and no memory of the past. She has been teamed with her handler Jose, who is responsible for her training and conditioning, turning her into the perfect killing machine. Henrietta strives to find her place within the Agency, doing her best to win Jose’s affection. But can Jose control her? Can he balance the needs and desires between the assassin and the developing adolescent?

Who are these girls?

They’ve been given a second chance at lifeĀ… But at what cost?

Gunslinger Girl is rated TV-14 for bloody violence.

The Series:
There is a popular genre of anime known as “Girls with Guns.” These are generally action-comedies featuring buxom heroines, lots of explosions, and wall-to-wall fanservice.

Don’t be fooled by the title. Gunslinger Girl is not a Girls with Guns series. The girls in question are barely adolescent, there is (thankfully) no fanservice, and everything is played with a straight face. On the surface, the concept can seem ridiculous: children are fitted with cybernetic implants and mentally conditioned to be deadly assassins. But take away the cybernetics, and the premise is really not any more far-fetched than, say, children fighting guerrilla wars in Africa or becoming suicide bombers in the Middle East. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief and accept the premise, watching Gunslinger Girl can be an intense and more than slightly disturbing experience.

The first five episodes concentrate on introducing the characters. There are five girls at the Social Welfare Agency – Henrietta, Rico, Triela, Claes, and Angelica, and we meet all but Angelica on the first disc. We also meet their handlers, known as “fratello” (brothers), who are responsible for the girls’ training and conditioning However, only Henrietta’s fratello Jose treats his young charge with anything resembling brotherly affection. There is little action in the first five episodes, but when it arrives it packs a wallop. The series so far is rather episodic; if there is an overarching plot to this, there’s not much time left to flesh it out, given that the series is only 13 episodes long.

Technically, this is a fine release, with a nice widescreen video transfer and English 5.1 soundtrack (the Japanese soundtrack is 2.0). The voice acting is fine, though the actresses playing the girls can’t quite sound young enough. The consistent mispronunciation of “Jose” got on my nerves after a while as well.

The Extras:
Like most Funimation TV anime releases, Gunslinger Girl is light on extras. It’s quite forgivable in this case since the disc is jam-packed with five episodes, leaving little room for extras.

Building Henrietta – not about building Henrietta the cyborg, this is a layer-by-layer buildup of a Henrietta cel. Interesting only to animation fans; it shows how Digital Ink & Paint has allowed for more detail in character animation.

Songs – the opening and closing theme songs, “The Light Before We Land” and “Dopo Il Sogno”, presented without the credits.

Dossiers – character descriptions of all five girls and their favorite weapons, including the yet-to-be introduced Angelica.

Trailers – commercials for other Funimation titles, including Gunslinger Girl volume 2, Dragon Ball Z, Lupin III, and Burst Angel.

The Limited Edition Starter Set includes the volume 1 DVD, a box to hold all three eventual volumes, and a 24″ x 36″ banner depicting all five girls. The banner is fairly high quality, though there are a few loose threads in the hem around the border. Unlike anime wall banners sold standalone, it lacks the bar across the top needed to hang it. You can add a bar, or simply tack it up.

The Bottom Line:
Gunslinger Girl is a character-driven series with much potential, though it has few episodes left to fulfill it. Those looking for a “girls with guns” action/fanservice series should look elsewhere.