What They Say:
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.
I watched the first episode in Japanese, and the second in English – the Japanese in standard 2.0 stereo format with the English episode in 5.1 Dolby Surround. The audio in English hits best as you can immediately distinguish the sounds between several background sounds and it’s very clear, one of the clearest I’ve heard, sadly this means it shows how different it is to the Japanese stereo, which whilst is still good, you just wish that all releases had this option in Japanese as well as English. The audio has no sync problems with subtitles although in the extras, a few times the subtitles time out with the audio (the subtitles are taking off way too quickly) so whilst the show is fine, the extras it’s very noticeable.
The video on the other hand has several issues. Whilst from watching Il Teatrino many fans had problems with the animation, this is presented much worse, as the way the visual show are exceptionally grainy, particularly in any scene when the background is clear. This made harder to watch than expected even on a HD TV, which as you probably guessed, is certainly not what you expect when putting a DVD on in this situation. It almost seems quite faded during the clear shots, which contrasts with the action shots which are much better, though again when you were a huge fan of the original GSG series and see the downgrades of animation, it doesn’t help when the video seems as poor as it appears. There were no issues regarding transition with subtitles though.
There was no packaging for this release.
The menu is standard, with a picture of Henrietta, which again, looks rather sketchy and actually was able to see a few markings on it as well to add to the other visual issues. The selections are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. The episode select consists of just the two OVA episodes with no scene select, all the choices are easy to access on the menu with minimum difficulty.
The only extra was an interesting interview between Atsuko Enomoto (Triela) and Masaya Matsukaze(Hillshire). Interestingly it only has Hillshire’s seiyuu as being involved yet it’s a joint sit down interview where Enomoto asks the questions, and she gets asked questions by him too. Also it alluded to it being part of a previous special, which is lost on English speaking viewers (same with the ads at the end of it) so unsure why that was kept in. The interview is 24 minutes long and it appears this is from the Il Teatrino Japanese discs because they talk about how the focus is on the two characters with clips from the show, despite neither character featuring much at all in the OVAS. They discuss their relationship for about half of the interview, which is good especially as Triela is my favourite of the cyborgs, but felt there wasn’t enough between the two as they went into a drawing contest at the end, as they both tried to draw Pinnochio, the ‘villain’ from Il Teatrino. It’s done both in full screen and split screen format to see them both, and is actually quite funny, when Enomoto wins, Matsukaze has to do an impression of one of the characters, and she keeps asking him to do Henrietta. He finally does ‘Etta’ which is as funny as it sounds. It was quite fun, but felt would have enjoyed more discussion between the two about the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For those who aren’t in the know, I am a huge fan of the original Gunslinger Girl. It’s great animation, attention to details with the weapons, tragic stories and characterization has made it a firm favourite for many years for me. Il Teatrino on the other hand had a lot of detractors, mainly for its severe drop of quality in animation and a complete change to the original Japanese cast (to my happiness, the dub cast was kept the same). On the flip side though, it also covered my favourite arc in the manga, the Pinnochio arc, which basically seems to change from Henrietta as the focus to Triela, which had some great battles both physically and psychologically with my favourite cyborg from the series, so I actually enjoyed how it ended – it wasn’t a patch animation wise from GSG, but it still got a B+ on how well the arc was handled.
This OVA however simply asks why was it made or included. There are reasons, and it does give back-story to something that had only been made mention of a few times, but to pay £15 for basically less than hour on two side stories which could have been added to the main release does make you question why it was done.
The first OVA ep focuses on Jean, who mostly until now, has been seen as the real bastard of the group. He’s the only one who treated his cyborg, the always happy Rico, as a tool, which makes it more worse as Rico is the most happy-go-lucky of the girls so she never seems to mind the abuse. This episode begins to try and change are minds about him as he seems to begin to care more about Rico than he lets on, but also starts the first real thoughts about what he (and in the second OVA ep Jose) see the girls are, perhaps replacements for their deceased little sister. Jean visits his fiancée’s grave, where he meets up with her brother and the two have some heated words. Realizing he is part of a left wing movement, he and Jose stop him before he goes too far when attacking a terrorist base, and they leave it up to him (sadly, we only get cameos between the cast that isn’t Jose/Henrietta and Jean/Rico, so this episode features Angelica and Rocco briefly, whilst Triela/Claes/Hillshire get their moments in the second OVA) – Keeping the theme of their work vs. feelings, Jean goes to attack a Venice terrorist base as Rico as always, is underestimated being a little girl and gets to kick a lot of butt. However, when some of the terrorists flee from a boat, Rico is shot and nearly drowns, as Jean actually goes into save her. This is a far cry from the guy who only saw her as a tool, and if she ‘died’ could replace her. Not only does he save her, he lets her play on the beach for a while which does bring in some noticeable character development for him in that regard.
The second OVA brings Henrietta and Jose to the field, as in a call back to the first series, they join the two on vacation in the summer house Jose and Henrietta stayed in on their last visit to Sicily. The plot thickens regarding the fratello’s minds when Henrietta discovers the clothes of the Croce brothers’ dead younger sister, Enrica, in the closet and Jose has her wear one of her summer dresses. When Jean, slightly drunk, sees Henrietta in that outfit, he has to double take and we begin to see a side of Jose that hints that maybe he isn’t doing everything out of kindness for Henrietta and Jean sees it for what it is, but at the same time blames it on himself in not being more stern with how Jose treats his cyborg. To be honest, this is pretty much it as Jean is the primary focus of both episodes, and whilst there is a brief moment where we get to cut back to Triela talking with Claes about how she felt about beating Pinocchio, it’s basically about Jose seeing Henrietta as a replacement for their sister, and how Jean feels about it.
This is why I feel this OVA wasn’t really necessary. First of all, the main focus has always been on the girls. If this arc had more episodes or another season, I could accept it, but it ends on the two brothers seeing the girls play on the beach. Having the most unsympathetic character begin to show character development is good, and it’s great that I can write about Jean without referring to any swear words. However, because there is no pay off (as of yet) it feels this could have been added to the main series and it wasn’t necessary to release it as a separate DVD. And with only two episodes, they have to condense a lot, which means you only get cameos of the other girls – so Triela, the star of Il Teatrino, and where her background, training and epic battle with Pino was the main focus, is reduced to a 3 minute cameo says how she felt she lost when won, is certainly not rewarding for an OVA release like this. Even worse, there is very little focus on the action scenes, as Rico’s scenes are over in a few minutes, and Henrietta is barely focused on bar Jean’s reaction to wearing Enrica’s clothes. The Enrica dream sequence was quite interesting, but again, there was no pay off, and unless a new season comes out, there won’t be which makes this release for me, rather pointless. As a GSG fan, I enjoyed them, but felt it was wasted opportunity and in turn, an unnecessary release.
The Il Teatrino OVAS would have been fine if they were in the main show as two episodes intermixed with the series, or included as extras in the box set. As a stand out release, it does feel rushed and a waste of money. Jean’s character development can be seen as something interesting with the storyline bringing Enrica into it and the fact he sees Rico as more than a tool is more than welcome, but other than that, it really felt like filler. And that’s not what I expect a series like Gunslinger Girl to churn out. If you’re a fan of the GSG manga like myself and want to fill in as much as you can despite the much poorer animation quality, get it but only when it’s much cheaper, as £15 pound for 2 episodes less than an hour when some releases are £25 for 13 episode series/arcs is for me a real waste of money.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Interview
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 24th, 2011
Running Time: 47 minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.