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Gunslinger Girls


Grade: B+

Genre: Action

Reviewed: Sub

Episodes: 13 episodes



Young girls with tragic pasts are brainwashed, given mechanical parts, and trained to be assassins for a secret organization. They lead short lives while trying to hold onto some glimmer of happiness and hope, and fixating on their "big brothers."


Animation is excellent, with a lovely aesthetic feel, and the guns are accurately rendered. The series takes place predominantly in Italy and it often feels like a travelogue. The character designs are done in a typical shoujo style, which makes the events feel surreal despite the cruel reality of the situation, that these aren't little girls but programmed dolls. A couple of the handlers and girls look too similar to tell apart easily and you have to pay attention to remember which girl belongs to which handler.

Each episode starts off with a beautiful opening ballad, "The Light Before We Land" and ends with another wonderful song of an interesting mix of opera and rap. Overall score was also excellent, especially the (gun) sound effects.

Voice acting is nicely subdued and the girls' voices are not too high pitched or annoying which is often common of anime with little girls.


Each girl has a tragic past, where some are elaborated on while others are not. They usually have no relatives and are on the verge of death when the "public welfare office" steps in to save their lives and reconditions them for its experiments. The girls are fitted with cybernetic arms and legs and programmed with "restrictions" which make the girls forget their past and allow them to kill without feelings or hesitation. When they fail, more restrictions are added which further compromise their minds and body. As part of a fratello (brother-sister pairing), each girl is assigned a "big brother," a male handler who trains her and accompanies her on missions.

Each of the six girls has her own episode(s) where her relationship with her handler is explored. The other episodes mostly consist of their assassination missions where the actions scenes are quite bloody and exciting and well choreographed. This series is character driven with no real sustained plot. Pacing is generally slow except during the actual action scenes. Overall this anime has a rather depressing aura. It is very gripping at times but you must buy into the angst. The girls actually don't exhibit much angst themselves, since their emotions are muted, but yet their internal angst is effectively conveyed to the viewer.

The angst typically comes from the conflict with their handlers and also from some of the handlers themselves who have mixed feelings about their charges:

Jose-Henrietta: Jose treats Henrietta like his dear little sister and buys her gifts and openly shows his affection

Jean-Rico: Jean treats Rico as a disposable tool and even gives her a boy's name to show how indifferent he is to her

Hirschire-Triela: Hirschire doesn't know how he should treat Triela. He's generally good to her but not close.

Raballo -Claes: Raballo has misgivings about the entire program. He treats Claes almost like a daughter.

Marco-Angelica: Angelica is the prototype. Marco at first treats Angelica like a daughter, but as her memory fades, he divorces his feelings and treats her indifferently and coldly, afraid to get hurt himself.

Lauro-Elsa: Lauro treats Elsa as a disposable tool despite her devotion to him.

Despite the nicely drawn personalities and relationships, this series is too short and has too many characters to have any real character development and the characterizations end up being rather stereotypical. The main theme appears to be the ephemeral nature of life and how despite everything, human beings try to adapt and cope and attain happiness. Despite the brainwashing and the use of "restrictions" the girls act pretty much like normal young girls. Most of them interact with each other and some have special feelings for their handlers to the point of obsession. Like others their age they seek praise and love but unfortunately have to settle for the first. They appear to be happy and well adjusted, though the viewer recognizes it's an act, something they've brainwashed themselves into believing.

There's no real ending as there is no real plot. Things are just as they are and will continue to be until their bodies give up, although there are hints that internal conflicts within the agency might lead to the program's demise.

Rated PG-13 for violence. Recommended for those who like angst with their action or vice versa, but don't require a substantial plot.