Funimation // 2008 // 315 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // September 18th, 2009
Every weapon has a limit.
The original Gunslinger Girl was widely talked about in anime circles, when it made its debut a few years back. The series was popular but divisive, due to both the tone of the show and its subject matter. Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino takes a slightly different approach, but how does it fare?
Section II of Rome's Social Welfare Agency are not your typical young girls. These children form the core of a dedicated anti-terrorism force, saved from death by the government, trained and equipped to become a lethal assassination squad. When a terrorist group called the FRF declares war on the government, the oldest of the girls, Treila, finds herself coming face to face with "Pinocchio," a boy with similar skills and abilities. What follows is a dark and emotional ride.
Gunnslinger Girl, in spite of its popularity, fell a little flat for me. While I did enjoy the moody drama that comes with giving children machine guns and training them to kill, the show failed to engage me, with little in the way of focus or direction. Il Teatrino is a huge improvement in that regard. The show shifts from the rather trite Henrietta/Jose relationship to the oldest of the group, a young teen named Treila, and her personal thoughts after a less than successful mission. Also present this time around is a more overarching plot that comes together pretty well in the final few episodes, unlike the more episodic, loose feel of the original series. The show still has that dark, emotional edge found in the first season, but the emotional consequences of turning children into hitmen and their relationships with their "Fratella" handlers takes a back seat to more personal and political issues. The show is the better for it, though the focus shift does make the first season something of a necessity, as the creators pretty much assume you've seen the first 13 episodes and chuck you right into the thick of things.
Technically, Funimation continues its streak of strong technical packages with solid video and some great sound. The English 5.1 track is a keeper, with some great sound effects, particularly when bullets fly. This is one of those shows that works much better in its English dubbed form, as the characters are wonderfully cast and acted, and the nuances of their characters translates better than it does in the Japanese track, which is your typically over-emoted anime fare. All of the voice cast from Season One return, which keeps things cohesive. The opening theme is one of the best pieces of music I've heard, as far as J-pop is concerned. The series standard music doesn't fare near so well, a problem was shared with Season One.
Il Teatrino does lose a step or two on a technical level. The writing is more straight-forward this time around. It's still heavy on the melancholy, but the show lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor, even if the tighter focus does make the overall plot more engaging. The character designs have also mutated slightly, eyes are a little bigger, faces are a little rounder, and everything looks a little more "manga-ish." The quality of the animation has also become a little more erratic. The shift in studios from Madhouse to Artland is probably to blame. When it's good, it outstrips anything in the original series, but it often dips well below the standard set by Madhouse, when it comes to level of detail and poorly rendered background plates.
Extras are typically sparse. Textless openings and closings, a few commercials, and an interview with one of the Japanese cast.
While the technical elements of Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino fall short of the original series, the more tightly focused plot is a winner. A worthy follow-up, in my mind.
Slightly disturbing, often emotionally draining, but certainly not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 315 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Textless Open/Close