ADV Films // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // April 28th, 2005
Darkness lurks in the shadows, and no one is what they seem.
Madlax is a mercenary plying her trade in the war-torn country of Gazth-Sonika. Margaret Burton is a young orphan growing up in the peaceful nation of Nafrece. These seemingly unrelated lives are connected by the blood-stained pages of a picture book and by the Enfant criminal organization's attempts to obtain the book. Or something like that.
ADV's first volume of episodes from the Madlax anime series contains four installments. Here's a brief synopsis:
* "Gun Dance"
Madlax parachutes into the middle of Gazth-Sonika's civil war. Her mission: to retrieve information being carried by a member of the Garza guerilla forces.
* "Red Moon"
Young Margaret Burton goes about her normal routine: being awakened by her servants, arriving late for school, and window shopping. Margaret runs into Vanessa Renee, a former neighbor and employee of Bookwald, the largest corporation in Nafrece. Margaret accompanies Vanessa to her office, where the young girl encounters a mysterious stranger who claims to know her. Upon returning home, Margaret digs through a trunk and removes a picture book her father had given her before his death. Many of the book's pages are splattered with blood. Meanwhile, a religious artifact is delivered to a cathedral in Gazth-Sonika.
* "Blue Moon"
SSS, Madlax's chief, assigns her to assassinate Guen McNichol, an officer in the army of Gazth-Sonika. Madlax is taken aback when she learns that McNichol himself has taken out the contract on his life. Back in Nafrece, Vanessa receives word that Madlax has been hired to kill McNichol.
Anne Morey, a young girl who attends the same school as Margaret, murders her father and then commits suicide by leaping out a window. Detective Marini, the cop in charge of the investigation, is initially unable to find a motive, although he later becomes convinced that the criminal organization known as Enfant played a role in the crime. Marini is ordered to halt his investigation, and he quickly finds his life in the clutches of Enfant's leaders.
The first episode of Madlax hits the ground running, almost literally. There's pretty much wall-to-wall action as Madlax attempts to hook up -- in both senses -- with a young rebel. The second episode totally switches gears with the introduction of Margaret. It's much quieter and more contemplative and moves at a much more deliberate pace. It's a little jarring at first, although I get the impression the creators are looking to juxtapose the lives of Madlax and Margaret before the plotlines actually become fully intertwined. There are hints about the connection between the two leads, the biggest being that strange book Margaret has. Sprinkled throughout these episodes are flashes of a young, fatherless girl wandering through a wasteland. If I've read things correctly, this young girl, whose name is Laetitia, is really the young Madlax. Laetitia makes mention of a book her father read to her, and I imagine this is the same book Margaret's father left her. What's in the book? That I don't know. I do, however, suspect that Vanessa, who's definitely mixed up in all the mysterious background dealings, knows Margaret has the book. Of course, I could be totally off base with all of this, but I do know some weird stuff is going on here, and I do know I like it.
ADV has performed a bang-up job on the technical side of this release. The transfer is dead-on, and both audio options perform nicely. There's a very good spread and a fair amount of bass activity in the original Japanese track; the soundstage in the 5.1 English mix is nice and wide, with good surround and bass action, although the voice acting is pretty much atrocious. Extras include clean opening and closing sequences, an unused opening sequence (there's not a world of difference between it and the one that appears in the show), some promo spots, production sketches, a preview for the second volume in the series, and something called "Conversations with SSS." This last feature, which uses re-dubbed clips from various episodes, is a series of exceedingly unfunny gag phone calls between Madlax's boss and several of the other characters. It runs about eight minutes, and by the end I was just praying to die.
I can't say I fully understand what's happening in Madlax, but it offers enough clues for me to be able to come up with a couple of ideas about where things are headed, and I'm intrigued enough to stick around to find out how it all comes together. Definitely recommended.
Review content copyright © 2005 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Clean Opening and Closing Animation
* Japanese Promo Spots
* Production Sketches
* Unused Opening Sequence
* "Conversations with SSS" Featurette
* Volume 2 Preview
* Official Site
* Anime News Network Page