oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I read the first two volumes of this and watched the anime about two years ago.

I'm continually surprised by how this series manages to evade the sketchiness that seems inherent in the premise. Instead, the series continues to examines the tragedies and trauma of the fratello and the girls, along with pulling in a few more side characters for a side arc involving a non-Agency assassin who parallels the cyborg girls—his father figure trained him as an assassin starting from youth.

I had complained that the first two volumes were too one-offish for me; the next four aren't strongly arc-y, but the plot to capture the terrorists (thankfully NOT Middle Eastern or Muslim for once!) thickens. The series has also been layering in characterization; we gradually begin to see more and more of where the girls come from and what the fratello's backgrounds are.

I also like how it's so far avoided glamorizing violence. Plus, I keep reading the Agency as an extended analogy of the patriarchy: men determining the fate of girls, from their faces to their very bone structures, and then proceeding to brainwash them into acceptance of their role. I'm not sure how much of this is intended by Aida, but I'm glad that we're clearly supposed to read the Agency as dysfunctional, and not in a romanticized way.

On the other hand, I am a little worried about the newest cyborg assassin we're introduced to; she's older than most of them, and I really do not want the manga moving into sketchy sexual territory with her.

I think I'll end up wanting to own this. It's a little slow, but very dense, and it seems like it'll reward rereading, particularly with regard to bits of characterization that are slowly being revealed.

Definitely recommended, and I'm glad to see that the second season of the anime's coming out next year.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
The anime is based on the manga, of which I've only read two volumes.

The little tagline above the silhouetted girl and her violin case reads: "The girl has a mechanical body. However, she is still an adolescent child." That basically sums up the series.

The Social Welfare Agency takes young girls who have been in some sort of traumatic accident, rehabilitates them with mechanical parts, and trains them to be assassins. The girls are all assigned a fratello, a partner who is always an adult man. It sounds like a set-up that could lead to many squicky scenarios, and yet, the anime is a very slow character study of all six of the girls and their relationships with their fratellos. Some, like Henrietta, are lucky and are basically treated like daughters or younger sisters. Others are treated as mere tools.

The animation isn't gorgeous, but it's not shoddy either, and the movement makes up for a certain blockiness in the character design and the manga panelling that made the manga more difficult to read. I also love that it's set in Italy and that it has completely gratuitous landscape shots of Florence and the Duomo and Rome and the Spanish Steps and etc.

There's not a real plotline so far. Each episode is very much a stand-alone, and while Henrietta gets most of the focus, the other five girls each have episodes dedicated to them as well, and their Tragic Backstories, along with the Tragic Backstories of their fratellos. (Tell me I'm not spoiling anything. This is anime! What did you expect?)

As a whole, the series seems to be playing off on the girls' innocence (most are pre-adolescent) and their bloody work. Strangely, though I could see this being fetishized, it really doesn't feel like it. We see that the girls are doing it for their fratellos, sometimes in a dysfunctional way, but that's more the fault of the Social Welfare Agency. What they do isn't presented as cool or glamorous; it's grunt work that they do because they have to.

Also, I love that the series can have lines like:

Triela (the only adolescent girl): Man, I hate cramps.
Henrietta (unemotionally): Oh, I never get them. They removed my uterus.

All spoken calmly over a nice cup of tea.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
The cover of Gunslinger Girl has a pre-adolescent, innocent-looking girl with a sad face wielding a giant machine gun.

Have I mentioned how predictable I was?

In a manga-version of Italy (aka, set there so people can have names like Giuseppe and Tiela and go to assorted piazzas), there's a government agency that takes in young girls when they're near death and makes them into cyborgs. The girls are conditioned to be assassins and paired up with a handler (almost always an adult male), with whom they train and go on missions. The series so far is really a bunch of shorts on the girls in the program, all of whom are struggling with being human and normal when they're cyborg killing machines. There are ruminations on the messed-up nature of the cyborg/handler relationship -- some handlers treat their assignees as tools, others treat them as daughters, and thankfully, there are no horribly squickly Lolita-like fantasies. There's lots of angst.

The art is a bit blocky and not always wonderful, but of course, I love it to pieces. I have also stuck the anime in my Netflix queue. [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija, I'm not sure if this hits your bulletproof kink, given that they're not mutants, but it is a school of special kids.

I was getting a little tired of the one-offs and wanted a longer, angstier arc, but I suspect I will keep reading this because... angsty little girls who are cyborg killing machines!

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