January 04, 2015

First Episode Writeup #4

I find that I'm enjoying these one episode writeups!  There's no long-term commitment involved, I'm not devoting myself to watching the entire series, I can pull out every joke I can think of and use 'em all at once, it's great!  Even better, if I miss a plot point or something, it doesn't matter!  For example, in my very first series writeup (Ga-Rei Zero) I completely missed the significance of the blue butterflies and the gray-haired prettyboy in the first episode... who knew he'd be the Big Bad?  As an aside, after re-reading that series of writeups, I should go redo them in my improved style... hm.  Food for thought.  Anyway.  We're not here to discuss that series, we're here to discuss a new First Episode Writeup!  What poor show gets the patented Wonderduck treatment this time around?

People call them brother and sister.  Sure, there's a 20 year age gap between them, at least, but that's not too strange, right?  Right?  Neither is the glowing way she looks at him, like the look an adoring golden retriever gives her master, that's not weird for a little girl at all.  What IS weird is the perspective on this shot, which makes it look like the two of them are walking in front of a projection of the City of Townsville town below.  Never mind the viola case she's holding... yes, I said "viola."  Not violin.  Viola.  Because the viola doesn't get enough love in this world, it's such a mellow sounding instrument, not all squeaky and screamy like the violin.  If it turns out to be a violin she's carrying, so be it.  Until that time however, it's a viola because this is my writeup, darnit.  Meanwhile, in another part of the anime...

...a graphics glitch has rendered another young girl's shotgun useless.  So many things in that sentence I never thought I would ever type.  For such a great looking show and trust me, it is though we haven't quite gotten to that part yet, that's a fairly egregious mistake... particularly because it occurs twice.

It turns out that the young girl, who is named Triela, is paired with an older man as well, named Hilshire.  They seem to be part of some sort of paramilitary/police special forces unit, and their target wasn't there... which means it's at the other target.  A target that...

...is being watched by yet another heavily armed young girl/older man combo.  Her name is Rico, which seems like a fairly unlikely name for a girl.  His name is Jean, which means that the two of them should probably switch names.  There's also a lot of regular agents standing around looking inconspicuous.  Inside a nondescript apartment in the building being cased...

...a bunch of malcontents and neer-do-wells are gathered.  They've just received word that their other safehouse has been hit, which rendered it not so safe.  Oh, and the informant said that young girl did most of the damage.  The man on the right rolls his eyes and looks dubious at this news.  And rightfully so... little girls being used as assassins?  Preposterous!  What are they gonna do, hit us with Hello Kitty and My Little Pony plushies?  The doorbell rings and someone we will call Skippy goes to see who's there, chuckling under his breath: "Hello Kitty plushies."

Oh.



So one of the shows that just misses my all-time favorites list.  Next writeup, Fate/Stay NightHidamari Sketch?  Oh lord, I can't imagine a HidaSketch writeup... I'd have nightmares for weeks just trying to figure out how to do it.  Before I have a teeny tiny little breakdown, let's get back to our regularly-scheduled writeup, already in progress.

Skippy is disturbed by our nameless man's attempt to sell him overpriced vacuum cleaners and in a fit of pique leaves the apartment to reason with him.  "Really, who needs a $2000 vacuum?  That's just silly when it comes right down to it."  Nameless man smiles and takes $50 off the price, which angers Skippy even more.  Meanwhile...

...Viola Girl stops inspecting the wallpaper with her flat, expressionless eyes and sees Skippy mussing Nameless Man's tie.  She is perturbed by this... perhaps she gave it to him as a gift in lieu of a vacuum cleaner last Christmas.  Maybe she's fond of that particular pattern.  Whatever the reason, something in her goes *sproing*.

And then something in Skippy goes *sproing* as she does what every orchestra nerd has dreamed of doing and whups him upside da haid with her viola case.  Look, I need to get this off my chest: I have no idea what actually occurs to Skippy physically here.  I know what's supposed to have occurred; she hits him in the face hard enough to spin him around and kill him.  Right, easy for me to say.  The way this scene is animated is more like he's being spaghettified, with head, neck, torso and arms all moving at different speeds.  Hell, he rotates fast enough that he should be generating lift like a helicopter..  It's like Kerbal Space Program's notorious Kraken has arrived and done bad things to him.  Everything's rotating at different speeds!  Skippy couldn't have the faintest idea what happened to him, meaning that his death was so much nicer than what's about to occur to everybody else in that apartment.

Because in a tip o' the cap to Chicago-style mobsters, that viola case actually held a gun.  Tradition tells us that it's supposed to be a Thompson submachine gun, but that would be a particularly inappropriate weapon for a little girl, as it weighed nearly 11 pounds empty and kicked like a mule on meth, though a Cutts Compensator... um... compensated for that.  Even worse, it would have been put in the viola case in a knocked-down condition, so it couldn't even be used right away.  Gotta say though, a Tommy gun without the wood stock or foregrip attached looks pretty darn bad-ass.  Accuracy probably suffers a bit though.  As in "can't hit the ocean from the boat".  No, instead of that classic she's actually carrying a Fabrique National P90 Personal Defense Weapon, aka "that really futuristically cool-lookin' gun."  A fine choice for a little girl, it only weighs about six pounds.  Did you know the P90 was originally developed to be a weapon for tank and armored vehicle crews that didn't have a lot of space to lug around an assault rifle?  True story!  That's why it's got that bullpup styling; makes it even more compact.  And since it uses the smaller 5.7 x 28 round, it's fairly easy to carry a lot of them; the clear magazine that mounts on top can hold 50 bullets, enough for someone to go on a rampage... like Young Miss here.

"I used to be a freedom fighter like you, then I took a bullet in the knee."  While all of this is going on, Nameless Man stands there like a doofus staring at Young Miss as she rips through the bad guys like a hot chainsaw through butter.  He stares... and the flashbacks begin.

So the blonde guy is Jean; we've met him before.  He's the brother of Nameless Man, and the two of them have been visiting every hospital in Italy looking for their perfect subjects.  Wow, that doesn't sound creepy at all, does it?  Something about the treatment and the brainwashing working only on young girls... their physiology or somesuch.  Man, did they drive there in a van marked "free candy" or something?

Jean's picked his subject a while ago, but Nameless Man is having problems with the whole idea.  Well, this might make him feel better.  The girl down below is the sole survivor of a horrendous crime.  Her family were brutally murdered in front of her, she was beaten to within an inch of her life, then repeatedly abused during the night.  In the same room with her dead family.  She survived, but only just.  Now she's barely coherent, but she's made it clear that she wants to kill herself.  Remember that part about "making him feel better"?  Forget I ever said anything.  Saikano's more depressing, but only just.

Brutalized Girl, Nameless Man chooses you!  After The Treatment and The Brainwashing and all of that stuff, she's healthy again... and has no memories at all.  Well, that's a plus, I guess.  She's confused, though.  And about to get even moreso, because he hands her a pistol.  He then tells her her name is Henrietta, and that his name is Jose.  I'd like to point out that at least one translation has his name as "Giuse", which makes sense being that we're set in Italy and all, but I can honestly say "screw that," because Giuse is a pain in the left glute to type.  So Jose it is!

Training montage!  In a complete inversion of the way these sort of things usually go, Henrietta is an awful shot, but she's also a robot.  Well, not literally, but she may as well be.  She's... um... monofocused.  She shoots her gun dry, then reloads and does it all again.  And again.  And again.  Jose tells her to learn how to tear her gun down and put it back together again as fast as she can, so she spends the entire night doing just that.  Over and over and over again. 

Eventually Henrietta is blowing through live-fire exercises like the enhanced-android-girl she is; she's not a perfect shot, but more than good enough, and she's still a machine out there.  Zero emotion at any time.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.  Creepy. 

And we're back to realtime.  Henrietta has just lowered the rental cost of this apartment by a huge amount, unless the complex manager decides to market it as providing a cool breeze or something.  "Well ventilated."  The last two baddies are hiding behind that table she's shooting at, and apparently the 5.7 x 28 round has all the penetration of a particularly angry marshmallow.  One of them hauls out a hand grenade... and is suddenly not alive anymore.  A second later, neither is the other one.

Forgot about Rico, eh?  That's the thing about guns... it doesn't matter how big the person behind it is, only their aim matters.  And, um, if they can lift the thing.  That matters, too.  Still: cyborg.  Not a problem here.  So.  That's it.  Mission complete, total success, let's go home!

Jose walks in, straightens his tie, glares at Henrietta, and radios in: mission failure.  You mean, the plan wasn't to gun down everybody in the apartment in a hail of angry marshmallows?  Because Henrietta is really really good at that.  A natural.  Prodigy!  Looks like she took a round, too.  After a brief discussion with regular colleagues (i.e., ones without pet assassins) about how the informant is probably somewhere in the building, he asks Henrietta why she snapped the way she did.  With no response forthcoming from his "lil' sis", he gets her out of the room and on the way back to "The Agency."

It's in the secure vehicle, cunningly disguised as a pizza van (pizza?  In Italy?), that she finally comes clean: she just wanted to help him.  When Skippy did Bad Things to Jose's tie, she just couldn't take it anymore.  She weeps.  Jose is seriously creeped out.  Back at base, a discussion is had between the higher-ups about perhaps giving Henrietta a larger dose of The Conditioning.  Jose says, "nope, ain't gonna do it."  Turns out the more of it you give 'em, the shorter their lifespan, not to mention other side-effects we only learn about down the road.  Meanwhile...

Little girls having tea.  How normal.  Fade to black, roll credits.

Only in Japan could they think of a plot like this.  Of course, only in Japan could they manage to make this work.  There's been a lot of controversy about Gunslinger Girl over the years, the little girl/assassin/violence being the most obvious, but the whole cyborg/replacement thing, too.  Well, so it goes.  It aired over 10 years ago, I think we'll stop worrying about what people think of it that way.  Personally, I think it's very good indeed.  There are some flaws... the "Elsa Arc" is rather heavy-handed... but otherwise they are few and minor.

Alas, this is probably the last of the First Episode Writeups for a while... the long-awaited Kantai Collection anime is debuting in a few days, after all... but I'll probably pop one out every now and again.

Next episode: more zombies!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 01:26 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 2088 words, total size 16 kb.

1 Well, if you want to fit a Thompson in an instrument case, you could always go for a stick magazine.  But for sheer compactness, you might want this bad boy.

And yes, that's on my Christmas list.

Posted by: Mauser at January 04, 2015 03:37 AM (TJ7ih)

2 Given the way the Thompson is placed in the violin case, how exactly would the stick magazine make it any more ready-to-use?

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 04, 2015 03:47 AM (jGQR+)

3 It would lay flat, as opposed to the perpendicular bulge of the drum.  But it might be longer that the case could cover.  If you went to the 20 round stick... well, you may as well carry a brace of 1911's.

Posted by: Mauser at January 04, 2015 04:20 AM (TJ7ih)

4 I just received and read the final two volumes of the manga.

Now I kind of want to re-watch my GSG box (first season; I didn't get very far into the follow-up season, which was poorly animated IIRC).

Posted by: GreyDuck at January 05, 2015 08:58 AM (AQ0bN)

5 I didn't get very far into the follow-up season, which was poorly animated IIRC.

You remember correctly... mostly.  The animation itself was fine; it was what was being animated that stunk.  Which is a damn shame, the storyline was better than in Season 1.

Posted by: Wonderduck at January 05, 2015 10:25 AM (jGQR+)

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