Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
Balot is a teenage prostitute who was murdered and then brought into a (sort of) witness protection programme called Mardock Scramble 09. She has to consent to work with her case officers Dr. Easter and an AI called Oeufcocque to bring to justice the criminal behind her murder, Shell. As an added incentive, the programme allows Dr. Easter to use forbidden technology to save her life, granting her powers to control electronics and her new partner, Oeufcocque, takes a form of a cute mouse that can turn into anything. Spiffy. Where do they get these toys!?
Ghost in the Shell kept coming to my mind as I watched Mardock Scramble. If I didn't know better, I'd swear the writers sat down to watch GitS, then tweaked the heroine, changed the story line here and there and threw in a cute mouse. Think of it as a cross between Nikita and GitS, if you will. Those two shows were classics on their own, but I'm not sure that one classic plus one classic equal twice the classic.
For example, the main villain Shell has a hole in his head that allows for memory to be extracted, transplanted, created, etc. This is similar to the GitS where Motoko was able to plug and hack into system.
Numerous scenes in Mardock are reminiscent of GitS, like Balot's reflection on glass, her "reborn" scene, when she was floating to the surface, the split second before a close up of her face and then the overhead view she was staring, in this case, the ceiling as opposed to Motoko, which was the sky. And correct me if I was wrong but I recall Motoko was in Section 9 too.
The story is not hard to understand. After Balot's awakening, we are quickly introduced to Balot's newfound friendship with her case officers, particularly Oeufcocque. This short relatively relaxed intermission is intended to let the audience get to know the characters. The story moves quickly to a short court drama where Balot goes through a highly charged cross examination. I thought this segment could have and should have been done better; after all, Megumi Hayashibara is the Balot's seiyuu, and who could be more versatile for an emotionally charged court scene? But the writers might have miscalculated for this portion, because the plot involved Balot losing her voice after her attempted murder and could only reply Yes or No or keep silent for her questions or write them on a tablet. As a result, she comes across as a little too stoic and her pain, anger and helplessness has to be inferred from her unspoken answers and be left to the imagination of the audience. Even our seiyuu queen had her voice modified by filters to artificially digitize it, a robotic Rei-like™ voice that is not very pleasing to my ears.
Perhaps the writers are leaving it for the sequel but without quite closing the court drama, the show quickly moves on to her learning to use her new found abilities to defend herself against hitmen, hired by Boiled, who is hired by Shell. And soon you will understand why if I were Shell, I'd want to have nothing to do with the twisted hitmen hired by my surbordinate if they went by names like Rare the Hair, Medium the Fingernail, Mincemeat the Wink, Flesh the Pike and Welldone the Pussyhand. The names reflect the parts of the body these hitmen collects and implant on their own bodies after the deed is done. This. Is. Just. Sick. It might be because I'm female but I just felt so insulted by Mr. Welldone.
Mardock Scramble is a mixed bag. The landscapes are detailed and very impressive. The extravagant but ominous and eerily lit city with expressways twisting through the sky and the contrast of the slums at the pits. The action sequences are lightning quick and well executed.
But I could not stand Shell's private limousine, which I think looks like a hearse, especially those used during a Chinese funeral cortege on the way to the burial ground. What bad taste!
I can't help but feel very disconcerted over how violent this show actually is and I was particularly irritated at Mr. Welldone. If it were fan service, then I think the writers overdid it.
At 60 minutes, there were lot of things left unexplained and concluded with a cliffhanger. There are suppose to be two more sequels to tie up loose ends but if they are as sick and violent as the first, I'm not sure I want to stick around and find out.
This is a hard anime to rate: while I was impressed by some of the technical details but the overall treatment of the heroine left quite a bad taste. — Diane Tiu
Recommended Audience: For mature adults. There are a lot of rape scenes, and I mean a lot and very graphic. For those offended by rape themes, don't touch this with a ten-foot pole. This is definitely not a show to bring home to watch for a Family Saturday night nor the anime to show friends for an Introduction to Anime.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression © 2010 Tow Ubukata / Mardock Scramble Production Committee
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