This week I'm going to move away from the happy shiny anime I've mostly recommended in the past and into something a bit more melancholic-- and no, it doesn't involve anyone named Haruhi .
Gunslinger Girl takes place in modern-day (or near-future) Italy, and revolves around a group of young (generally pre-teen) girls who were all acquired from orphanages and other not-so-great situations and physically altered to become killing machines for a secretive government organiation. Each girl is partnered with an adult man and heavily conditioned to view him as if he were an older brother, father, and lover all wrapped in one-- he offers cameraderie and direction, and the girls are slightly desperate to win their approval.
Each pair, called a “fratello,” is sent on various assignments, sometimes in groups and sometimes independently. The girls are trained to make use of their young and innocent appearances in battle. And the way they react to battles isn't what you'd think, either; there are no Simon -esque angst-filled hesitations, nor do any of the girls glory in their roles, although they are aware of their status as tools of their organization, and even of the conditioning that affects their relationship with their “older brother.”
Yes, in spite of what the name might lead you to think at first glance, Gunslinger Girl isn't an action series, although there are obviously battle scenes. Instead, the series focuses on the growing girls struggling with who they are in the face of their situations, and occasionally the “older brothers” as well. All are offered up with a fairly subtle hand as well-- this isn't over-the-top soap opera emotion fodder. Based on the (still-ongoing) manga by Yu Aida, the anime is split into two seasons: Gunslinger Girl and Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino- , which came out four years after the first season, was produced by another animation company, and featured different voice actors as well-- it seems to me that most fans prefer the first season, although what little I've seen of Il Teatrino wasn't terrible either.
Probably the best way to get an idea of the series is to watch the exquisite opening:
If you're in the mood for something a little bit more thoughtful and quite a bit more morose-- though never so self-indulgent as to be emo, really –Gunslinger Girl is an excellent choice. FUNimation has the first two episodes online dubbed , and the first two episodes of Il Teatrino subbed , for those of you who might have seen the first season but haven't gotten to the second-- just to give you a taste.
Your turn! What's your rec for the week?