Gunslinger Girl is truly a hit or miss series. Many judge it by the first episode in which little, if anything, happens giving it an air of banality. It isn't until this episode, Ragazzo, that the overall mood and tone of the series is finally set. The episode shifts the focus away from heroine Henrietta to flesh out the character of Rico; the first instance of many in which the show shifts the focus of the narrating character. The set up for the conflict is essentially a choice of the heart as Rico has to decide what is most important to her. However, this detail is not what gives the episode the emotinal impact; it's the way the characters interact and develop through a mix of dialogue, wonderful acting, and animation.
The setting lends a hand nicely, given that the story takes place in Italy, this leads to beautiful backdrops. Though this episode mostly removes those and focuses on interior shots, it works well with the theme and conflict of the episode. But of course the characters of Rico and Emilio truly make the episode stand out so early in the series. Both characters, even though they can be considered minor or secondary (Emilio doubly so), show such wonderful development and emotion all through interaction and dialogue. It really tears at the heartstrings as it goes on.
For first time viewers, this is the perfect episode to see as it is usually the point when those bored with the exposition of the first two episodees finally start to become interested. While not the most emotional episode, it's certainly in the top three. And in a series such as Gunslinger Girl, that's quite an accomplishment.