Sunday, October 13, 2013

Anime review: "Mardock Scramble"

I don't remember when I first noticed "Mardock Scramble", but I had it in my AniDB wishlist a long time. The last movie of three came out more than a year ago now, but I had to wait till few weeks ago for subs to appear. And now, I have finally satisfied my curiosity.

"Mardock Scramble" has a very appealing premise: a cyberpunk action thriller. Although I don't really like cyberpunk in literature, I always have a soft spot such anime. And this one looked pretty ambitious, so I thought this one was worth of wait.

The main character of "Mardock Scramble" is Rune Balot, a teen girl forced to a life of prostitution. But her current customer, Shell, turns out to be really insane, burning her in his car. But Rune is saved in last second and "revived" in artificial and upgraded body by Doctor Easter and his partner upgraded Oeufcoque, members of special law-unit "Scramble 09". She has to choose whether to die or to live and testify against Shell. But to stop her from testifying against him, Shell hires Boiled, Oeufcoque's former partner, another experiment with artificial body and unique abilities...

At first, I was thrilled with this anime. It started very intense, with interesting futuristic setting that is mostly implied and not explained, gritty and dark. The animation looked old and new at the same time, CGI heavy. First part ended in a cliff-hanger so I eagerly proceeded with second and third one... To be left pretty disappointing in the end. Not by the ending itself, but by the whole anime, which doesn't live up to the hype.

As I said, "Mardock Scramble" has an interesting, cyberpunk setting. Flying and automatic cars, human enchantments, artificial sentient beings - on one side. On the other hand: drugs, prostitution, government unable or unwilling to stop the crime... But anime fails to develop and use it properly. All we get are vague implications of unclear technology and society. There are anime (or books) that manage to pass only hinting at the setting, but this is not one of them. Well, to be fair, setting is not really that bad objectively, but I expected much more from it.

As for the plot, this was my biggest disappointment. In the essence, I understood there is a story about Rune trying to testify against Shell, and he trying to stop her using Boiled. But everything except that I am not very clear with. This is again connected to undefined setting: why was Shell allowed to attack the only witness against himself, why was there an antagonism between Rune's protectors and Shell's protectors... I was not able to follow half of their talks, and I don't believe it was because of bad translations. And that part in the casino (which is not short) - it's pointless and confusing (even if you know how to play poker, roulette and black-jack).

I also had problems with the overall style of the anime. It was a dark cyberpunk, so one can expect it to be brutal, violent, gritty, with lots of nudity and sex. And as you can see from my choice of literature and anime, I don't have any problem with it - on the contrary. But most of it here was unnecessary and unexplainable, just for fan service. I don't mind it when something is gritty, or dark, or real setting; but what's the explanation of a girl showing up for fight-to-death dressed only in duck-tape.

So, ultimately, I expected much from "Mardock Scramble", but I was left disappointed by it. Not really bad, but if you want to see a really great cyber/SF anime, go watch one of the "Gost in the Shell" anime.

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