Gunslinger Girl by Niner

Also Known As: GSG
Genre: Action/Drama
Format: 13 Episodes
Allegiance: Madhouse Studios/Bandai Visual
Director: Asaka Morio
Vintage: 2003-2004
Intelligence Agency Report by: Ritalin
A non-profit welfare organization in Italy has picked up five very special young girls. What these girls have in common is they have all experienced a life-changing event before being taken to the organization. Brainwashed and given a mechanical body, Henrietta, Rico, Triela, Claes, and Angelica work for the organization as scientific experiments and assassins for the government with no mercy behind the seemingly cute and innocent disguise. These girls are so tuned, they won’t hesitate to kill an innocent face and not think of it again. However, this brainwashing is slowly destroying them on the inside and and not allowing them to grow.

Field Agent Report by: Niner 
Overall 8.75

Just from the premise, you can pretty much guess that Gunslinger Girl is going to be a sad and depressing series. However, like any good anime, there is a lot more to it than that. While there are moments of lightheartedness and happiness that distract from the melancholy, the essence of this series is rooted in the relationships between the girls and their mentors and between the girls themselves. It is about how they grow as people and especially how they cope with the harsh realities of their unusual lives.

The partnerships (fratellos) really drive the story more than anything else. Each fratello is explored, showing the different relationships the girls have with their respective mentors and the closeness (or lack thereof) they share. In each girl’s case, she must cope with who and what she is. Their partners play a key role in that process whether they choose to or not. The dichotomy between being young girls doing simple things like sharing afternoon tea and being cold-blooded assassins carrying out executions becomes more and more poignant as the story progresses. It is central to the story’s theme of innocence being lost and regained over and over again.

The attention to detail given to the surroundings is astounding for an anime series. Studio Madhouse really did their homework on Italy because the settings are authentic, accurately depicted and really provide you with a sense of the country’s beauty and culture. I remember in one particular episode, the Uffizi Gallery of Art in Florence is featured prominently. Many other famous landmarks show up in subsequent storylines. The arsenal at the girls’ disposal is impressive as well. These are not just your generic-looking handguns, á la Noir, but real, detailed firearms, like Henrietta’s FN P90 submachine gun and Rico’s Dragunov sniper rifle. This level of authenticity is unparalleled in any other gun anime and really adds a sense of realism and excitement to the gunfights.

Despite all the attention placed on the girls and their mentors, nothing is ever really revealed about what they’re doing and why. The bad guys always seem to be Republicans plotting against the government and there is no back story on the Corporation itself and those who run it. Jose and many of the other fratello brothers are shown to have military experience, but not how they acquired it and how and why they’ve come to work for the Corporation. The anime’s relatively short length at 13 episodes means you’re introduced to the characters, but you only get to see so much of them before the series finishes. This is disappointing especially if you’ve become attached to certain ones. The ending leaves much to be desired, as it doesn’t let you know what becomes of the fratellos. It is really very abrupt and gives you no closure. You’re left feeling like there could have been so much more.

Gunslinger Girl is a gloomy series that will leave you a little bummed out. But don’t let that stop you from watching it. Sure, it has its holes, but the character development and the well-researched setting more than make up for them. I enjoyed this series; it is definitely something to watch.