“Time Keeps Slipping Away” – Gunslinger Girl (anime) – 8/10 Snowballs

It was pivotal in making you but you don’t remember it. Or do you? Do we understand the events that make us who we are? Do we understand the factors that make us do the things we do? ~Douglas Coupland

Genre: Action/Drama

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/13 Episodes_

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US.

Art/Animation: The art is terrific, with each character so unique that it’s impossible to mistake one for another. Considering that none of them have oddly-colored hair, this is quite an impressive feat. Research on the cities they’re in has been very well-done, comparing very favorably with pictures that I looked up. The animation is also top-notch, flowing smoothly and beautifully, coming very close o movie-quality in many places (including the action scenes).

Dub Vs. Sub: I didn’t have any problems with the sub except for the fact that Funimation messed up on one of the character’s names. He had been Jose for the first 9 episodes, and then they started spelling it differently (and it was the wrong name, no less!). The dub is definitely one of the better ones out there. Several of the girls do sound too high and breathy for their ages, but Triela (Caitlin Glass) and Claes (Alece Watson) give solid performances, as well as having a great supporting cast.

Summary: Officially, the Social Welfare Agency is a government sponsored corporation that’s in the business of saving lives. At least, that’s the ruse. In reality, it’s an agency on the fringe of technology. They give terminal patients another shot at life using cybernetic implants. This conditioning process then shapes the patient into an efficient machine for handling all of the government’s dirty work.

Having survived the brutal slaughter of her family, Henrietta awakens to her new life at the Agency with a re-built body and no memory of the past. She has been teamed with her handler Jose, who is responsible for her training and conditioning, turning her into the perfect killing machine. Henrietta strives to find her place within the Agency, doing her best to win Jose’s affection. But can Jose control her? Can he balance the needs and desires between the assassin and the developing adolescent?

Who are these girls?
They’ve been given a second chance at life… But at what cost? (Funimation)

Review: Gunslinger Girls has a dichotomy that’s apparent from the beginning- the sweet little girls, and the horrific work that they do. How can these things be reconciled? Where is the line drawn between a human and a killing machine? This anime attempts to show that those things aren’t as irreconcilable as you might think, showing the daily lives of these girls and delving into what drives them and the internal logic that creates a person that can have such different sides.

The storylines weaves between the past and present, from the job they perform to the aftermath of and back to how the girl came to be chosen by their Handler. A good amount of the story depends on the interactions of the characters to show the details of the relationships between them. There are many things that are inferred, sometimes bluntly and sometimes not, from the fatherly relationship Claes had with hers, to the wavering almost-romantic one Henrietta has with Jose. Among the girls, there are allies and enemies, some girls that are friendlier than others. They form a complex tangle of familial bonds that bring them closer… and show that some hardships can only be understood by others that go through them. Things that would easily become pedo-fodder in most other anime is handled tastefully in this one.

Those bonds create most of the tension. Much of the story is devoted to the bonds between the Handlers and the girls, offhand comments showing the devotion the girls have- are at time forced to have, at other times given freely- to their Handlers, and how each Handler deals with it in turn. Storylines often revolve around the care that is given to the girls and what it means to them. This is often well-done, but I can think of one episode where it hinders the plot more than helps it.

What mainly drives this story forward, and is one of the greatest weaknesses, is the vague storyline that deals with terrorists, non-terrorists, and various political factions. This show is a big tease with them, giving enough clues that it seems like a driving plot will come into play, but nothing ever comes of it. It’s quite frustrating since it is important enough to force some plot points, and at one point two members of such a faction become minor characters. It’s dropped quickly enough in favor of the more slice-of-life tone that fills the anime more than the action ever does.

The ending to this anime gives little satisfaction. For all the build-up and action that occurs just before, it seems too abrupt and jarring to be either enjoyed or saddened by. It still has its own type of beauty, though, and a phenomenal use of music that really brought about an interesting finale.

Overall, while it has its flaws, this is still a great anime that has many touching moments and some jaw-dropping gunslinging action.

Recommended: 16+. People die, though it’s not lingered on or made unnecessarily gruesome. The pasts of some of the girls tend to be horrific- Henrietta’s, especially- though they often are not shown.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Noir (anime)

Saikano (anime)

Kino’s Journey (anime)

Shikabane Hime (anime)

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