Samurais, Punks, and Gunslingers

Thank you! people at Funimation for sending me copies of the Afro Samurai and Desert Punk boxed sets. Both animes take place in a futuristic Japan, but only one, it seems, involves a gun-wielding ne’er-do-well with Nadine Jansen-esque breasts. (The character’s name is Junko, “Vixen of the Desert.”)Come and get it….

I’m eagerly looking forward to checking both out. But what I also want for Christmas is another season of Gunslinger Girl, the 2003 series about a quintet of Italian, prepubescent children, each near death, who are rescued, their histories erased, and their bodies revived cybernetically, so that they can become skilled assassins; a clique of little La Femme Nikitas.

Like that film, each of Gunslinger Girl‘s 13 episodes contains sudden, poetically violent action, set over sparse dialogue and atypical musical odes. (The now-disbanded Delgados’ noise-rock/classical mashup, “The Light Before We Land,” provides Gunslinger‘s evocative opening theme.)

However, the series’ main concern is the impetus of identity, as each girl has stressfully subsumed her own. They’ve all done this, first, for the purposes of the mysterious “Social Welfare Agency,” to which they owe their fractured existences and for which they wield the sword. Then, they have totally dedicated their lives to their adult male handlers, or fratello, who instruct them and oversee each child’s entire world. Pulled forward by formidable duty, pulled back by fading memories of an earlier, simpler life, each Girl must ask herself, “Who am I? Who was I, before I became what I am? Why do I kill? What does killing make me? Do I love? Can I?”

Depth is a word one hears a lot when people talk about Gunslinger. So it’s exciting to also hear Funimation announce that the series’ second season, Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino, is now in production. It’ll air first in Japan before 2008 is out. (Original creator and chief supervisor Yu Aida will be writing again, though working with a different director.) Then, if Funimation picks up North American DVD rights, the discs should be here by 2009, which means I’ll get my Christmas present, though not until next year.

I can’t wait. A gorgeous and intriguing classic of anime, Gunslinger Girl deserves new audiences and many, many more rounds.



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