We don't talk to police
|Original Manga||Yu Aida|
|Episode Length||23 Minutes|
|# of Episodes||13|
Sum it up in a Sentence
A group of young girls are brainwashed and modified into powerful cybernetic assassins for the Italian police, however they are still very emotionally unstable and innocent at heart.
A group of girls are exploited by a so-called "Social Welfare Agency" that takes abandoned, hopeless, or terminally ill girls and places cybernetic implants in their bodies, effectively giving them a second chance at life. However, this is a double edged sword; the girls become the property of the Agency and undergo "conditioning", which removes most of their memory and makes them zealously attached to their handler. They are still little girls at heart, with the exception that they don't mind killing, feel little pain, and have no fear except for the well being of their handler. They make perfect assassins; they follow orders, they are willing to die for their master, and nobody suspects them... but they cry like little girls.
The Agency, "Section 2", is a secret branch of Italian law enforcement. They handle "terrorists - hostage - witness escort" situations: typical special police-type stuff. The focus of this anime isn't really on the cases.
The storyline centers around Henrietta and her handler Giuseppe. Together a cyborg and her handler make up a fratello. Each fratello has a different relationship, some of them can be cruel, others, such as Henrietta's, are very mutual. The girls are treated poorly by common standards and sometimes abused, mostly because they are viewed as weapons, something to be discarded when used up. Which is sad because the girls literally love their handlers, no matter what kind of treatment they receive, they are constantly looking for approval or any semblance of affection. Some handlers have personal battles about the morality of their job. Giuseppe is seen as particularly kind to Henrietta.
The overall atmosphere of this anime strives to be as high class European as possible. It takes place mostly in Italy and Germany. There is a thematic focus on the aesthetic appeal of European art, architecture, and fashion. Henrietta plays an Amati violin, she likes gellato ice cream, etc.
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At times, this anime can be outright heartwrenching. The only other anime that made me feel this way was maybe Elfen Lied. It defiantly wasn't what I expected when I first saw it. I ended up really liking it because it was a good Girls with Guns anime that avoided the fan service so often associated with that genre.
This is also a good pick for gun affectionados because the ontological accuracy of the weapons is very high.
I'm also recommending this show to anybody who's liked Elfen Lied. While they have very different stories, these shows both feature young girls gifted with a dubious power trying to live a normal life. Also, just like in Elfen Lied adults are assholes and people die, a lot.
Surprisingly heavy on the pathos, the only other thing I've seen that tackles a somewhat similar subject in a fairly similar fashion is the 2011 film Hanna. Season one of Gunslinger Girl is fantastic, the manga and season two (by a completely different animation studio) are both terrible and should be avoided, in my opinion. For what it's worth, I hated Elfen Lied which seemed to want to be shocking for the sake of being shocking, whereas this explores the repercussions of making children into soldiers and how that affects both the children and the adults around them.
Instead of milking a disturbing concept purely for shock value and gore, Gunslinger Girl succeeds in building an interesting cast of characters and an effective overarching theme of controlling emotion. The animation, courtesy of Madhouse, is dynamic for a TV series, with fluid action setpieces. Solid drama, definitely recommended.
Do not watch the second season. It was made by a completely different animation studio and writing team from the first, and is just plain mediocre.
Gunslinger Girl is a bit of a strange beast. One part psychological thriller, one part crime drama, one part girls with guns. Taken as a whole, Gunslinger Girl is a sobering reminder that extremism is only one side of a single coin. Are those who pay evil unto evil morally justified? The show doesn't give the audience any answers, because it's not really interested in that. It's simply a lens to examine the question itself. It's gloomy, somber, and glacial, and truly challenging the viewer to turn it off at every turn, but it's also a unique and rewarding watch.
Some people disavow the second season, and that's understandable considering the sharp drop in technical quality. Though it does cover what is easily some of the most poignant and thought-provoking material in the entire manga, which I highly recommend reading.