The Social Welfare Agency in Italy is not what it seems. Yes, it rescues young girls who have been brutalized, but it then brainwashes them and turns them into ruthless killers for an elite and secret counter-terrorism unit for the Italian government.
Enter a young girl named Henrietta. After witnessing the savage murder of her family and barely surviving, the Agency takes her in and repairs her injuries using the latest in cybernetic technology. All traces of Henrietta’s past are wiped from her mind, as she becomes one of the Agency’s most lethal assassins.
When this was first licensed way back by ADV i sat on the fence, something about young girls being used as assassin cyborgs didn’t really sit with me well. Then when i finally got around to wanting it ADV went out of business and the series was left incomplete. So when Seven Seas picked it up again i had a new chance. I picked up the volumes as they were released, but due to circumstances hadn’t gotten around to reading them.
Sat down today and read the lot all together and i have to say it really did grab me, the art was amazing, but the story was mind blowing. There’s certainly plenty of action for those that want that aspect, but for me it was the interactions between the characters and especially those of the girls that really grabbed me. There was a lot of story about how they developed, personality wise, and i found that to be some of the best story in the series. Especially later on when Petrushka arrived, since this brought a new dynamic into the mix.
The other thing about GSG that makes it unique is that there are no set heroes or heroines, rather the series focuses on an entire agency; with a large number of characters. When i first saw this I have to admit to being concerned. How could you tell a good story if your going to be character hopping a lot. Aida however does this really well, the way he moves fluidly from girl to girl works really well. Each part of the story is neatly wrapped up or clearly tied into the next section of story. I found this to be very fluid and easy to get used to. It felt more like watching a life story unfold rather than reading a story.
As the volumes progress we get to see more and more development between the girls and their handlers. Some coming to see them as nothing but tools, others as girls, and some as something else. I loved this aspect, as it brought the girls to life, made them see more real. For me this was a big thing, since the whole point was that they looked like young girls rather than machines.
As a result I grew attached to certain girls and was a little upset when they died or got seriously injured, and yeah, i did cry when Angelica died. Aida pulled those scenes off superbly, he managed to draw out my emotions perfectly.
Later in the series we get to see some real issues with the girls though, and these are again done perfectly. What i liked especially was that the line drawn through out the series suddenly gets thrown out the window when the 2nd generation arrives. We see them start to fall in love with their handlers, and start to have emotions beyond those that were programed into them. This brought a new dynamic into the series, it was no longer just about looking after the girls, now the handlers had to deal with the girls loving them as well.
For me though, my favourite girl will always be Angelica, watching her degrade, and then the way she ignored her programing to save her handler, Marco, and her final days were just heart wrenching. The way Aida brought all the characters together, how and why they were so fond of Angelica, and how her death effects them, was frankly AWESOME. The story is unique and intriguing, it has a sort of James Bond mixed with Battle Angel Alita mixed into it, giving an interesting twist on the war on terrorism.
Art wise, I can’t complain either. I don’t think i found a single piece of art i didn’t like. The girls are all distinct and good to look at. The guys have a good level of design to them as well making for a nice change from some releases I’ve read of late. The settings however are amazingly well drawn, a lot of detail in the outside areas, especially those of Rome and Italy. I loved the cover designs of the volumes, though they weren’t as indicative of the volumes contents as covers usually are.
This was a rescue by Seven Seas Entertainment, and they did an awesome job with the releases, though with a questionable choice on the releases, which I’ll get to in a few. The translation and editing for this release are pretty damn good, they give you all the Italian names with side translations to what they are. The extras consist of the original covers (black and white only sadly) and maps of the settings used in the volume.
The only issue i have really is with the way they actually released the volumes. the first two released were trilogy compilations, 1-3 and 4-6. However after this they went to dual omnibus releases: 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14. Also this is another concern i have, the final volume of the series is missing from their site, with no release date offered. This is something I’ve seen in another series (Hayate x Blade), where for what ever reason they didn’t release subsequent volumes. though apparently it sold well enough to rerelease the original volumes as omnibus editions.
Hopefully they won’t leave us hanging with the final volume of Gunslinger Girl, since doing so will hurt their image, and make fans reluctant to pick up new series for fear they’ll just be abandoned. Tokyopop had an huge habit of doing this, and as a result a lot of people stopped buying their releases until they were fully released