Ryu’s Musings – Mardock Scramble (Novel) – Updated

Posted on March 10th, 2013 by Ryu Sheng |

mardock-coverLanguage: English
Direction: Left to Right
Pages: 680
By: Tow Ubukata
Publisher: Haikasoru
Type: Omnibus
Genre: Seinen, Cyberpunk, Action

Synopsis:

Why me? It was to be the last thought a young prostitute, Rune-Balot, would ever have…as a human anyway. Taken in by a devious gambler named Shell, she became a slave to his cruel desires and would have been killed by his hand if not for the self-aware Universal Tool (and little yellow mouse) known as Oeufcoque. Now a cyborg, Balot is not only nigh-invulnerable, but has the ability to disrupt electrical systems of all sorts. But even these powers may not be enough for Balot to deal with Shell, who offloads his memories to remain above the law, the immense assassin Dimsdale-Boiled, or the neon-noir streets of Mardock City itself.

What a read!!  I picked this up the other day along with a couple if Haikasoru releases, and damn was this worth every penny!!

What surprised me when i started to read this was the fact that Rune-Balot, our heroine, is a underage prostitute, and the main bad guy of the series, shell, is a paedophile. Why this was so surprising is that  in other titles where this sort of situation occurred they (the publishers) increased the age of the girl in question to 18. So as to avoid legal problems apparently, as well as avoiding issues with rights groups who target this sort of material as immoral. Yubisaki Milk tea in the UK would be a prime example.

I’m glad that they didn’t change the age of Rune, because i feel her age plays a very big part of how she reacts and acts to those around her.

The story follows Rune-Balot, a fifteen year old prostitute who lives with her ‘client’ Shell. She’s given everything she needs, and a few simple rules to live by. However one day Rune breaks the cardinal rule and starts to look into who she is. This sets of a chain reaction of events leading her to death, murdered by Shell.

Or that’s what was supposed to have happened. Instead she’s rescued by Dr Easter and a talking yellow mouse. To save her life the Dr uses technology to make Rune more than human, and thus breaks the laws of Mardock City. To once again save Rune they enact a clause in the law called Mardock Scramble 09, which means they have to prove both Rune’s usefulness to society with her new powers; and that the changes were done to save her life and not just for the hell of it.

What makes this story so great is Rune, we get to see her change and develop as a person over the course of the volume. We see her reacting to things as a child does, but at the same time she has a maturity about her that gives her some rather interesting insight.

This novel is full of graphic violence, and oozes sex, though there’s no explicit sex. It’s most definitely a mature rated series.

It also wins huge points from me because it has a character whose name I’ve never been able to pronounce or even figure out. Our yellow talking mouse is called Oeufcoque, what an awesome name!! I loved the relationship he builds with Rune over the course of the volume. The Doctor is another interesting character, but he never really seems to come into his own. Once Rune and Oeufcoque he kind of takes a back seat and only crops up occasionally. Although he doesn’t turn up very often, he dies play an important role.

Although this is definitely an action title, i feel that the focus is on the character developments of Rune. How she changes and grows, everything leading to the final decision she makes at the end of the book.

The one thing i regret about this title though is that the ending leaves it wide open for another story. This volume focuses on Shell and Rune’s attempt to get revenge for her attempted murder, among other things. The problem however is that during the course of the volume another case is prepared, against OctoberCorp, who Shell works for. However the series ends with simply setting up the case. I was hoping that we’d get more volumes with the subsequent story, but nothing comes of it.

The series has a very Kikuchi feel to it, in that he spends a lot of time describing inane things that you would think aren’t relevant. For example he spends pages describing Rune and the Doctors forays in the casino. While initially there’s no real reason for this, as the section goes by we get the meaning. While at times it’s long winded at times it’s still worth persevering with since the end usually makes for an amazing situation.

Tow does an amazing job of making you feel sympathy for Rune, but also as the story progresses i found i pitied Shell and started to feel sympathy for him. I loved the way he was handled at the end, when i read it i almost burst laughing.

One thing i found really interesting is the sort of ‘cyborg’ that rune becomes. While she’s covered in a sort of metal fibres to  replace her lost skin, she has the ability to control electronic devices to certain levels, and has an almost radar sense of surroundings. Despite all of this she never becomes a big bad T1000 super killing machine. The changes give her heightened sense and agility, but without Oeufcoque she’s got almost no combat abilities. This gives her an interesting aspect, while she’s super powerful, she remains just a scared little girl. Something that’s emphasised throughout the volume.

I highly recommend this novel, i really enjoyed reading it. What’s more it’s very cheap if you buy it on kindle. Given the size of the release, a three volume omnibus, i was expecting it to be more expensive that what it was.

Update:

I forgot to add some comments on Haikasoru’s handling of this release, so I’m adding them here.

On the whole there was nothing wrong with the translation or editing that i saw. However there are a few things worth noting, firstly there are no pictures in this novel. Given it’s a light novel there would have been some artwork in the original, these have all been removed. As a consequence of this i noticed in my local book shops that this novel wasn’t placed in the manga section, rather it was in the SCI-FI section. On the one hand it’s a good thing, it’s separated from manga, but on the other hand it’s missing the art.

The only other thing to note was the font usage. They used a bolded font to indicate Rune talking, since she uses something else to speak for her. However the bolded font is quite frequently dropped, so part of the sentence is bolded and the rest isn’t. This is very frustrating since it’s hard to follow what;s been said and what’s being thought at times; it’s not a huge problem, but it’s frustrating. Oeufcoque has a similar issue, one minute it’s italicised, and then next it’s not. Again not a huge bug, but a frustrating one.

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