Anime Review - Mardock Scramble The First Compression

Based upon the series of novels and manga of the same name by Tow Ubukata, Mardock Scramble (マルドゥック・スクランブル), is a journey back in time to the halcyon days of my very own anime fandom. The gritty dystopian cyberpunk stylings are reminiscent of titles like Cyber City Oedo 808, Ergo Proxy and the ultimate in cyberpunk adventure, Shirow Masamune's Ghost in the Shell. From the get go I knew that this was going to be a wicked ride.

"To stop the unstoppable you need the irresistible. To kill the unkillable, you need someone for whom death no longer has a meaning. And to catch the perfect serial killer, you need the one person who knows his methods the best... his last victim! 

Murdered and reborn, no longer human, the female cyborg Balot exists for only one reason: to track down the man who killed her and bring him to justice. But can even the ultimate hybrid between ghost and machine take down a monster who wipes his own memory... especially when his partner already has her in his sights? The future will be painted blood red as vengeance hit the streets! 

Contains both the original theatrical release of Mardock Scramble: The First Compression as well as the director's cut featuring five minutes of extended scenes and new footage."

Before Mardock Scramble, Tow Ubukata was best known as the writer of Le Chevalier D'eon and the novelisation of Fafner although he will almost certainly be remembered for this, his crowning glory. Although similar in nature to Ghost in the Shell, it is far more similar in structure to Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita, a brilliant piece of work in its own right and a legendary OVA of early 90's anime. In the 90's, science fiction series appeared to be everywhere and the cyberpunk genre was the pick of the bunch. Sadly, in recent years there has been a distinct lack of sci fi released and instead we seem to be inundated with glorified soft core porn and non-stop fan service. I'm not saying that these titles shouldn't be released but at times I feel as though substance has been traded for an easy buck. That said, in these uncertain financial times, investors want to make sure that they get a return on their outlay and if fan service is where its at, so be it. It is wonderful to see sci fi back on the screen and especially in a form as near perfect as Mardock Scramble.

At just over one hour long, Mardock Scramble The First Compression is the first in what is planned to be a trilogy of animated films. This in itself is my largest complaint, one hour is nowhere near long enough... I want more. Just as I began to wrap my head around the characters (Balot the haunting teenage prostitute, Shell the super powered murderer and Oeufcoque the shape shifting AI) my one hour of bliss was up. Although an annoyance now, it has managed to set up what is yet to come in the franchise. The main focus is put on Rune Balot, our main character, and rightfully so. Not only is she the main character, but she is also a character that is incredibly difficult to form. It is always difficult to create a hero out of a character who's morals are at odds to that of the general public. Director Susumo Kudo and author/screen writer Tow Ubukata manage to make you feel for Balot, the 15 year old reanimated prostitute, even more so after she goes on a murderous rampage.
The animation production is supplied by GoHands who are best known for their 2nd key animation and inbetween animation on titles such as The Sacred Blacksmith, Gundam 00 season 2 and Heaven's Lost Property. Considering that this is one of their first turns in the drivers seat, they certainly impress. Although this is undoubtedly assisted by the presence of Aniplex (Puella Magi Madoka Magika, Darker than Black). The animation quality is exactly what you'd expect from a feature film, the animation is beautiful, detailed, vivid and sharp. I can only imagine how great it will look when it eventually gets a blu ray release. Just to top things of, music director Conisch creates a beautiful score which seems to increase in volume, depth and tone as the film goes on. It flows into a great crescendo perfectly matching the events in the film.

This definitely isn't a title for the kids, as the R18+ rating would suggest. There's some rather vivid sex scenes, nudity and a whole mess of violence. Further to this, there are some extremely disgusting characters that have a penchant for collecting body parts who are truly grotesque. Although the film differs slightly from the manga in both visuals and censorship rating, it is still most certainly the Mardock Scramble that Tow Ubukata created. I can't recommend this film enough, it is the anime film release of the year and should be high on the "buy list" of any self respecting anime fan... if they're over 18, that is...

Mardock Scramble The First Compression is available on DVD now from Madman.


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