13 Nov 2010

Mardock Scramble: The First Compression (Anime) Review

Mardock Scramble: The First Compression (2010)
Format: Movie, 60 minutes
Studio: GoHands
Score: 3 stars
Summary: Great designs and busy visuals leave you awestruck by the production values of this relatively new studio. However, the pacing does a lot of harm to the overall feel of the show, not letting the fantastic plot breathe and just generally causing disassociation with the characters.

Mardock Scramble is not a film for kids, that's for sure. Telling the life of a mentally scarred teenage prostitute (Barlot), the story takes a sci-fi twist and turns everything upside down. The plot is intense and brings a lot of depth to the characters and settings. However, the pacing did not allow these things to simmer, hence alienating a lot of the audience. Many things related to the setting, technologies and backstory were merely mentioned in passing. It's weird, considering this was supposed to be a single OVA, but it was later expanded into THREE movies, and yet it seems to be rushing for time. I'd rather have this first movie establish the setting and characters first, and let the 2nd and 3rd movies build upon that.

Aside from the pacing problems, this movie is fantastic. A joy to watch, cheesy at times, but loaded with action. Though the protagonist is a 15-year old girl, the writers did not hold back in giving her an incredibly dark history, filled with betrayals. The colour palette is well chosen, giving it an unworldly cold feel to everything, further enhancing the feelings of loneliness Barlot feels.

GoHands is a rather new studio, their first independent work being Princess Lover (2009). Princess Lover had an incredible chase sequence in the first episode, instantly solidifying my view that they have some really talented animators. Mardock Scramble takes that 2 minutes of quality and extends it to 60 minutes. I'll certainly be on a look out for more Mardock Scramble, and anything the studio does with TV anime.

I was considering giving this 3 or 4 stars, since it reminded me of Angel Beats (spoiled by pacing and some forced emotional moments). However, I looked back at my Review Ratings guide and remember that 4 stars is for anime with only a few minor flaw. Mardock Scramble has very few flaws, but those flaws are quite major. Angel Beats has minor flaws, but those flaws are just too many. Sorry GoHands, 3 stars.

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