Ongoing Investigations: Case #116

Gunslinger Girl is such a big seller for Seven Seas that they are releasing omnibus editions, we got a look at the first one which contains vols. 1-3. I was very interested in this title just because it seems to garner some contradictory ideas and people. This series takes cute, little girls and turns them into cyborg assassins for a secret government organization. Despite their training and conditioning, they are still able to form connections though inevitably most are either disturbing or end poorly. The first two volumes, give or take, are somewhat vignette-like as we learn a little of the tragic story of each girl. It really stops being shocking however after the second or third time you’ve seen it. So once the series starts on a more robust story in volume three things get better. Though admittedly I’m more interested in the Section 2, the terrorist plot, “Pinocchio,” and various other story elements that are not these children. Once again it is a series that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, but seems to be designed that way . . . maybe. I do have to wonder why there are no little boy assassins or why these girls are so cute, cute all the time even when they are just hanging out in their rooms or why every female in the series seems to be blushing nine times out of ten. I’m not quite sure what it is saying, if anything at all. There is plenty of action and political plots, though sometimes a bit talkie. One thing I noted from beginning to end was how much the art changes, it becomes much softer and uses a thinner line as it goes (below left side is the chapter 1, right side is chapter 17).

Gunslinger Girl has always been a series that has given me mixed feelings. On one hand I know people sing the praises of the story and its twisted but illuminating nature. On the other hand it seems to have a strong loli vibe even if there is no obvious fan service. I assumed the only way to see if which half of its legacy Gunslinger Girl lives up to is to read the manga myself. In the end I am not sure if I have any clearer feeling on the series now that I have read three books of the series. There is a story of politics and wet works as the government uses and abuses these little girls like objects to eliminate criminals and enemies of the state. All the stories have a heavy air of melancholy and tragedy that seems inescapable. On the other hand all the girls are portrayed as uber cute little sister characters whenever they are not killing people. Also all the girls and the obsessive big brother devotions that can be seen as catering to a bracket obsessed with little sisters. There are going to be three camps most fans fall into in the series. The first is those who see the girls as a tool for storytelling. By making them these ultra innocent little girls it heightens the darkness of their lives and how they are used as disposable weapons. The second group is going to see the book as a critique of otaku culture. You have a contrast of the insanely devoted moe little girls with their exploitation by those who supposedly are their noble guardians. You could also just see it as standard little girl fetishism with a coating of dark political thriller to make it more palatable. That said the service in never blatant but it is always present. The story with the kaleidoscope or Elsa de Sica clearly have romantic to sexual overtones. Since there are not constant panty shots and long bath scenes the interpretation of the stories will mainly come down to your predisposition. The reader will focus on the part of the story they gravitate to and trivialize what they don’t care for. The stories themselves are usually very slow going as far as to having some slice of life chapters but are broken up with pages of violence and personal horror. The omnibus is a good introduction to the series and a more than 400 pages it gives you a good sense of where on the spectrum your opinion of the series will be.

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