During National Blog Posting Month, I listed many different articles which I wanted to write, and barely scratched the surface of them. One of the projected articles concerned Koichi Mashimo’s Girls with Guns Trilogy–Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja. At last, I have turned my attention to writing this article, which describes why I loved these series so much–at least the first two. El Cazador de la Bruja doesn’t pack as much of a punch.
First, do not let the nickname “Girls with Guns” mislead you into thinking that these shows provide vapid entertainment. These series stand as some of anime’s most intellectual. Its plots are shrouded with mystery and stick to the technique of gradual revelation. Authors like Hemingway and Dostoyevsky are alluded to in Noir. (For the life of me, I can’t remember if Madlax contained any similar allusions.) The first and best, Noir, presents the story of two assassins. One of them, Kirika, enlists the aid of another assassin named Mireille in order to discover her identity. During their missions they discover the existence of Les Soldats, a mysterious organization which wants to use Kirika’s talents for their own ends. The second, both chronologically and in greatness, Madlax, covers the relationship between its titular assassin and a young girl with whom she is mysteriously connected. The last, El Cazador de la Bruja, stands higher than most of what’s being produced currently, but I managed to get sidetracked from it. I blame the blogosphere for making me focus on what’s currently popular. 🙂
The first thing which strikes the viewer about these shows is the quality of the music. I could listen to Coppelia’s Casket and Nowhere all day. They are very addictive! During the episodes, Mashimo relies heavily on music to set the mood of the scenes, which is a weakness in some directors; but the quality of the music means no complaints will be forthcoming from me. Few series excel so well at immersing the viewer in the countries where the action take place, and the musical score along with the detail of the backgrounds allows for this complete sense of immersion.
Also refreshing is how rich in character the heroines are. Contemporary anime, perhaps more than other mediums, employ stock characters to a disturbingly high degree. This was one of the things which made me–someone who cares more about original characters than plots–for the most part quit watching new shows from 2009 – 2012. (My longtime followers might remember this article, which marks the beginning of me becoming interested once again in contemporary works.) In Noir and Madlax, men play the scantest roles. (The thing they do best is getting shot.) This makes having dynamic, multifaceted female characters necessary. Many people dislike Mireille, but I find her a charming bluestocking with a zest for life. (It also happens to be very easy for me to like leggy French blondes with blue eyes.) She loves fine food and wine and quotes Hemingway in the second episode of the series, a series which, with its laconic dialogue and strict adherence to show don’t tell, is very Hemingwayan itself.
Kirika, despite being as blue the the titular character of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, provides the viewers with some awesome gunfights. Who can forget the popcorn scene in particular? She, along with Mireille and Madlax, have a tendecy to take out their targets with one shot; though, Kirika is more than willing to use more–as you’re supposed to. Amusingly, Mireille even calls Kirika vulgar once for the way she offs a certain villain.
Though, if any character in the series raises assassination to an art form, it would be Madlax. She occasionally wears an evening gown as she takes down her enemies. The scene where she downs people in moving vehicles with a pistol at over 100 years takes the biscuit as one of the most outrageous anime gunfights ever. But, Madlax is perhaps the most lovable character in any of these series. She combines the best traits of Kirika and Mireille: Madlax has Kirika’s efficiency and quietude and Mireille’s aesthetic sensibility and beauty.
From what I have seen of El Cazador de la Bruja, it stands as the weakest show, though I find the main characters very amusing to watch. Imagine Kirika with a sense of humor and a quick tempered and less suave Mireille, and you’ll have a good picture of the two main characters. I also liked the change from assassins to bounty hunters as the profession of the main characters.
Anyway, Koichi Mashimo directed two original classic series and one rather enjoyable picaresque romp. Be sure to put the first two under your anime watching belt at least!