What a great ending to a rather original series! The last volume of Gunslinger Girl finally found its way to my shelves. For the past couple of years, it’s been the only manga I’ve purchased translated. On returning home, however, I discovered that I had never read the penultimate omnibus! But, unwilling to wait for that book to arrive through Amazon (I don’t recall ever seeing that volume in a bookstore), I read those chapters in an online reader before turning to the last volume.
Despite how boring most people find the anime version of this work, the manga never bored me, and the anime hooked me until the end–even when it got slow. The last three volumes of the manga, which have yet to have an anime version (But, I can still hope), blew me away by their non-stop action. The last three volumes include more gun fights and agonizingly suspenseful situations than the other twelve volumes combined! This even includes the fight between Triela–my favorite character–and Pinocchio, whose arc still stands as my favorite and features in Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino.
Part of the fun of Gunslinger Girl is how the cybernetically modified young girls in the service of the Italian government contrast the vision of human beings with cybernetic parts found in Ghost in the Shell. (Nota bene, I have not seen more than a few episodes Ghost in the Shell, but draw the following ideas from two essays in Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder edited by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin: “The Making of Killer Cuties” by Christie Barber et al. and “Just a Ghost in the Shell?” by Angus McBlane. That’s a book well worth owning!) Basically, where Ghost in the Shell offers a future where cybernetics allow mankind to overcome human weakness, the heroines of Gunslinger Girl are still weighed down by their humanity as the machines inside them drain away their lifespan. Henrietta, Triela, and the rest still retain the hopes and dreams of girls their age, but are forced to suppress them as they are mere tools of the Social Welfare Agency. The author of this manga, Yu Aida, leaves one with the impression that the bad consequences of modifying human nature might outweigh the benefits.
The struggles of the heroines to make the most of their limited lives create some very deep characters and engross the reader in their fates. Few mangaka do characterization so well! This, along with the great action of the final volumes, almost caused me finish the remaining chapters in a single sitting. Indeed, they would have had not something important torn me away from them! I might also add that Yu Aida is incredibly literate and well-versed in Western culture. Gunslinger Girl contains allusions to the Bible, Thomas Macaulay, Beethoven, and others. Few manga combine action with learning so well!