Title: Gunslinger Girl
Author: Yu Aida
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Volume: Volume 2 omnibus (volumes 4-6, ongoing), $15.99
Vintage: 2004-2005 by Media Works Inc., May 2011 by by Seven Seas
Genre: Drama, action, girls-with-guns
Pre-teen girls casually agreeing to share kills in combat. Handsome Italian men. Terrorists with morals and honor. Italian landscapes, museums filled with art, car chases, shoot outs, explosions. This is Gunslinger Girl.
This volume focuses heavily on the handlers, and the girls, with a couple exceptions, take a back seat. Except for volume 6, which puts two-thirds of its focus on a new addition to the team. When we last left off, Triela had just suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the assassin Pinocchio, allowing him and bomb-makers Franco and Franca to escape. The story, however, kicks off with a look at a day in the life of Claes, the cyborg without a handler. The chapter follows Claes around on a typical day, as she attends a regular physical examination and conducts a scheduled routine that allows her to experience the simple pleasures of life (remarkably, it’s a schedule devised by the typically cold-natured Jean). Next up, Triela goes on her first official mission since her encounter with Pinocchio. The assignment is to protect the daughter of Mario Bossi, Maria, while Mario testifies in court. While there, Triela gets to see what life is like for a normal girl. As Rico prepares to assassinate Colonel Gagne, who has been arming terrorists, the characters reflect on the opera the Colonel will be attending at the time: Tosca. The bloody violence in the opera is reflected in Rico’s brutal beating of a suspect, as Jean coolly observes her. We then take a trip back in time with Jean, as he remembers his time as a Carabiniere, and comes face to face with a man from his past who has now become an enemy. Hilshire takes center stage next, as elements of his past are revealed, when he was still a naive Europol officer who desperately wanted to help end the child slave trafficking ring. He met a coroner with Europol named Rachelle, who held the same passionate ideals, and the two went on a tragic rescue mission on their own. Meanwhile, Triela begins special training with the organization’s military branch. As Marco continues to fret about Angelica’s steady degeneration, his former girlfriend, Patricia, digs a little too deep into her investigation of his true occupation. Things finally go back to the story line involving Franco, Franca, and Pinocchio for several chapters. Another slew of flashbacks here reveal how Franco and Franca first came together, and how Pinocchio came to be raised by Cristiano. While Franco, Franca, and Pinocchio are hiding at Franca’s vineyard, things grow unstable in Padania, and Cristiano is betrayed. Pinocchio rushes to his surrogate father’s rescue, and out of concern Franca and Franco hurry after him. A far better prepared Triela at last meets Pinocchio once again for a deadly face off, while the others attempt a desperate escape. The story shifts gears again, and we finally get a glimpse of why Jean holds so much hatred for terrorists and uses Rico as a tool to exact his revenge on them. In a strange way, although he is typically quite cold towards her, he seems to be grateful to have Rico acting as his hands. At their summer home in Sicily, Jean reminisces about Jose’s and his dead sister, Enrica, and becomes wrapped in a vision of her when Henrietta appears wearing one of Enrica’s dresses. Then, at last, we are introduced to Alessandro and the unfortunate young ballerina Elizaveta, who becomes the first 2nd generation (and Alessandro’s) cyborg Petrushka.
One thing I found particularly interesting in this volume, was how some of the characters are strangely connected to each other. Marco knew Franca before she was Franca, and Franca was once best friends with Marco’s ex-girlfriend, Patricia. Triela was the girl Hilshire saved while working for Europol, which explains his strong attachment to her. Jean was once engaged to a woman whose brother is now a terrorist supporter. Jose went to school with a man who now helps smuggle weapons to terrorists. Henrietta bears a striking resemblance to Jean and Jose’s little sister. There are all sorts of little things here and there that tie everyone together. For those who love the more tragic elements of the series, there’s plenty of that here. Hilshire’s back story, particularly in conjunction with Triela’s, is heart breaking. Particularly as Triela still retains an odd memory from the day she was rescued. Rico fears that she will become useless to Jean and be tossed aside, while Henrietta struggles to become closer to Jose, who is afraid to become more affection toward her. Then, of course, there’s Petrushka, the promising ballerina who succumbs to bone cancer, which destroys her future as a ballerina (because her parents can’t afford the medical bills) and lands her in the Social Welfare Agency as a cyborg assassin. I think I may have made mention of this previously, but one of the interesting things about this series, is the way it focuses on the terrorist group and paints them in a sympathetic light. By all intents and purposes, they are the villains of this story, if for no other reason than that they are set up as the antagonists for the cyborg girls. Yet the story focuses on their story several times, and Franco and Franca are made out to be “noble” bomb-makers with a strict code of honor that they follow, while Pinocchio is written as a tragic figure who just wants to be loved by his “uncle,” Cristiano (much like the cyborgs wish affection from their handlers). Personally, I rather enjoy when the story travels in that direction, as I find Franco and Franca interesting, but given what happens in this book, I don’t know when or if they’ll appear again.
If I had one complaint about Seven Seas’ treatment, and really I do only have this one complaint, it’s that they didn’t print the cover pages at the back of the book in color. I really wish they had gone the extra mile there, because this series has beautiful cover work, and it’s a shame that those who missed out on ADV’s releases and are only able to buy the omnibus books have to miss out on them. Starting with volume 7, however, the volumes will be published individually (as volume 6 was the last volume ADV published), so we’ll get to see them in full color from now on.