When is a movie not a movie? When is a series not a series? Why can’t you ever get a good answer to questions? Did you remember to turn off the iron?
I bring this up, as I am uncertain how to approach “Mardock Scramble”. If it is a movie, why isn’t it presented as such? At three hours, it is a bit long for a movie (especially an anime one), but it could have easily been broken up to be a first season of a show (a 12-episode run). I am going to call this a ‘special’, as it works best in that configuration. So, let’s get to the story, eh?
It could be the future, but it is certainly an alternate universe of Tokyo….I mean, Kamina City, Rune Balot is a 15-year old prostitute, who goes on a ‘date’ with the notorious Shell Septinous. Shell has a bit of a problem, in that he is a psychotic killer. He has sex with these underage ladies, and then murders them. Rune is no exception, as she is left to die in a burning car which explodes. However, she is rescued and transformed into a cyborg by the rather mysterious Dr. Easter. An Artificial Intelligence life form in the configuration of the mouse Oeufcoque, accompanies her to help her adapt to her new life. Rune is trained to use the advanced technology fitted on her, as she must defend herself against Shell’s attempts to have her killed and stop her from testifying against him, which could send him to prison at the least and potentially the chair.
The ‘movie’ is broken into three segments:
The First Compression
The Second Combustion
The Third Exhaust
Although, in all honesty, the segments could be call, All the Sex, All the Violence, All the Marbles.
Shell is a cruel and contemptuous person, the arrogance borne of too much money and not enough morals, but, as you watch, this is a life of secrets. Everyone has a secret to hide, which made them the way they are, even that mouse (and he’s no ordinary AI; he can also transform into weaponry when needed). They all could use some therapy to some extent, but we are not interested in that. The main idea of the film is to bring Shell to justice for all his crimes and that means finding his memories (can’t tell too much on that, as it is a major plot twist).
The film feels ‘off’, but that is intentional. This new world is still beset by the same old problems that have plagued Mankind since always: hate, rejection, unfulfilled desires, jealousy, greed, passion, need. So, we have all these modern technologies, but we have done nothing for the human spirit. When they have sex, it is sex. There is nothing there at all. I feel Shell uses the sex to lure the ladies in to set up their deaths, but there is nothing that ties him to the sex. It’s not any different than taking out the trash, no matter how much he professes to ‘love’ them (and that is shown in rather odd ways.)
The second episode is the most disturbing of the three, owing to the ‘Freak Squad’ that Shell and his bodyguard put together to try and kill Rune. This is a movie with disturbing imagery and disturbing ideas that, in our AU, are allowed to run free and wild, as long as you have the money and will to chase them down.
Although the third segment is a real cat-and-mouse game, it gets rather prolix, as though they got paid by the word, but the rate was so low, they had to gab and gab and gab, which did give lots of back story and information, did get a bit tiresome after a while. Quit talkin’ and start chalkin’! It’s nice to hear the philosophies at work and how is one able to overcome potential millstones of their past, but sometimes, you need to let your gun speak its mind.
Still, it was an intriguing tale to watch unfold and the segments help tell the story better. I would strongly recommend that you take it as such, watching it over three days, rather than sitting down and plowing through it. Although a straight shot might work for “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya”, this one is a rather densely-packed film and you can miss a lot if you try and consume it in one swallow.
A couple of beefs from me: You really get tired of the psychotic card getting played as hard as it does. The second segment could almost be a Rorschach test and I think some of the criminals were thrown in to see how far they could go with the idea of these mental defectives. The other is that it kind of ends. You really do not get the caliber of payoff that you were expecting, although they do bring it to a conclusion. There is a possibility that if they wanted to use this as a potential pilot to convert into a real series, they could. It’s all there for that and a series could be in the future, but I’m not certain where they could go with it, as it would devolve into a police drama.
For me, this feels like an experiment. Not weird science, but still a valiant attempt to be more than mere anime.]
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Interesting artwork and approaches)
Plot 8 (A simple plot done well)
Pacing 7 (Slows down at the end)
Effectiveness 7 (Too many cliches)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but doesn’t really end)
Fan Service 6 (A similar show would be “Mahoromatic”)
Overall 8 (Well worth the gamble)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. We did ask you first.