Section Two has had its fair share of both successes and failures, but now the fledgling department faces its biggest problem yet- the murder of cyborg Elsa de Sica and her handler Lauro. Whilst Jean and Rico try to track down the culprit, they are joined by a pair of operatives from Section One who have been asked to uncover the truth- especially if it casts Section Two in a bad light. Could the facts behind this case uncover some fatal flaws in the use of cyborgs?
It is easy to accuse Gunslinger Girl of not having much in the way of an overall storyline, and indeed, the first two volumes concentrated predominantly on character-based standalone episodes. At first glance, the concluding instalment is more of the same, but on closer inspection it becomes clear that everything that happens in this volume was foreshadowed by previous episodes, with even the slightest events building on each other to create a narrative that leads all the way to the series’ bittersweet conclusion.
When it comes to content, however, Gunslinger Girl remains entirely consistent, with this set of episodes offering the same blend of character development and heart-wrenching drama that we’ve come to expect from the series. The handler-cyborg bond remains the central theme, and this volume in particular showcases every extreme, from Triela’s casual sibling relationship with Hilshier, to Angelica’s desperation to return to work and have Marco notice her again. By this point, all of the girls are well aware of their limited life spans and the extent of their conditioning, but more important to them is the chance to protect their handlers and enjoy life while they still have the chance.
Character-wise, it is Henrietta and Angelica who take the bulk of the spotlight in this volume, with Henrietta’s relationship with Jose evolving even as Angelica’s very life seems to be coming to its inevitable end. Brief as they are, Rico, Triela and Claes all get some interesting character moments, but several other characters, such as bomb makers Franco and Franca, are left with all too little screen time.
Visually, the animation remains as striking as ever, with both characters and backdrops never anything less than both striking and detailed. Action scenes remain simple but perfectly executed, whilst the solid soundtrack completes the presentation.
A worthy ending to a top-ranked series, Gunslinger Girl does not falter once throughout its thirteen-episode run, scoring highly in everything from character design to production quality. The series’ only flaw is that it ends too soon; those wishing to see a much needed continuation of the girls’ adventures will have to investigate the original manga.