It’s not rare that you would see an exciting sci-fi concept with anime, but the problem comes with what they are supposed to do with this. And basically, this is what the first movie of Mardock Scramble feels like. The synopsis alone makes room for a lot of creativity and possibilities, but the production team hardly had any idea how to deal with this cyberpunk thematic. In the end, Mardock Scramble is simply a Ghost in a shell “wanna be” with hardly any content to support it.
I haven’t read the novels, so I’ll assume that the adaptation was in fact weak.
Rune Balot is a down-and-out teen prostitute in Mardock City. One day, she’s picked up by an ambitious casino manager named Shell who gives her everything she could want. Renewed by a false innocence, a false past, and now the false life Shell has given her, Balot feels grateful. However, she can’t help but be curious about why he’s done so much for her, so she does some research about his past on a computer. This turns out to be a mistake which will change her life greatly. When Shell finds out what she’s done, he attempts to burn her to death by blowing up her car.
Due to the high crime rate in Mardock, a new law called “Scramble 09″ has given police carte blanche to take extreme and otherwise illegal measures to revive crime witnesses. With this in mind, they allow a professor to bring Balot back from the brink of death by reassembling her entire body with reinforced synthetic fiber. When she finally wakes up, her confused mental state eventually turns toward revenge as Shell is revealed as her killer.
And again, the synopsis really is interesting. Perhaps it is my fanboyism of cyber-punk settings speaking up to me, but you can’t deny the fact that the ability of reviving crime witnesses is a smart play from future technology. However, there’s this little problem with Mardock that is just enough to tilt the domino. Mardock has a terrible execution and focus. From that, every bits of what was interesting completely fell into the abyss. Up to a point, I was not even sure if Mardock Scramble was supposed to be a crime drama, a soap opera, some sort of psychological thriller or all of the above, which in the end results in a lack of time management.
Arguably, the first movie of Mardock Scramble is quite short, so there’s not much you can do. And to compare it to the movie that obviously inspired it, Ghost in The Shell couldn’t do everything the manga or the series did, but the movie managed itself very well and knew of its boundary. On the other hand, Mardock Scramble presented a concept, but killed too much time with useless scenes. The pinnacle of the problematic really was with the members of the freak house; it was laughable, but completely unnecessary. And beside this pesky problem, the movie also had too much focus on its characters.
This really was a bad idea after all. It is understandable that Balot is a broken child that got raped many times, but all those rape scenes just feel redundant. Could these scenes be used seldom in the film, it would’ve given the same impact and would’ve given more time to the anime to work with. And really, Balot is the perhaps the only character to be complained about since she’s the only focus of the show. And in overall, her characterization and personal traits tends on the lame side, a side that was not needed to develop in the first place. She really makes the movie more childish than what it is supposed to be (Not to mention she falls in love with a genetically modified mouse).
At least the movie had a good point, the visual and, partially but not completely, the animation. To say, nothing really is impressive in Mardock Scramble as it tends to go in a lot of shading and lighting to impress the audience. If you’ve seen a lot of anime, the visual of Mardock really won’t strike you with awe. It is, however, pretty much solid. The character design is generic, but the environment visual is generally well made. As for the animation, it’s really a case of: this part was well animated, but this part fell awkward. As you can guess, I am of course talking about the action scenes.
The music was composed but a not so well known fella. There is really nothing to say about the music.
And so everything leads to one question: how bad is the first Mardock Scramble after all? Well, to be honest, less bad than what the review pictures it. Of course, I had an issue with not reaching my expectations, but this first installment still remains a semi-enjoyable movie. And still, there two more movies in the series, so it must just redeem itself.
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