Fried My Little Brains: Mardock Scramble, The First Compression

Even after death she looks for a purpose.

When in doubt, seek vengeance.

I feel like I keep hearing about Mardock Scramble, and I was intrigued enough by the preview to jump on the chance to watch it when it came around On Demand. Now…well, I’ve seen it.

Not even a magical mouse named Ufcock can make Balot smile.

Here’s the gist: Balot is a fifteen year-old prostitute who gets murdered by maniacal Shell, the man who springs her out of jail. Actually, he attempts to murder her in a fire, but a quirky guy named Dr. Easter manages to snag her body and revive her as a cyborg using a program known as the Mardock Scramble. Balot tries to learn about her new body and come to terms with her life via the help of Ufcock, a weapon who usually takes the form of a golden mouse. Dr. Easter wants Balot to testify against Shell, who is a notorious gambler and heinous criminal. Because of this Shell sends his henchmen to get rid of her. Will Balot master her new powers well enough to stay alive?

Finally she gets a gun! She might not have pants, but dammit, she has a gun.

Honestly, I don’t even know the answer to that. The movie ends very, and I mean very, abruptly. Since I didn’t realize that it was a trilogy at the time, I was quite taken aback. I’ve come to expect less than tidy endings from anime, but this was just ridiculous. However, it seems that the next two movies will pick up where this one left off. As for part one, I have to say that I’m quite torn as to what I think about it. This is one of those rare anime offerings that is clearly of the highest quality production-wise, and yet, I never want to watch it again. I consider myself pretty open-minded when it comes to violence and sex in film (some of my favourites have both) but this one was over the top for me. There was just so much horribly sad and disturbing sex/borderline rape. I thought that maybe the first part would be the worst, but then there was more in the middle, so finally when it came to the gang of criminals obsessed with body parts (most notably a fellow who liked to surgically add women’s privates onto his hand) I was past being affected. I understood from the previews alone that this would be a very disturbing tale, but I have to wonder if it was necessary to have all that was shown. And trust me, it was a lot. Then again, I did watch the director’s cut, so maybe that accounts for the excess of sex and violence. Though I imagine that the original cut of the film is still incredibly dark (and not in a good way).

Let's see that cute little mouse again! Gosh, he's adorable! Almost adorable enough to blot out the horrific violence in the rest of the film. Almost.

There were some aspects that did impress me, such as the astounding artwork, which was really top-notch. I liked some of the sci-fi details, such as being able to take memories out of a person’s head and save them onto a computer disc. And Ufcock was awesome, definitely my favourite character. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot for me here. The music was fine but unmemorable. The characters were pretty much all stereotypical: bad guys who are super evil just because, a kooky doctor who likes to experiment, self-righteous lawmakers, etc. Maybe they become more defined in further films. Most of the backstory was spent on Balot, who was an okay protagonist. I did feel sympathy for her, but little else, seeing as how most of her screen time involves her getting f**ked over, literally. I can see how her vengeance will be very satisfying, especially considering how crappy her life had been, but they barely scratched the surface of her mastering her power and becoming a true badass by the time the credits rolled. Overall, I found the whole thing to be very unsatisfying. Mardock Scramble: The First Compression seemed to be an endless parade of graphic images with an interesting story to thread them together, but personally, I’m not sure that the story was intriguing enough to put up with all of the details exploited on the screen. I might attempt to watch the other two films in the trilogy, or I might just google the story to see how it all ends and be done with it.

Rating: ★★✰ The animation quality is outstanding, and if you love sci-fi anime, this would probably be worth your time. For me, it wasn’t.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LLJ
    Mar 25, 2012 @ 21:07:13

    I feel like I *might* sorta like this, but several things are conspiring against me to pick it up as a blind buy. One of them is the price per minute. Now, I know that quality is the most important thing, but it’s still too steep a price for essentially a 70 minute flick of a 1/3 finished trilogy.

    I could rent it like you did, but I don’t rent enough movies to bother starting an account. (That and my local library lets me take out new movies for free anyway, though their anime selection is largely randomly chosen).

    Like you I’d probably just wait until the entire trilogy is finished before I decide on it, and then if I do, I’d just pick up the entire trilogy when it’s repackaged as a set.

    Oh, and if you don’t like untidy endings, you’d best be wary of trying Corpse Princess. That show *literally* ends in the middle of a fight! We’re talking someone about to throw a punch and then–cut to credits!

    Reply

    • Miss Pink
      Mar 30, 2012 @ 01:16:01

      Yeah, the price is really outrageous. I know that anime isn’t exactly known for being cheap, but come on! I love Hetalia, but I just can’t justify paying $30 (or more) for a series that has about a third shorter run time than one Lord of the Rings film. Most of my anime buys are from sales (unless I *have* to have it the *second* it’s released, like anything Black Butler).

      I don’t rent, either, unless you count Netflix streaming as renting. Luckily this one came up as a free option for a couple of weeks. Thanks, Anime Network On Demand!

      Yeah, I can see that this one really needs the other two films, at least in my opinion it does. If I could have watched all three at once I probably would have so as to judge the complete story better. But since I have to wait, I’m not sure if I’ll be bothered to return to it. Unless it comes up for free again. 😉

      Thanks for the warning! Corpse Princess *is* in my Netflix queue, but it sounds like the ending would give me fits!

      Reply

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