Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rosy's scrawled manga recommendation: Gunslinger Girl by Aida Yu

Gunslinger Girl
Aida Yu
Henrietta barely survived a brutal attack that killed her family. 'Rescued' by the Social Welfare Agency, her injuries were repaired with robotic components and she was brainwashed. Lost with the memory of her family's deaths was almost every trace of her own humanity. Now, she is an extraordinarily lethal cyborg assassin, obediently working with her handler Giuseppe to carry out her deadly tasks. Despite her conditioning and programming, Henrietta still has the heart of a young girl. She has not completely forgotten how to love, yet the very emotion is contrary to her training and programming. Can the Gunslinger Girl survive? Can she find peace in a struggle against her very nature?

Alternative names


Manga reader sites (free)

Rosy's scrawlings on Gunslinger Girl
I ran across this story first in anime and then in manga but that appears to be the wrong way around regarding authorship. This, however, didn't seem to matter all that much as the anime follows the manga very closely. The colouring of the anime does help to distinguish some of the more similar looking characters but once you've read a little of the manga you shouldn't really find it too hard to distinguish who's who amongst the men and the girls.
Gunslinger Girl doesn't just follow the story of Henrietta, although her story is technically the main one. Instead, the manga follows the lives of several girls who've met unfortunate circumstances which resulted in massive bodily harm, through illness, accident, assault and attempted murder, who've only managed to live on by being transformed into cyborgs. The majority of the girls' bodies have been modified and they are highly dependent on a drug for both surgery and a form of programming or indoctrination called conditioning. They are trained both to be weapons and to be extremely loyal to their handlers, the men. So much so that their loyalty borders on love or can be seen as actual love. The problems incurred by one way loyalty and love are some of the most explored psychological issues but they are not all that's discussed. There's also the problems of memory, personality, the human status of cyborgs, weapons training issues, ownership of the mind and body and much more.
The story is highly psychological in nature, with the action pushed away from the fore even though it is still a crucial element in the girls' lives and their issues. As the story is largely science fiction in nature the action and psychology has been nicely balanced, reflecting some of the classic science fiction writing styles rather than the more recent explosion filled movies. There's a subtlety to the writing and a ponderousness to the pacing that creates a convincing alternative world/Europe. It is easy to sink into the story and slowly think on all the topics brought up, and there lies the enjoyment of the story (aside from the cyborg aspect, of course). 
The art of Gunslinger Girl is very comic-like, with the usual manga traits by-and-large dropped. This is entirely appropriate considering the story's placement within Europe. The illustrations are created through a heavy use of black to delineate, grey to shade in colours and depth while white is used as a counter for grey more than black. With this, the heat and wide scenery of Rome and the other European countries visited by the girls are well portrayed. Within this scenery the ponderousness and psychology of the girls' story is highlighted by the stillness within of most of the panels, even when action sequences are included. Only rarely does the action cause the story to increase in pace and at these times guns and blood do take the fore. In all, the illustrations create a solid base for the psychology and portray the girls and their handlers in a gentle and sympathetic light, allowing you to delve into the story without the continued interruptions of explosions.

I'd recommend this manga to: those interested in psychological stories with a bit of action, science fiction and cyborgs. 

Notes on manga reader sites
The quality of manga readers can vary. The uploads are often done cheaply or as a serious hobby by a collective. Be aware that sometimes licence hasn't been given but the sites noted above, Manga Fox in particular, are extremely careful about adding and pulling mangas according to license agreements. So you shouldn't have to worry too much about the material being pirated. There are also translated works and non-translated. Amongst the translated works you will find that the quality of translation may vary according to the skills of the translators. Usually the works are perfectly readable anyway, with only a few added or dropped words or a word in the incorrect tense or with/out plurals. But sometimes the text becomes gobbledygook. In which case, either seek another version or give up and buy an official copy once a printed translation comes out. The other issue of note is you may need to expand the screen to read the text easily as sometimes the scans are minimised a little.
I find that if a page doesn't download properly or some other issue occurs (too slow or someone ordered the pages incorrectly etc.) with one reader then skipping across to another reader and picking up where I was is quite easy and rarely annoying.
Otherwise, enjoy and watch out you don't get too addicted you forget about the necessary things in life.

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