29 July 2016 | ebossert
Prime example of just how unique Japanese animation can be
The "Mardock Scramble" trilogy consists of 3 Japanese anime films: "The First Compression" (from 2010), "The Second Combustion" (from 2011), and "The Third Exhaust" (from 2012). Each of these films is about an hour long, which sums to a three-hour film in total.
Taking place in a futuristic city called Kamina City, a young prostitute is taken in by a notorious gambler. One night, he abandons and attempts to murder her in an explosion. However, she is rescued and transformed into a cyborg by a man named Dr. Easter. Afterward, an artificial intelligence in the form of a glowing yellow mouse accompanies her to adapt to her new life. She is trained to use the advanced technology fitted on her to defend herself against the gambler's attempts to have her killed in order to stop her from testifying against him.
Mardock Scramble is bursting with so much creativity and awesomeness that it provides a surprisingly unique viewing experience. It combines elements that have no business being in the same movie together. I briefly mentioned the glowing yellow mouse, which by the way has some awesome technological abilities, and this character is introduced soon after the opening sequence which is a gritty, violent, uncomfortable moment where a teenage prostitute gets beaten and almost murdered. And that's not all. You have some other animals that make appearances later on, and I can wholeheartedly assure you that you will never see dolphins and sharks the same way again.
Almost unbelievably, the eccentric mix of gritty revenge violence, nudity, science fiction and technology, and cute fluffy mice is only the tip of the iceberg. I do not want to get into the plot details of the second and third movies – mostly because there are so many surprises to be had – but I will say that if you enjoy lengthy gambling sequences that take place in a glitzy casino and showcase a battle of wits between the player and dealer, then you're in for a real treat.
Based on what little I've told you thus far, you may wondering how a trilogy of films can introduce such wildly disparate elements and actually work. Well, I'm happy to say that they work wonderfully because the scriptwriting really does a good job of transitioning between these different elements in such a way that the storyline feels natural and logical within the world that it creates. I would also say that the overall tone doesn't shift quite as much as you may think. Yes, there are some very dark moments here, but even the lighter scenes (like when the glowing yellow mouse cuddles with the girl) are expressed as more of a melancholy moment. There is not goofy humor or anything like that, and I think that helps to keep everything together.
The writing also creates some very interesting character interaction. The relationship between the girl and her fluffy mouse is actually very endearing and I did care about them as things progressed There's also the battle of wits that I previously mentioned. You get a sense of quality to the Mardock Scramble films because it seems like someone thought this stuff thru.
You're probably thinking to yourself, "Such an odd set of films probably had a limited budget." I did a search the internet myself but could not confirm the budget. But it's obvious that Mardock Scramble had a healthy production behind it because the animation looks very nice. Some of the detail and use of color creates a visual spectacle that's beautiful to look at.
There's not a lot of criticisms I can find for Mardock Scramble. Obviously, if you have a problem with the mix of elements that I previously mentioned, then that's one thing but I think that's one of the things that makes this trilogy so interesting to watch. I would say that the viewer will be forced to piece a few things together. These movies don't explain every little thing, so the viewer is asked to figure some things out for themselves. Nothing mind-blowing, but it can create some confusion. For example, the abilities of the technology that the protagonists use is not well defined, so you just have to roll with it. Also, the pacing is a bit on the slow side at times.
In any case, I really enjoy these films and they represent why Japanese animation is so unique. This trilogy is widely available on DVD, so be sure to check these out.