Directed by Koichi Mashimo
Screenplay by Yosuke Kuroda
Music by Yuki Kajiura
- Scripted outtakes
- Original Japanese TV promo spots
- Clean opening and closing
- Unused alternate opening
- Production art sketches
- Interviews on case insert
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
- Politicians who want to be assassinated
- Blood, death, and dismay
- Weird little girls
- Brief, minor suggested sensuality
- the tearing of innocent books
Released by: ADV
My Advice: Get it if you like action movies or other Bee Train productions
The creators of Noir and .hack//SIGN bring us another tale of young girls doing the best they can to survive tragedy, deadly jobs, and difficult worlds. It opens with a child asking if a place where people do not desire, where they are just people, exists. Then we are taken quickly to meet Madlax, the mercenary assassin and agent who jumps out of helicopters, has big blue eyes, and knows no fear.
The show revolves around the war between the tyrannical government and the Galza. It’s never clear which side Madlax dropped in to assist, given that she is a mercenary and works for the highest bidder. However, when she befriends one of the rebels, she goes after the local government officials, in a quite lovely dress, and high-style gunfights erupt, all accompanied by Kajiura’s emotionally rich music. The following episodes show Madlax take on other, similar jobs, as well as introducing the character of Margaret, a schoolgirl in a peaceful country who has visions that threaten to overwhelm her personality. All this, though the two lead characters have yet to meet, and the nature of their connection is as yet unknown.
The overall tone of the show is very military; the only real relief from this is Madlax herself, as she discusses things she wants to eat for dinner when she’s done with her work, which is, if you think about it, often what soldiers think about when they’re out on classified assignments. Madlax seems to struggle with issues of making a difference and what her personal ethics should be. This makes a cool character into something even richer. Because this is a Bee Train production, you can be sure that things will not make sense right away and that they will be revealed when the director is ready to do so, rather than when you are ready to know them. The action is all very abstract, frequently mixing unexplained flashbacks with scattered pieces of exposition or character development. Reality is never something either Margaret or the viewers can be 100% sure about.
The sound is solid; the “throwaway” extras have good voices, especially the supposed sugar transporters, who are really Galza agents. The sound effects and music have a good balance with the vocals. As with other Bee Train productions, the music is outstanding, again composed by Yuki Kajiura. The visuals are nicely done given the militaristic nature of the show–very dark with realistic designs for the most part and computer-designed images, such as skies, that blend well with the more traditional-looking elements. The subtitle options include an “everything translated” option, as well as a songs and signs only option.
The bonus bits are genuinely quite nice: the DVD insert has text interviews with the screenplay writer and the Japanese producer. These “staff talks” are quite interesting, and a lovely addition that more DVD companies should provide, especially given the relative inexpensiveness of providing such text-based bonuses. We also get a clean opening and closing, along with an interesting unused animation. Compare the one they used with the ones they didn’t for some insight into what they wanted to emphasize about the characters and the show.
We also get a selection of Japanese promo shots: very interesting and a nice way for benighted Westerners to get a feel for Japanese TV and pretend we were there. The riches continue with “Conversations with SSS,” which is a series of outtakes/alternate dialogues. Depending upon your sense of humor, these will either seem lame or hysterical, but give them a chance. It’s nice that they bothered, after all, and more voice actors are always good. Finally, a large selection of design sketches show off the quality art of the show.
If you can be patient with the slow and sometimes weird pacing, as well as the mysteries that serve only to tease and at times annoy, Madlax is a good series filled with hidden depths and surges of action. If you enjoyed Noir, you’ll like this similar show. Fans of action movies and military tales will also find something to appreciate, as will girls who enjoy seeing competent female protagonists. Just try to overlook the needlessly convoluted political plot and the truly awful names of both countries and people. It will take some patience and willingness to be confused for a while, but this is the sort of show that might pay off.