DVD Review: Mardock Scramble - The First Compression / Cert: 18 / Director: Susumo Kudo / Screenplay: Tom Ubukata / Starring: Megumi Hayashibara, Norito Yashima, Hiroki Tochi / Release date: Out Now
In keeping with the tradition of complex backstories to most contemporary anime; Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is based on a novel which was then made into a multi volume manga which is now a trilogy of anime films and is in development as a live action Hollywood film from producer Don Murphy and director Michael Davis. This is the first instalment in the trilogy and sets the tone perfectly; it’s probably the best anime I have seen in a while despite being a little rough around the edges.
The plot is completely batty. A troubled prostitute named Rune Ballot from an abusive family is murdered by a serial killer named Shell and is resurrected through underground technology by a law firm that is part of a mega corporation. The doctor responsible for the return to life informs Rune that Shell works for a rival corporation and they are going to use her to bring him to justice in the court room. Rune is paired with an artificial intelligence that appears to her as a golden mouse and can also form weapons and other items and she sets her mind on vengeance. The killer in the meantime sets a series of grotesque assassins on to the woman to prevent her from testifying against him.
One of the most frustrating things about cyberpunk as a sub-genre is that Hollywood only gets it right once every twenty years or so whereas the Japanese have no problem and make it look easy with their animation all the time. Mardock Scramble plays out like an early William Gibson novel with strong, developed characterisation and the twisted assassins you would find in something like Ninja Scroll. Despite its subject matter the film never descends into lurid fan service the way it could have done and the sex and violence is part of the background of the story and never the focus.
The animation is solid but unremarkable, it never gets to the visual heights of something produced by Production I.G or Madhouse but looks good with some slightly dodgy computer assisted anime during the cityscape and driving scenes. The roughness gives it something of an old school feel which I really liked. It felt like the anime boom of the early 90s again, when I would watch something on video amazed that cartoons could contain such violence and language.
At a brief 65 minutes, Mardock Scramble is a complete blast of anime fun with a layered story that will be expanded on in the next two films. It ends on a major cliff hanger that may frustrate but will get you back for the next film due later this year.
Special Features: Theatrical and Directors Cuts, Trailers.