Archive for the Madlax Category


The Great “Girl With Guns on the Run” Trilogy Rewatch

December 23rd, 2016

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve finally done something I promised to do years ago. I rewatched Noir, Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja back to back.

And it was good. ^_^  (From Sean G, a link to concise, amusing summaries of the main characters.)

I said as I began El Cazador de la Bruja, “If Noir is a knit narrative, then Madlax is crochet and El Cazador is macramé. Each successive iteration of the elements has more holes.” Upon reflection, though, I’m not sure I was right. 

Noir spends the most time building the story. More happens in the first episode of Madlax, than happens in the first 6 episodes of Noir.

It’s not that it’s killing time, but Noir is filling in all the details very slowly and carefully, with a lot of time spent in simply watching Kirika and Mirielle function as hitmen. Their relationship is built through this action, rather than through speaking. In fact, of the three series, this one has the most silences. 

The music here is a cue mostly only to that they are again in a shootout. It’s awesome music, though and worth re-hearing. And, by the time Kirika and Mirille’s full history is filled in, we kinda guessed already. ^_^ The climax of the series is satisfying and Soldats just ends up looking stupid and ham-handed.

In the end, I realized that I think of Noir, not as Kirika’s story, but as Mirielle’s.

Madlax starts with a completely different pace than Noir. There’s an obvious initial almost-schizoid split between episodes with Madlax and Margaret. Nonetheless long before Margaret goes to Garth-Sonika, we’ve figured out that there’s some connection between the two.

Where Noir takes place in identifiable places in our world, Madlax takes place in places that seem familiar, but are wholly fictitious. Nafrece might be France or England or Japan, but it’s not. This gives the story a lot of leeway to adding fictive elements, like a arms-dealing conspiracy driven by magic and the desire for more magic and allows for the entire climax to happen in a place that isn’t even of the world at all. 

Friday Monday is still a stupid bad guy with a ridiculous name.

Although Noir probably still wins for overall body count, there’s more deaths of people we cared about in Madlax than in Noir. In fact, I was pretty surprised to realize how dark Madlax was. Dark and dense. It was slow going, with so many storylines that had to converge. 

The music in Madlax is practically a character, it plays such a significant role.

El Cazador de la Bruja almost feels like a reaction to the intense darkness of Madlax and Noir. While there’s still a lot of shooting, the overall body count is much less. Nadie mostly shoots to disarm. And the general tone is much lighter and cheerier.

We’re back in the “real” world for this series, in an American Southwest-ish. There’s a President and a White House and Taco chains, but there’s also magic that works visibly.

This is the only story of the three with a deranged stalker who won’t take no for an answer.  Where Nadie and Ellis help each other to become more human, LA ends up being more and more a wounded animal who needs to be put out of his misery. To accomplish this, even some of the initially silliest plot elements end up fitting into the apparently hole-filled puzzle by the end. In fact, as I watched the final episodes tonight, I was surprised to find the climax much more tightly scripted than I remembered.

The music is purely window dressing, without much meaning as it was in the first two series. Rosenberg was a delightfully horrible bad guy whom we will not mourn.

While all three series end with a journey renewed,  El Cazador de le Bruja wins for the utter sappy wonderfulness of the ending, which could leave no doubt as to the fact that the main characters are incontrovertibly a couple. Squee.

Top characters of each series for me: Noir – Mirielle, Madlax – Rimelda , El Cazador de la Bruja – Jody “Blue Eyes” Hayward. So Hisakawa Aya beats Mitsuishi Kotono 2-to-1. ^_^ 

Still three of my favorite series, with some of the best music I’ve ever loved.

Ratings:

Noir – 10

Madlax – 9

El Cazador de la Bruja  – 10

This was a long time in coming, but it was loads of fun! I’ll do it again in another 10 years. ^_^

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Light Novel: Tabisuru Shoujo to Shaukunetsu Kuni (旅する少女と灼熱の国)

June 24th, 2015

TsStSnKIt is a hallmark of how predictable Tabisuru Shoujo to Shakukunetsu Kuni (旅する少女と灼熱の国) is, that 20 pages or so before I have completed it, I am writing this review. Or, as I like to describe it to other people, this was written with the help of the “Big Book O’War Novel Tropes.”

Do you remember the end of Madlax? No? Neither does anyone else, so don’t worry. It was a great series, and had a lot of everything, happening all at once, so it’s not surprising that you don’t. Well, the main point to remember is that at the end of the series the entity known as Margaret Burton at the beginning of the series, doesn’t really exist any more.

But her maid, Eleanor Baker, who has been traveling around war-torn Garth-Sonika for ten years, does not know this crucial fact. In those ten years she has been looking for Margaret without success. And it is into her (somewhat fruitless) quest we find ourselves catapulted in the beginning of this Light Novel.

Eleanor is looking for Margaret, without success. 10 years have passed, but she remains undaunted. Right away, this fact depressed the hell out of me. We know Margaret doesn’t exist as such anymore. And here’s Eleanor still looking for her. How depressing is that?

So, while looking for Margaret, she meets Dieu, a woman whose husband wandered off to war ages ago, and has struggled to keep her little cafe running, while being used and abused by local guerrilla fighters. Eleanor brings both hope and despair, but helps Dieu beat off the guerrillas long enough to be reunited with her husband. In addition to kicking guerrilla fighters in the balls, Eleanor cleaned the cafe for many pages.

Eleanor meets Nigel Wingate, a British Intelligence Officer who is too clever for his own good, and with whom she rescues a kidnapped child, Alissam, from a group of kidnappers. We were treated to many pages of the cleaning the filthy kitchen in the kidnapper’s apartments. After this segment, if you did not recognize the Japanese word for “roach” you were not paying attention.

In the third section, Eleanor and Wingate foil more bad guys, this time at a resort casino. We learn that, along with her amazing fighting and cleaning skills, Eleanor also is a casino-class card dealer.

The books ends (will end) with her and Wingate coincidentally traveling together.

There was, of course, as much service as could be crammed into a book that included guerrilla fighters intimidating the owner of a small cafe, kidnappers having kidnapped a female child and casino pool scenes. And, we learn details of cleaning in a war zone, which surely will be useful one day.

I can’t even say this book was bad. It was *exactly* what I expected from the official post-series Madlax novel. “Big Book O’War Novel Tropes” is ever so popular. Which is to say, who else but me and a bunch of freaks would ever read this? ^_^

Ratings:

Art – Meh
Story – Absurd
Characters – Ridiculous
Yuri – Of course
Service – Gobs

Overall – Laughably awful, unless you actually liked Madlax, like I did. Then it’s a depressing, dismal, 3.

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Yuri Anime: Madlax, Volume 7

July 3rd, 2006

Because I’m home for the holiday, I thought I’d try something new today – reviewing something as I watch it. So, I am watching Madlax, Volume 7 as I write.

The first thing that struck me was the cover of this DVD. If you haven’t yet gotten the connection between Madlax and Margaret, then you’re clearly running behind. This picture ought to make the point quite clearly.

It’s very hard to talk about this volume without massive spoilers, but I’m going to try to be vague and speculative about some key things. My apologies if I blow anything huge for you.

Right from the opening seconds there’s a great tension in this volume that doesn’t really dissipate until the end, where it’s supposed to. How amazing is that?

Episode 24

In the first episode, we finally see Madlax as she truly is – a phantasm. There’s a brilliant moment when a machine gun is shot at her and we can see the bullets ricochet against the rock behind her. Clearly, the shots passed right through her forehead. But there’s no reaction from her and no sign of the bullets. The shadow Madlax taking all the hits while the absurd dress-wearing Madlax shoots the enemy, was quite brilliant.

Then Rimelda arrives. She’s changed, one can see that immediately. There’s something like acceptance, and a little relief in her expression. She and Madlax have a moment that changes everything between them.

Meanwhile, we get to see just how much Eleanor truly loves Margaret, and what Margaret really is to her.

Episode 24 makes a really good case for there being many different ways that love can manifest. In day-to-day things, (what my wife and I refer to as “playing house”) and in remembering a person after they are gone.

We lose yet another friend and again, it’s a GREAT scene. In a war story, losing someone isn’t bizarre and can be used well. In anime, a main character remaining dead is almost unheard of. It makes the death more meaningful (in the sense of driving the story) when you know that they won’t pop back in a giant reset that renders everything pointless. The losses we suffer here are handled well and are definitely not pointless.

Episode 25

Where Episode 24 is about an apparent reality, 25 is about the magic that has driven the series from the beginning – some of which has only been hinted at. It’s a magic with no roots in our world, so we have to take everything we’re given at face value, which I like quite a bit.

Things we thought were resolved pop back up, still present. People we thought gone come back, but not for the reasons we might think. And Margaret is not saved, as it appeared last episode.

We get to see Friday Monday’s point of view on the events of twelve years ago, which adds the few last pieces to the puzzle – except why Friday Monday is such a crazy nerdbanger. That remains unexplained. Also I question the concept of the “Essence”, since it seems to always make people turn murderously violent against the person they love the most. It seems an obviously flaw to the FM’s insistence that that is the REAL truth, when it’s the same exact reaction in everyone who encounters the words. It’s like saying that datura is *really* an antacid, and the fact that people who take it die is sort of a side effect of the true disease within them. Except, as we see that FM is completely crazy, we can also see how, to him, this obviously evil magic spell is “The Truth (TM)”. Nonetheless, we do see the truth, finally, of what happened to Margaret, and who Madlax is.

When the calvary thunders down the hill – to kick ass music, mind you – it was so wonderful, if just to SHUT Friday Monday UP. Geez, his laugh is enough to make *me* shoot him.

Episode 26 – Final.

What can I really say about this episode that won’t be one great big spoiler? Let’s just say this – the story actually ends. And, to the best of the writers’ abilities, it makes sense. There are still tons of questions, but they are more about the hows than the whys or whats.

Watching Margaret making her decision this time, it all made more sense. Of course, if I tell you why, I’ll ruin the whole thing, so you’ll just have to watch it and get back to me.

And I guess there’s something to the bad guy who doesn’t die, because this way you can just keep killing the freak again and again…

Oh, and how happy was I when Margaret tells Friday Monday exactly what I pointed out in my review of Volume 6 – that there was no need to bring out the violence and hatred in people’s hearts, because we’re quite well aware that it exists, thanks awfully.

I still maintain that Madlax is the best writing that Bee Train has done. It has the mystery of the .hack series, without the endless meaningless chatter that goes nowhere, the Yuri and violence of Noir, the despair and love of Avenger and a story that resolves, unlike all of them. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Character – 9
Music – 8
Yuri – 3
Service – 3 (random breasts, pretty much)

Overall – 8

And what a great epilogue. I love that epilogue. Luv, luv. This series ends with an unexpected bang. Perfect for fanfic. (Which yes, I have written. It’s up on “Worldshaking” Fanfic. Enjoy!)

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Yuri Anime: Madlax, Volume 6

May 30th, 2006

So much happens in Madlax, Volume 6 that I’m not sure where to start. So, as usual, I’ll start with the absurd. ^_^

Imagine if you will, two women running through a hot war zone. One is a hardened warrior, her skills bolstered by magic, the other…a maid. We can tell, because she wears the  ubiquitous ruffled apron over a dark dress. Now, I know Eleanor is a dedicated servant, attached by more than just duty to her mistress Margaret, but come *on*! Give the girl a pair of boots and pants at least – her legs are going to be a mess out there in the jungle.

The other absurdity in this series remains the same – Friday Monday is such a nerdbanger, I can barely credit his getting this far at all, except by dumb luck. And then there’s his exhaustingly over-used dream of a “pure” humanity , driven by hatred. Oh yes, that would be different, because? Has he LOOKED at the world recently? Enfant is wasting their energy – they could have let this particular civil war die, because sure as there’s tomatoes in my salad, another would have popped up. And Rimelda becomes horribly boring, but don’t worry, she’ll be back, better, than ever

Now, for the good side – we get actual, semi-contextual info on what went on 12 years ago! Yay! Of course, it’s not entirely correct, but at least we have a clue – a bunch more clues, in fact. What happened to Vanessa Rene’s family that has driven her to look for information? Who, exactly, is Callosur Dawn and what was his role 12 years ago? What actually *happened* that night? We have most – but not all – of it now.

Good – Madlax accepts what she is, and as a result gets a power up.

Good – we lose a friend and it’s permanent and powerful. If you don’t want spoilers for this, DON’T look at the “Extras” menu until after you’ve watched the volume.

Good – Margaret losing it. Finally, she has a personality. Even if it’s an evil, stupid one.

Good – We know know the reasoning behind the obsessive reptition of the red shoes, the “it’s going to rain,” the doll…but not pasta.

Good – Naharu actually *does* something. Yay her.

In general, a complex and fascinating volume, and a bit maddening, as we still need a few more pieces to figure out what the flying %^$! is going on. ^_^ Nice job for the penultimate volume. Thumbs up from me on that.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Music – 8
Yuri – 4
Service – 3

Overall – 8

It’s getting better and better, but I want to know what the deal is with pasta. (And if you know, don’t tell me – I mean within the context of the anime, duh.)

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Yuri Anime: Madlax, Volume 5

March 16th, 2006

Madlax 5 is absolutely, positively worth the wait.

I know that most anime fans have the attention spans of a gnat, so I wanted to say that quickly, before you stopped reading – or if you, perchance, have stopped watching Madlax because you saw Noir and think that it’s the same thing. It is the same thing – but better. Think of Noir as practice.

This volume is entitled “Convergence” and for once, the title actually fits. In this volume all the playing pieces gather together on one board.

Madlax and Vanessa have been framed so that the entire country believes that they have murdered a member of the royal family – which they have not. Rimelda (the official translation is Limelda, but I prefer the R to the L, so I’m sticking with my version, even though it is wrong) has been assigned Madlax as a target, but when she confronts Madlax and Vanessa, they give her the data they stole from Enfant.

This entire volume is the death and rebirth of Rimelda and it utterly, totally, completely rocks.

Rimelda dies as an elite sniper of the Royalist army and is reborn as an insane, obsessed killer. Think about that sentence for a while…eventually you’ll realize that there is, of course, no difference at all. Rimelda hasn’t *quite* gotten there by the end of the volume, but she’s on her way.

Vanessa learns to shoot so she can take care of herself, which ups her cool factor a few notches. When Margaret and Eleanor (another name for which I refuse to use the official version) show up, she’s not unhappy at all to have them join her.

They all *converge* upon Quanzitta’s village, where Naharu (a third name I use my own version of) wonders why she can’t get Madlax out of her head. Carlossea Doon shows up too, but he’s such a non-entity in this series, even if he is one of the main three characters. (I’m being generous here… his name is pronounced Carlossur Dawn. But because I don’t care about him, I’ll use his official spelling. Which the dub actors pronounce “Dune.” argh)

So we’re all together and the three mystical books are gathered. Finally Quanzitta has something to do other than take baths.The plot is pulling together and they are all getting closer, as Laetitia points out. The tension runs high, and the end, while not far away, is not really at all in sight. Something else, I like – when it’s carried off decently. Plotwise, this is the beginning of the end.

But the strength of this volume is in Hisakawa Aya’s portrayal of Rimelda, as she loses her life, her dreams, her status and her mind and replaces them all with an obsession. She falls in love with her idea of Madlax – and that supremely unhealthy love is only strengthened by every encounter with her prey. Rimelda nails their relationship after an aborted hand to hand fight with Madlax – if only Vanessa hadn’t interfered, they could have continued the dance.

I love Rimelda and Madlax together, so I was a little peeved at Vanessa too. And in myYyuri goggles, now that Eleanor is there, she and Vanessa can play family with Margaret, leaving the fightin’ chicks to each other. ^_^

My first thought – and one that resounded over and over as I watched this volume – Rimelda is Chloe, but done *right.* Not just because she has the same voice actress – but because they are the same lost little girl characters who are living a lie. Only where Chloe always seemed like a refugee from a different story in Noir, Rimelda is a crucial part of Gazth-Sonika. In many ways, she is more part of the world than Madlax herself – both as a character and as part of the larger mystical plot.

The song “I’m here,” which plays before every scene in which Madlax gets all bad-ass, becomes, in this volume an actual, active part of the plot. The final use of it in the volume – it is as much part of the story as the action going on around it. If you haven’t read the lyrics, do. It’s absolutely the story talking to the audience. I was left quite breathless by it. Good song, too.

The liner notes are, as always, worth the read. There’s a wacky little note about Rimelda written by Hisakawa Aya, which is very funny as it censures Rimmy about sleeping with Doon, but never even mentions falling in love with Madlax.  And I don’t know why I missed these, but the extras on the DVD include “Conversations with SSS,” which are completely insane dubbed scenes that are totally stupid, go on too long and are really funny. I’ll have to go back and watch the back volumes now. ^_^

Ratings:
Art – 7 (good, until it gets wonky)
Story – 9
Characters – 8
Music – 9
Yuri – 7
Service – 2

Overall – 9

This was *such* a good watch. I was really into it. I’ve heard from alot of people that they couldn’t get into Madlax, or they felt it was just a Noir clone. I love Noir, but of the two, I really have to say that Madlax is the far superior story. As I said in the beginning, this volume is absolutely worth the wait.

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