Mardock Scramble: The First Compression on Blu-ray and DVD
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
- DVD or Blu-Ray
- Running time:
- 65 mins approx + extras
- widescreen 16:9
- English 5.1, Japanese (+ others)
- Release date:
- 16th April 2012
- Blu-ray Price:
- £15ish - Amazon - Play
- DVD Price:
- £15ish - Amazon - Play
The world’s oldest profession has it’s hazards, it comes with the career choice. Some dangers are common and obvious, some uncommon and unexpected. Being torched to death by one of your own clients in his very own car probably counts of one of the more uncommon dangers to be found in 15 year old prostitute Rune Balot’s short and tragic life.
Left for dead by the murderous gambler, drinker and all-round player Shell Septimus, Balot’s body is recovered from the blaze by an maverick doctor, who offers her a choice, die of her injuries or be resurrected as cyborg using, an unconventional-to-the-point-of-illegal technology know as “09”. Reborn from the ashes of both her previous life and body, Balot soon finds that while there are those that would assist her in her new life there are others, such as her would be murderer who would prefer that she had stayed dead, and as determined to make sure that she does just that.
Partnered with a shape-changing AI mouse, Balot is given the chance to assist in a covert operation, investigating the very man who tried to kill her, an investigation that may be the only thing that will keep her alive long enough to see Septimus either behind bars, or dead.
I was asked a little while ago to sum up the Mardock Scramble in one easy phrase and the first thing that came to mind was “Ghost in the Shell meets Bladerunner”, which drew a huge grin from my conversational companion at the time. What’s up” I asked. “I’ve asked 6 different people” they said ”and they all came out with pretty much the exact same thing; Bladerunner meets Ghost in the Shell, maybe with some Matrix or some William Gibson or the like thrown in, but always the first two in there somewhere”. Well if half a dozen other people are saying the same thing” said I ”then that’s good enough for me”.
The thing is, visually, thematically even spiritually, cyberpunk action anime Mardock Scramble is - in a good way - what you’d get if you started some kind of experimental outlaw breeding lab specifically for the purpose of cloning a bastard off spring of what have to arguably be two of the best sci-fi… experiences of all time. Often there’s scenes where you’d be easily forgiven for thinking you were watching an episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and the similarities don’t end just with the eye; the writing, the pacing, the pondering of the overlapping boundaries between man and machine, the long periods of wordy dialogue punctuated with short but frenetic moments of quite impressive gunplay and action.
The animation is well above average and while I’ll freely admit there are a number of other anime movies that are visually more impressive, this movie excels in making the best of what it’s got. Both the sex and the violence are quite graphic, and the fact that our "heroine" is clearly stated to be underage – and an underage prostitute at that - will be quite enough to get the likes of the Daily Mail all in a huff over their breakfast cereal, which is always a bonus in my eyes. That said, it doesn’t move into proper “animated porn” territory as the graphic visuals are always there to enhance the story, not just to titillate the audience, though this subtle distinction will undoubtedly still not be enough to counteract the neighsayers.
The script harkens back to the days where you didn’t so much graze idly on your anime fare, but had to actually “think along” with the story in order to keep up with what was going on, instead of having it all laid out on a plate for easy consumption. This, I believe, hails from Mardock Scramble’s origin as a series of novels and as such in it’s conception was more about the cerebral than the visual, meaning that now it’s transitioned into animated form, it still managed to start off with what may other movies (cough, Avatar, cough) sadly lack… an actual plot! Good golly, whatever next? I’d just like to take a quick moment to point out that the original Novels, and also a manga series spawned by same, have all been licensed and released in English and are all worth hunting down via all the usual places. ahem (points to the links closer to the top of the review as a place to start looking) ahem.
The thing is, this movie, or rather trilogy of movies, almost didn’t happen. A good few years back the novels and manga were doing well and a anime series had been announced and then all of a sudden, bang, the anime was cancelled and it looked like that was that. Then luckily a website sprung up to tell the world that yes the series was cancelled but instead a theatrical release was on the cards. Huzzar! Cue the happy fans and the dancing girls.
Now, some bad points, and you all know by now I always seem to find some so here goes. Though touted as a full movie, well, the first part of a trilogy actually, it’s actually remarkably short at a few scant minutes over an hour in length and is very much the “setting the stage” part of the trilogy with much of the “juicy” parts of the story promised for the subsequent parts of the series. The idiosyncratic naming can be a bit jarring (someone was obviously obsessed with eggs when they were creating the characters) and the villains have names that sound like they all tried out for parts in Trigun and were told to stop being silly. Also, there are not a lot of extras, just trailers, promos and the like. There is however the subs-only director’s cut included as an extra on this release which ads an extra 4 minutes of the raunchier footage back in and the option to watch, on the Blu-ray version that I tested at least, in a whole host of other languages. That said, the Blu-ray is actually cheaper than the DVD version and if you are Blu-ray capable then the choice of format is a total no-brainer.
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is available now from most high streets and online retailers. Major supermarkets are a maybe and you could try asking in Boots the Chemists but they’ll probably just give you a funny look.