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To stop the unstoppable you need the irresistible. To kill the unkillable, you need someone for whom death no longer has a meaning. And to catch the perfect serial killer, you need the one person who knows his methods the best... his last victim! Murdered and reborn, no longer human, the female cyborg Balot exists for only one reason: to track down the man who killed her and bring him to justice. But can even the ultimate hybrid between ghost and machine take down a monster who wipes his own memory... especially when his partner already has her in his sights? The future will be painted blood red as vengeance hit the streets!
For more about Mardock Scramble and the Mardock Scramble Blu-ray release, see Mardock Scramble Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on March 13, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Megumi Hayashibara, Norito Yashima, Hiroki Touchi, Kazuya Nakai, Tsutomu Isobe
Director: Susumu Kudo
» See full cast & crew
Mardock Scramble Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, March 13, 2012
If you've ever wondered what a mash up featuring The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's Lisabeth Salander with the general ambience of Blade Runner and just a smattering of La Femme Nikita would be like (and who among us hasn't?), look no further than Mardock Scramble: The First Compression. A young woman of the night with a fragile psyche and wounded past named Rune Balot whispers to herself that she'd like to die as Mardock Scramble gets underway. She soon enough may be regretting those words, as she is in the limousine of a nutcase named Shell, who has the odd and disturbing habit of burning his assignations so that he can compress their ashes into blue diamonds that he wears on his hands. Meanwhile from a bluff overlooking this scene a mysterious man seems to be keeping an eye on developments, but to what purpose?
Mardock Scramble began life as a series of novels by Tow Ubukata (Chaos Legion, among many other titles) which was later adapted into manga form and then, most recently, into a trilogy of anime OVAs, with The First Compression being the lead off episode. Set in a sort of indeterminate future world where a glistening Blade Runner-esque metropolis glows in shades of garish chartreuse, we're thrust into a drama that sees Balot reborn, after Shell's vicious attack, as a sort of half-human, half-cyborg killing machine who has been engineered to be "better than she was" according to a top secret protocol (an illegal top secret protocol) named Mardock Scramble 09. Balot's "savior" is the appropriately named Dr. Easter, who has resurrected the girl from her own ashes, but needs something from her in return: she needs to turn state's evidence against Shell. That of course doesn't make Shell very happy, and thus we have the makings of this first episode's central conflict.
Once Balot awakens to her new life, she finds herself ill equipped emotionally to handle the new demands being made of her. Dr. Easter may be well meaning, but he's also strangely unempathetic to Balot's unease. Balot soon finds an ally in what may end up being Mardock Scramble's coolest and most memorable character: a little glowing gold mouse named Oeufcocque ("eggshell" in English) who has, like Balot herself, been engineered and who is equipped with a superhuman intelligence. Oeufcocque is able to assume just about any form (within reasonŚor at least what passes for reason in the wild world of Mardock Scramble), and it turns out he has a somewhat surprising past within the Mardock world of reengineered half-human half-cyborgs.
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression has both pluses and minuses as it attempts to jump start a new anime franchise. One of the major pluses is a plethora of really interesting characters. Aside from the troubled Balot and sweet natured Oeufcocque on the heroic side of things, Shell is a despicable character with one interesting twistŚ he evidently went through some sort of Clockwork Orange anti-crime conditioning in his past that has left his brain a jumble. His memories need to be regularly "dumped" to hard discs and his brain rebooted due to this ill advised tinkering. His right hand man, Boiled (one almost wishes his first name was Hard), is a taciturn type who turns out to have a connection to the Mardock Scramble project and to Oeufcocque as well. Some of the episode's most disturbing characters are a gaggle of supporting bad guys who show up late in the game as part of Boiled's plan to take down Balot. Without giving too much away, let's just say each of these strange creatures is assembled from specialized parts purloined from corpses, a la Frankenstein's Monster, but with an almost fetishistic component. There's a reason Mardock Scramble: The First Compression bears a TV-MA rating, and a lot of it has to do with this element, which the more squeamish and puritanical may find objectionable.
Those characters also ironically present one of the minuses for this opening gambit. Mardock Scramble: The First Compression has to spend so much time establishing these characters and the general premise of the enterprise that the first half of this rather short feature may strike some as being too expository, without any real action elements to propel the story forward. The running time itself is also an issue. At barely longer than an hour (in either the theatrical or the director's cut, both of which are contained on this Blu-ray), there's probably too much information that is crammed into the proceedings, which sometimes seem rushed and underdeveloped. It's kind of interesting to contrast this approach with the somewhat tonally similar Ghost in the Shell series: Ghost in the Shell probably erred too much on the other side of things, with OVAs that pushed a three hour running time, making them somewhat hard slogs. A middle ground would have been preferable with Mardock Scramble: The First Compression, with just a bit more time taken to establish Balot, as well as the strange new world of Mardock Scramble.
Despite being fairly brief, Mardock Scramble: The First Compression does manage to hit some nice beats along the way. Balot's shocking past is uncovered in a nice montage sequence, and her touching symbiotic relationship with Oeufcocque is also explored in a nicely rendered sequence in the middle of the episode, a sequence which manages to inject some actual human (or at least half-human) emotion into the proceedings. Once Balot realizes what she's capable of, the episode picks up some considerable momentum, and the last third or so of The First Compression is a whirlwind tour through car chases and battles, ending with a free for all that sees Balot accessing her vengeful side. The episode ends with a nice little cliffhanger that should have fans coming back for more once the second outing is released.
Mardock Scramble Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is an extremely pleasing looking high definition presentation that benefits from some photo realistic CGI elements blended with other, more fanciful, CGI elements as well as some traditionally animated elements. The photorealism lends an astounding verisimilitude to the cars especially, and the glowing green cityscapes also have a very distinctive appearance. Character design for the most part is fairly conservative, though Oeufcocque is exceptionally well done and this transfer really pops beautifully with regard to the little golden-green mouse. Line detail is exceptionally crisp and clear and though the palette tends to exploit the ugly green side of things, it's suitably robust and well saturated. Some sequences (notably Balot's "rebirth") are rather soft looking, and the overall presentation here presents a somewhat grainier appearance than some anime fans may be used to seeing.
Mardock Scramble Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression features lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes for both the original Japanese language track as well as an English dub. Though purists will have nothing to complain about with regard to the Japanese track, it does have slightly less low end (something I've noticed repeatedly on many recent anime releases, not just Sentai Filmworks titles), and as strange as it may seem, less convincing voice work with regard to at least a couple of characters. Fidelity is precise and accurate throughout both renderings, and both tracks feature some astoundingly vibrant LFE (wait until you hear the last few seconds of this first episodeŚdon't have anything stacked on your subwoofer is all I can say). Immersion isn't overwhelming, but it's nicely consistent, and dialogue, score and ubiquitous sound effects are all mixed very artfully and contribute mightily to this OVA's impact.
Mardock Scramble Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mardock Scramble Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's a lot of egg imagery and referencing throughout Mardock Scramble: The First Compression, and not just with regard to Oeufcocque's name. It's a suitable metaphor for the birth of a new franchise, and all things point to Mardock Scramble as being a potent new offering in the futuristic cyberpunk genre. While The First Compression could have benefited from at least a slightly longer running time (even in the Director's Cut), what's here is quite compelling and things are set up very artfully for what should be a blisteringly exciting second and third outing. Both video and especially audio are just fine, and this release comes Recommended.
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Mardock Scramble Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Mardock Scramble: The Third Exhaust Blu-ray - December 2, 2013
Section23 Films and Sentai Filmworks have announced the Blu-ray release of Mardock Scramble: The Third Exhaust, the third entry in Aniplex and studio GoHands' Mardock Scramble film trilogy. Writer Tow Ubukata and director Susumu Kudo's anime streets on March 25, ...
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