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NYAF2010: "Mardock Scramble: The First Compression" Thoughts and Observations

During the first day of NYAF, convention members 18 years of age and older were given the opportunity to watch the world premiere of Mardock Scramble: The First Compression. Aniplex, the presenters of the film, also brought along the author of the novels that the movie is based on, Tow Ubukata. On Sunday I had the opportunity to sit down in a press conference with Mr. Ubukata, and it was incredibly informational. A lot of time and effort went into these books, and it shows through the film quite well. A report on that press conference will come separately. Mardock Scramble is an impressive story, with a lot of emotion and action to give the viewer satisfaction. The novel has been translated into English and will be released this coming year through VIZ Media, so be sure to pick it up and give it a read.

Mardock Scramble: The First Compression tells the story of a young girl named Balot who is arrested for prostitution. Some time after her arrest, she becomes involved with a man named Shell that has been linked to a string of murders involving young females. Balot becomes his next victim, claiming he will make her into a blue diamond like those before her, and attempts to murder her by trapping her in a car and having it explode. His attempts nearly work; if she weren’t saved by a shape-shifting AI named Ouefcoque and then turned into a cyborg (who has lost her voice and communicates through machines) due to her subconscious wanting to live on. The remainder of the first movie focuses on Balot’s adjustment to her new life and the prosecution of Shell, which is fairly difficult since he has his memories wiped and then stored away. It is clear he has ambitions, but the extent of those hasn’t been explored just yet. Shell’s partner, a man named Boiled, is put in charge of getting rid of Balot as she is the key witness to the crime that can put Shell behind bars.

The story does well in mixing the plot, characters and action all together. Balot is a fantastic protagonist. As young as she is, she comes with a lot of baggage in her past, with her father molesting her during early childhood. She becomes psychologically troubled by these events and looks for someone to love her, which Shell offers. Any viewer that doesn’t feel for Balot is devoid of emotions, and the entire film you find yourself rooting for her. Ouefcoque is no ordinary AI either. He thinks logically and has free thought. He is originally assigned to help Balot come to terms with her new self and submit data for the court cases regarding the prosecution of Shell, but they agree to be partners under the condition that she doesn’t abuse him. It doesn’t hurt that Ouefcoque’s common form is that of a cute golden mouse. While the film hasn’t fully explored what Balot has been turned into, nor what Ouefcoque’s true purpose is, it has given the viewer enough to want to know more and be satisfied during the first movie.

The other characters are also pretty enticing. Shell’s motives are a lingering mystery, as well as his disease that forces him to have his memories saved and removed from his body. Boiled, Ouefcoque’s former partner is tough and ruthless, making Balot’s struggle even harder as she fights to survive. When the action of the film starts to pick up, Boiled employs the help of an odd organization whose members have an affliction for certain human body parts. Their designs are creepy and truly represent the dark atmosphere the film has set up. For instance, one has eyes all throughout his body, another has fingers, one girl collects faces and one’s entire abdomen is composed of breasts. I was expecting something odd coming from Mardock Scramble but this took things to a new level. They are sadistic killers that go after Balot and Ouefcoque, serving for very entertaining fight sequences that wouldn’t let anyone down.

The animation of the movie is a bit odd at first. There is a grim, heavy feel to everything. Despite the odd look, I quickly found myself adjusted to the gritty animation. The city in which the plot takes place looks great with the neon green roads that flow throughout it. In fact, the whole city has a neon type glow that goes well with the feel of the film. The characters also have a nice glowing look to them. As I mentioned earlier, Ouefcoque is adorable as a golden mouse and it is a nice contrast to how powerful he really is. Balot’s design is also nice; her young look accenting her cute demeanor well. Just to be clear, the entire film isn’t dark, there are some beautifully lit scenes and they usually take place when Balot and Ouefcoque are bonding. These scenes also let the viewer take a step back from the deeper elements of the story and enjoy some lighthearted character interactions that were also humorous.

The movie isn’t for people who dislike blood and gore because it has plenty. The violence in the film is rather necessary in order to accurately portray Balot’s struggle, but even then I found myself looking away during a few moments. The movie also ended just as it reaches its climax, leaving the viewer wondering what the hell is going to happen next. Cliffhangers are really a hit or miss for most people. I personally don’t mind them, but I can see why someone might be annoyed with this one, considering we aren’t waiting just a week to find out what happens. The first movie spends a lot of time establishing the plot and characters so there are still a lot of mysteries left to be wrapped up. Shell is probably the biggest, since he was out of focus for the last half of the film. Overall, Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is a movie that approaches sensitive subjects in a tactful and entertaining way, giving the viewer plenty to take away from it.

All images are © TOW UBUKATA/MS COMMITTEE

Return to Toonzone New York Comic Con/New York Anime Fest 2010 Coverage Round-up.

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