23 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Fanomenon Anime Day: Mardock Scramble review

The Leeds International Film Festival is a frequent host to anime movie premieres. Last year they were the venue for the European premiere of Ponyo. I’d just moved to the city and I bloody missed the thing because I heard about it too late and tickets were sold out. So this year, with the premiere of Mardock Scramble: The First Compression and Yet Another British Screening Of Redline, I sure as hell wasn’t going to miss it this time around. There was a full anime day that also included Evangelion 2.0, Summer Wars, One Piece: Strong World and Gintama the Movie. I’d already seen Eva and Summer Wars at a Dublin anime film festival and I didn’t have much interest in seeing the other two. So this post will be a review of Mardock Scramble with a review of Redline tomorrow.

Mardock Scramble

This installment of Mardock Scramble is the first in what’s planned to be a 3-part series. In it, a teenage prostitute is killed by the man who took care of her, but she’s brought back to life by some magical science to try get revenge on her killers. She’s given a robotic body, lots of skin tight clothing and a highly intelligent golden mouse who can transform into whatever he wants, normally a gun of some sort.

It’s hard to talk about Mardock Scramble without giving out some plot setting spoilers. People might say that descriptions of the plot aren’t spoilers at all, but it does seem a shame to hurt one of the few things this movie actually does very well. The exposition, often a clunky and tedious part of a movie, was revealed in a gradual course of exchanges between the female lead, Balot, and her mouse sidekick, Eufcoque. Asides from revealing how the world works and what the extents of Balot’s and Eufcoque’s powers are, it also builds up the relationship between the two in one of the most strangely charming duos I’ve ever seen. Balot doesn’t exactly think straight, hardly surprising given her past, and abuses her powers for various reasons. Eufcoque doesn’t think like a human, seeing as he’s a mouse and everything, but his mind works off a logic that hauls in Balot and builds a trust between the two. Using the other as a springboard for further exploration, the movie excels in the exchanges between the two that make up about half of the movie.

I did say that this was one of the things that it actually did well, which implies that the movie performed less favourable in other areas. This movie has a lot of grand ideas about how great it is and how it’s exploring themes of depression and sexual desires, but most of it is done in such awful fashion that parts of the movie come out as unintentional humour. There’s a group of underground surgeons towards the end of the movie with a taste for attaching parts of human bodies to themselves. One guy has eyes all over his body, which was probably supposed to be intimidating but really just looked stupid. There was another guy with breasts sewn all over his body like that ghost from the Fat Stocking episode of Panty and Stocking. The rest all equally looked like characters Apocalypse Zero. As for the disturbingly literal nickname of their leader, Pussyhands, the less said the better.

These characters were probably supposed to symbolise humans living out their sexual fantasies, but like much of the rest of the foreshadowing and imagery, it mainly resulted with scenes in various degrees of clunky or stupid. A bunch of the characters are given names related to eggs, such as Boiled and Shell, probably meant to symbolise birth of a new life or whatever, but that was rather eye-roll inducing, like calling the violent villain in your show Vicious or something. There were some more standard problems, such as lots of cryptic conversations that failed to grab the interest, or overbearing level of madness they gave characters that didn’t fit well into the story. Oh, and playing Amazing Grace as your ending song was pretty eye-rolling too.

Not all of the symbolism failed, to be fair, the relationship between Balot and Eufcoque being the best example. Heck, anything good about this movie came about when it was just those two together. The best scene in the movie was one where Balot asked Eufcoque to love her, with the golden mouse’s stuttered retort being that he wasn’t capable of loving as a mouse and that “I can’t just turn into a male human in order to love you”. The scene, asides from revealing a slightly messed up side to Balot’s mind, also shook Eufcoque and revealed we wasn’t quite as assured and logically perfect as earlier scenes had you believe.

(As an aside, I kept expecting Balot to turn Eufcoque into a dildo. That wasn’t just a dirty mind at play in a highly sexualised anime. Balot kept going on about how she just wanted someone to love her, with the only way she knew love in her depraved life was through sex, but Eufcoque kept pointing out that he was just a vessel that was incapable of love and that he was just a tool to pretend she was being loved. See where I’m going with this? Contrast this to our good friend Mr.Pussyhands, who quite literally has sex with his hand. I would not be that surprised if Eufcoque becomes masturbation aid at some point in the later movies)

Again, this movie only ever good when it was just interactions between the main character and her mouse sidekick, the rest of the movie being dumb, sometimes painfully so. Thankfully a lot of the movie was just interactions between the main two, which is enough to keep my interest to watch the later installments. But it’s not enough for me to recommend it either.

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  1. Posted November 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    >Con­trast this to our good friend Mr.Pussyhands, who quite lit­er­ally has sex with his hand.

    …How does that even work?

    • Scamp
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I’d prefer not to think about it

  2. karry
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    So what, its Kite ver.2010 ?

    • Scamp
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Haven’t seen Kite so I couldn’t say

  3. Roghek
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    My first question is balcony or ground floor?
    My second question is, was summer wars really in the itinerary? Because I didn’t see it and I would have probably chosen to watch that instead.


    Now regarding the movie:
    First it was censored which I don’t really mind.
    Regarding the plot until you mentioned it I didn’t thought of the bad guys as representing people living sexual fantasies, now I do.

    My first thoughts about the bad guys and their meaning was more of an never ending desire, the more you got, the more you wanted. I don’t know if I explained it clear enough. That’ they were lame, undoubtedly I literally facepalmed at their names and their explanations.

    I do love the Balot/Eufcoque interaction a how their relationship evolved, though I loved more Eufcoque (if they ever get for sale I want one for Christmas xD). And yes their relation was handled pretty good but at the same time I think they represent a lot more.

    First they represent opposites of each other, Balot is alone a person who desires to be loved, and also doesn’t understand what it means, doesn’t understand about power and abuses it too, Eufcoque doesn’t think of himself as human doesn’t desire love neither doesn’t know how to give it and how to receive it, he has power but doesn’t like to abuse it.
    Another thing I noticed is how the human contradictions are handled, for example Balot’ inner desires what she think she wants and what she really wants does she really want to die, that’s what she thinks but doesn’t act in accord of what she says, on the other hand Eufcoque is a weapon who doesn’t want to abuse his power, doesn’t like to kill people but needs to, in order to prove his identity.

    I look forward to the second part and more Eufcoque’s awesomeness, also there is still a lot of things that I would like to know, though I should confess I missed the ending just because I blinked.

    Regarding Pussyhands I have Zero comment in that…. well maybe one —-> KIRABOSHII!!!

    • Roghek
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 1:18 am | Permalink

      OMG!! It came longer that I expected,
      Sorry about that.

    • Posted November 21, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      My second ques­tion is, was sum­mer wars really in the itin­er­ary? Because I didn’t see it and I would have prob­ably chosen to watch that instead.

      Nah, it’s something that played Leeds in previous years, but Summer Wars wasn’t part of the schedule this year, so you didn’t miss out there.

    • Scamp
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      I wonder how it got into my head that Summer Wars was playing? I get all these movie festivals mixed up

      I was on the balcony for Mardock but moved down a level for Redline. Probably prefer the balcony because I spent the whole of Redline looking upwards, which wasn’t the ideal position for that movie.

      Yeah, the censoring was a bit jarring, especially when I recognised the scenes from the trailer being uncensored. I wonder why they bothered? Maybe because she’s underage and the laws in England reguarding that are a bit strict? I dunno, was a bit strange either way.

      Interesting ideas. I agree that Eufcoque totally stole the show. He’s such a fascinating character and it’s a shame he’s in a movie with so much other crap stuff in it. But there was also what happened at the end of the movie made me worry about what Eufcoque’s future involvement might be

      • Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        I was sat on the ground level fairly near the front for the duration of the day. Got a nasty crick in my neck by the end of the day.

        Hadn’t realised that Mardock had been censored, given I’ve not been watching any of the trailers. That, and they clearly missed at least one cut (thought it was really odd that Runes nips were clearly visible at least once when they were shadowed out for the rest of it).

        Probably was done out of worry about UK censorship laws, though I’m willing to bet that if it gets licensed and released over here, it’ll probably slip through unedited.

      • Roghek
        Posted November 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        @DIGIKEROT I guess you attended to the whole event, but I’m really curious of why did you choose to be not only in the ground floor but also close to the front?

        As for me I was in the balcony and only went to watch mardock scramble, so I might/might not have seen you, I wonder if shouting KIRABOSHI!! would have grabbed your attention.

        Regarding Eufcoque his role seem very important so I’m quite sure we will see more of him… I hope.

        And since you seem to live fairly near, I don’t know how much Digikerot had to travel but The corner house screens films from around the world and I could invite you if you want, since I don’t actually have anime watching buddies am very generous xD

      • Posted November 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        As to the ground floor thing, it a combination of reasons, really. I have a preferred distance from screen for watching movies, and when I went in for Gintama I figured that the balcony looked a bit further away than I would normally like (as it happens, where I was sat was a bit closer than I’d normally go for too, but I was getting paranoid about tall people sitting infront of me too – seemed like a place where that would be a significant issue, even for the relatively tall).

        I did think about moving to the balcony before One Piece started, but since people (myself included) were leaving bags and jackets to reserve seats, and where I was sat gave me a pretty decent view, I didn’t want to gamble on a less satisfactory position ^^;

        It did mean the lack of resolution for Mardock and particularly Eva 2.0 (I’m pretty sure both were projected off DVD) bugged me a little more than it probably would those sat further away.

        Alas, I actually travelled down across from mid-Northumberland, so it was in fact a fair distance.

  4. Posted November 21, 2010 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    You are so lucky for having subtitles for those conversations between Balot and Eufcoque (god, I was WONDERING what the heck his name was supposed to be!). I watched it in a theater here, and I was getting headaches from focusing my brain like a laser beam, halfway falling asleep until the love conversation.

    • Scamp
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      We nearly didn’t. They forgot to turn on the subtitles at first and had to restart the movie. The crowd gave an ironic cheer when the subs appeared the second time around, which was made even more ironic by the fact the first line of the movie was “I want to die”

      • Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        At least they didn’t play it in the wrong aspect ratio and fade the music down mid credits *cough*Evangelion*cough*

      • Roghek
        Posted November 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Actually that accidental restart gave me the chance to open my potato chips’ bag without disturbing anyone…. I hope xD

  5. Posted November 21, 2010 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    Was this the same festival that was screening the Secret of Kells?

    • Roghek
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Yes, it was
      They screened it on Thursday the 11th and Saturday the 20th ^^

    • Scamp
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      And the bloody movie happens to be on at the same time I’m going to watch the Harry Potter movie -_-

      • Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Well, seeing Harry Potter through the day is probably better than doing what I did and hitting a screening immediately after REDLINE. Screwed up my sleep patterns all weekend.

        Kells is out on DVD/BR now anyway. Stacked with the anime in Leeds HMV for some reason.

      • Posted November 22, 2010 at 2:12 am | Permalink

        Here’s the link to my Secret of Kells upload if you’re interested in checking it out soon.


  6. Mr.Durrr
    Posted November 21, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    All the other reviews I’ve read about this movie have been pretty positive, so I’ll take yours with a grain of salt.

    • Scamp
      Posted November 21, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      They are clearly all wrong

      • Mr.Durrr
        Posted November 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Mhm, because your opinion > everyone else’s, right?

        The studio animating this is fairly new (only three series under their belt), and the director isn’t really some big-name, so you can’t expect much.

        I personally can’t wait for all of these movies to get subbed.

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