Region: 2 - UK
Length: 65 minutes
English Dolby Digital Surround
In a futuristic society, a 15-year-old prostitute named Rune Balot is rescued after being nearly killed. She is subconsciously given the choice to continue living due to an emergency ordinance to preserve life called Mardock Scramble 09. Turned into a cyborg, Balot is then given the choice of assisting the investigations against the man who tried to terminate her. He is part of the powerful October corporation that is stealthily conducting illegal activities. Contains both the Director's Cut and Theatrical Cut.
Initially I was not excited about watching Mardock Scramble. I had previously read the manga and while I was aware of its reputation as a remarkable story, I was unimpressed with what I had read within the first three volumes. At that time I was unaware the story's roots in the pure pose of Tow Ubukata's novel. I should have known better as adaptations can often dilute and distort a once incredible story.
I decided to dive in at the deep end with the director's cut of The First Compression to see if I could get any closer to the characters in this science fiction saga. I was astounded by the exceptional quality, complexity and emotional depth of the film. It completely upturned my perspective on this powerful work, which now resides alongside many of my most highly regarded anime movies.
Visually, it is stunning. Like many recent anime - and particularly those with high production values - it is worth watching on Blu Ray if you have the option. Mardock Scramble comes alive in sparkling clarity with its shiny futuristic scenery on the surface world is which contrasted by the stark industrial underground where Balot is reborn in cyborg form.
Rune, revived and remade, is accompanied by the mysterious Œufcoque Penteano, a mouse with the ability to metamorphose into an array of objects for to be utilised for assassination and espionage.
The film is by no means light entertainment. It a dark and intense drama that focuses on abuse and revenge, where the body is a commodity to be ravaged, harvested and reinvented. It is one young girl's fight for the salvation of her ego as the battle rages on the outside and within her very being. It is frightening and often grotesque.
Mardock Scramble is perhaps the most adult and subversive adaptation of the magical girl dynamic (with the notable exception of Puella Magica Madoka). Rune's partnership with the golden mouse Œufcoque, is complex and far beyond that of the standard cute animal familiars that are often alongside anime heroines. Œufcoque's role shifts in Rune's strange new life as her surrogate companion, comfort, weapon and familiar. For Rune it is the first time that she has ever had the power subjugate a partner but a life warped by abuse and prostitution confuses her capacity to relate to Œufcoque with kindness alone.
Despite Œufcoque's remarkable intelligence, his capacity to respond to Rune's emotional needs is compromised by the relation void between the species. He cannot understand human emotion but can only sense it. There is a great tragedy but also true beauty in the subtlety of their connection.
The attractive but despicable Shell Septinos attempts to destroy Rune by murdering her, has a handsome façade but a warped and treacherous persona.
The other villains are pretty repugnant and have horrific aspects reminiscent of Clive Barker's most famous characters, the cenobytes. Rune is pitted against a band of contract killers who are composites of multiple mutilated body parts that they have accumulated from their kills.
The Japanese voice cast is inspired, featuring Megumi Hayashibara as Rune – who has portrayed another tragic heroine Evangelion's ill-fated Rei Ayanami. She performs the role to perfection.
So taken with was I with Mardock Scramble that I decided to track down the translated version of Ubukata's novel to gain a greater understanding and intimacy with the narrative. I will certainly be following the progression of the next productions and will be adding it to my film collection as soon as it is released.
I recommend this to fans of intense thrillers (such as Perfect Blue and Elfen Lied), cyberpunk classics such as (Ghost in the Shell and Battle Angel Alita) but also to those who like stories with complex narratives and psychological drama. It really is quite an unforgettable film that yields an abundance of rewards for the smarter fan who likes their action hard-boiled.
Mardock Scramble is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in the US and UK.