Mardock Scramble’s Animated Movies Are Worth Watching

There are many cyberpunk anime around, with the ghost in the shell movies and TV shows are some of the best-known examples. Perhaps even more breathtaking and experimental than this franchise, however, is the Mardock Scramble film trilogy. Based on a series of novels, these films are among the most artistic cyberpunk animated films.

Featuring a desperate young woman transformed into a cyborg following a heartbreaking altercation, Mardock Scramble combines strong characterization, a willful, intimate pacing, and absolutely stunning artistry. The last film in the series was released ten years ago, making it more fitting than ever to reflect on this overlooked but beautiful revenge trilogy.

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What is Mardock Scramble?

mardock scramble began as a series of novels written by Tow Ubukata, with the first book released in 2003. It would later be adapted into a manga and anime film trilogy, with more novels to be released later. The story is based on Rune Balot, a former lady of the night from Mardock City who unfortunately fell victim to drug addict Shell Septinos. Left for dead after an explosion caused by Shell, Rune is rescued by Dr. Easter. Transforming her into a cyborg like himself, Rune is given her new assistant Eggshell – an AI that usually takes the form of a mouse. Now well advanced beyond mere humanity, Rune seeks to avoid Shell’s machinations long enough to testify against him.

The planned adaptation of the new series was going to be an OVA produced by Gonzo, although that was ultimately canceled. A film trilogy was announced in 2010, with GoHands animating the films and Aniplex, which had worked on franchises such as Full Metal Alchemist and isekai anime like Sword Art Online, producing them. Written by Ubukata himself, these films are around 70 minutes long each. This length shows just how interesting the movies are and why they’re worth the time for any cyberpunk fan.

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As mentioned, each mardock the film is barely over an hour long, which is part of what makes them so unique. Each movie (The first compression, The second burning and The third exhaust) follow each other, and neither of them can be considered a complete film/story separately. This allows viewers to watch them all together to get a whole story, but watching them again won’t be a simple matter of skimming through them.

The art of mardock The trilogy flows from the way they are shot, with each scene being very uncomfortable, intentional and introspective. This develops the characters and the plot in a silent, sometimes almost imperceptible way. Scenes need to be given special attention, lest vital information that will pay off in a later film is overlooked. The emphasis on character and subtle development elevates what could easily become a generic revenge film – a sort of Kill Bill redux wearing a ghost in the shell skin.

On that note, Mardock Scramble is just as revolutionary in the art department as ghost in the shell was before that. Scenes and characters feel framed in the film’s odd use of lighting, giving everything an almost claustrophobic neo-noir aesthetic. The miasma of colors coincides nicely with how silent everything else seems at times, making the trilogy an experience unlike any other cyberpunk anime. Unfortunately, the series is not currently on streaming sites such as Crunchyroll, but Amazon is a way to purchase Blu-rays of each film.

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