Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I finally watched all of the 2004 BeeTrain anime Madlax. This is from the same studio that gave us the anime Noir and .hack//SIGN

In short:
• Long and drawn out story, could of been done in 13 episodes rather than 26.
• Action was not as interesting or creative as "Noir" and for being second in a set of three "girls with guns" anime (following "Noir" as the first), there wasn't near as much gunplay - it was very secondary to the plot.
• More characters than "Noir" with more intwined connections. Much more complex plot than "Noir".
• Music was a cross between "Noir" and ".hack//SIGN" and not as good as either though it's by the same composer
• The ending was lackluster and didn't make the journey seem worth it.

The story
We first meet Madlax, the title character. A 17 year old assasin-for-hire in the fictional, civil war-torn country of Gazth-Sonica. She's supernaturally good at what she does but is also a kind, almost light-hearted person. She doesn't remember anything from before 12 years ago and is searching for her father. The first word she ever remembers remembering is "Madlax" which she takes as her code name.

The second episode (and for a few eps onward) we meet the other main character, Margaret Burton. Margaret is a 17 year old school girl, who looks much younger than Madlax, who also cannot recall anything from before 12 years ago - the first word she also recalls is "Madlax" but doesn't know what it means. She's kind, very gentle, and kind of eccentric and has a paranormally accurate "gut feeling" about things. She is an orphan and lives alone with her ever-protective maid, Eleanor. Margaret is also good friends with her next-door-neighbor/tutor, Vanessa. They all live in the fictional Paris-like country of Nafrece.

Margaret has a book written in some bizarre symbols she cannot read. She doesn't know why but this book is very important and she doesn't let anyone see or touch the book. However, her book is missing some pages and she is compelled to find a whole copy. This leads to an underground mafia-like global organization, Enfant, to learn about the existance of her book - and they want it BAD.

Margaret has dreams or visions and gut feelings that often are connected to what Madlax is doing or feeling and we aren't sure why that is - somehow their pasts are connected by Margaret's book. But how? Why? By the time we realise the two women are connected, halfway through the series, do we even CARE?!?

Comparison to Noir and .hack//SIGN
I'm comparing "Madlax" to "Noir" and ".hack//SIGN" because they're all by BeeTrain and because they have similar elements.

Noir and .hack are extremes on a single spectrum. Noir has very little dialogue and lots of action. .hack//SIGN has nothing but dialogue and very little action at all. Both have a mystery plot. Noir's is semi-supernatural but only in the skillz of the main characters. .hack has a more interesting mystery, which is what carries the entire series - plus it has much more character development.

Madlax is somewhere between the two. It has action where Madlax is involved but a lot of dialogue about the plot as far as everyone else is concerned. It's more political stuff, which gets really boring particularly because we have no idea what is going on. There's a supernatural element which is more annoying than anything throughout the whole thing - every episode has scenes of the burned out ruins where the showdown 12 years prior had taken place and we have no idea what its about until the last five episodes. It's annoying and uninteresting to me.

Madlax has way more characters than Noir, of course, which has three, but just about as many as .hack. The characters develop to a degree but not as much as in .hack//SIGN, which concentrates on the characters' friendships and developing bonds which are the ultimate secret to unravelling the mystery in that series. I found myself not really caring about any of the characters in Madlax except for Madlax, Vanessa, and Margaret. The rest could go jump off a cliff.

The music was so-so. It was all done by Yuki Kajiura, who did the music for Noir, .hack//SIGN, and Mai-HiME. The music was way better than that for Mai-HiME and was a cross stylisticaly somewhere between Noir and .hack//SIGN. Not much of it really caught my ear the way either of those two series did and there were no single stand-out tracks as with all three of the other series I mentioned.

The animation itself was pretty good - not too many talking heads and hardly any repetition. In that respect it has Noir beat.

Seeing as how this is the second installment of the "girls with guns" trilogy, there were some interesting paralells. Besides the fact that there are two main characters who are girls, they both resemble their previous incarnations of Kirika and Mireille of "Noir". The seiyu for Margaret is the same as that for Kirika. The personalities are different, though both Margaret and Kirika act and "seem" younger than they are and are both spacy and quiet - AND both Kirika and Margaret are the true centers of either show. The sniper woman in this series acted like the envious Chloe of "Noir", though she wasn't near as psychotic or talkative, they both had a music-box chimey theme. And both series had books in them that were the secret to the whole thing. The book of Les Soldats in "Noir" told of the maidens of death, and the three books of truth here in "Madlax" explain the power behind Margaret and Madlax.

By far I prefer Noir. Though the first 6 or so episodes of Noir are dreadfully repetitive, once beyond that the series takes off at a good pace and has a satisfying build up and conclusion. It's even good upon a rewatch. "Madlax" dragged til the very end. It did kind of pick up a little beyond halfway through as far as the plot coming together but the action and plot development dragged horribly. The climax took about five or six episodes and the finale took two, and the very end was less than satisfying. Though it was perhaps more realistic and "human" than Noir, I by far prefer the stylistic, artistic, subtle uniqueness of Noir. And I'm not disliking "Madlax" simply because of "Noir" - I'm disliking Madlax on its own merits. And it just does nothing for me.

I mean, I can watch slow anime and be entertained -- "Aria" is a great example of a super slow-paced anime that manages to keep me engrossed. Madlax was slow paced when it felt like it should of been FAST. That's a huge difference and not a good one.

About the only thing going for Madlax was Madlax herself, the few eps of just her and Vanessa, and... uh... that's it. Thumbs down. :\

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