There are three movies in the Mardock Scramble “mythos,” and I became aware of the first one some years ago. In fact I managed to win the first movie subtitled, The First Compression, in an online contest. Nowadays I’m rather picky about the anime I add to my collection. There’s a lot out there but only a small percentage of it interests me, but I was impressed when I saw a trailer of this first flick before I entered the contest and then after I saw it was even more impressed.
The First Compression (2010) (based on a series of Japanese novels) is a very heartbreaking and tragic tale. It’s about this fifteen-year-old girl named, Rune Balot (pronounce Ba-low), a prostitute whose upbringing was marred by sexual abuse (her father routinely raped her). One day this psychopathic rich guy named, Shell Septinos, picks her up, has sex with her and then kills her by blowing her up in his limo. This isn’t the first time he’s killed a girl like her either.
Watching this whole proceeding is Dr. Easter and his artificial intelligence, Oeufcoque (pronounced Owf-kok). They know about Shell, his crimes and how untouchable he is, and sees this pending execution of this girl as an opportunity to finally nail the son of a bitch to the wall. After she’s blown up, Easter puts her in this incubation device where her subconscious is asked if she wants to live or die. She chooses life, which means she has chosen Mardock Scramble .09. As Easter explains it to her .09 is “…an emergency ordinance that allows preservation of life using otherwise prohibitive technology…” and since this is basically a cyberpunk tale, Rune’s body is rebuilt and combat training has even been downloaded into her mind.
This Oeufcoque A.I. is probably the most extraordinary creation in this anime. It was built by the military for space exploration and it’s basically a shape-shifter. It can take the form of anything, and I do mean anything, from a talking, yellow mouse to a working weapon to clothing. But there are rules it has to follow, since it is a one of a kind “entity” it explains to Rune it constantly needs to prove it’s worth to the judicial system. He and Easter are 09 caseworkers and it’s not that uncommon for Mardock Scramble to be initiated. News of Rune and her .09 acceptance even makes the local paper, which Shell sees and doesn’t like.
Oeufcoque takes it upon himself to guide and train “new” Rune, becoming a necklace or a mouse when it’s with her out in public. A court hearing is scheduled to which Shell and his bodyguard, Dimsdale Boiled, attend. Boiled threatens Rune on the steps of the courthouse afterwards, basically telling her he has a special way of fixing these kinds of problems for Shell. We the viewer, as well as Easter and Oeufcoque, knows what this means. Boiled is going to try and kill her, despite knowing that her death will not stop Easter from going after him in the courts. This is where Oeufcoque and Easter train Rune in the art of weaponry, mostly shooting, and she has an insane aptitude for it. Her accuracy is dead on and with her new body she can even dodge bullets. But as we see during her shooting exercises using guns relaxes her. It’s easy to see where she’s going to run into problems, especially when one of Oeufcoque’s rules is to not abuse him.
As predicted Boiled hires a gang of mutant assassins to infiltrate Easter’s headquarters and take her out, but she takes them out instead and with the death of the final assassin we see what her tragic life has done to her outlook on men. She enjoys killing these assassins, and even shoots the final one right in the “junkpile,” along with everywhere else with the high-powered handgun Oeufcoque has transformed into. There isn’t much left of them in the end. The First Compression ends on a cliffhanger as we see that Oeufcoque is fighting his programming and trying not to shutdown at her clear “abuse of him,” while Boiled attempts to finish the job himself.
As of the penning of this review I have not seen the other two yet, but I will say be warned this first installment does not shy away from showing this fifteen-year-old girl naked as often as it can, or the rape at the hands of her father, or the sex with Shell in the limousine. The violence is equally in your face as is poor Rune’s struggle to stay sane in her new life. The relationship between her and this A.I. is the heart of Mardock Scramble and it ends on a possibly tragic note, but since we know there are two more films it’s easy to surmise that final shot of her bloodied and beaten by Boiled as she raises up a painfully transformed Oeufcoque and points him shakily at the camera will not be the last we ever see of them.
The Second Combustion (2011) gets a little weird here in the beginning. After Easter arrives in the nick of time in this “floating egg,” which is actually this furnished hide out, and helps Rune escape Boiled, he takes her and a terribly injured Oeufcouque to “Paradise.” This is where the weirdness sets in. Paradise, as they call it, is this futuristic lab, where all this “forbidden technology” like Scramble .09 was created. It’s large enough to have it’s own pseudo-ocean where in dwells this augmented dolphin. It, or he, can speak. Once Rune wakes up, she encounters some of the denizens of Paradise. One of them is TweedleDee. This kid is like Rune, he cannot speak and uses some kind of implant. This dolphin is his lover. I told you it was weird.
Easter had to take them here because this is the only place he could save Oeufcoque. It used to be run by three scientists, only one of them remains now and he’s basically nothing but a head. His body was riddled with cancer and this future tech was able to save him from the neck up. This pseudo-ocean is linked with the net of the outside world and Rune floats in it merging with the net eager to find Shell’s memories. You see after Shell kills a girl he has his mind wiped and the remains of the girl turned into a ring that he wears. Finding these memories will help put Shell away, and he knows this, so after he learned of Rune’s survival he killed all the doctors who routinely wiped his mind and then hid his memories. Rune locates them in these poker chips, secured away in one of the casinos Shell owns.
The rest of the plot involves Easter, Rune and Oeufcoque slipping into this casino under the guise of patrons and playing until they win all this money, so they can get these special chips. Though, the cliffhanger is a scene where the owner, watching from surveillance cameras, mentions to himself how he likes Rune’s gloves. Oeufcouque is in the form of these gloves and helping her win. In this chapter we also learn some history about Shell’s assassin, Dimsdale Boiled. In the beginning it appears Dimsdale may have also been resurrected with Scramble .09, and at the same time Ouefcoque was created. They paired up but Boiled turned psychotic, using drugs that eliminated all emotion and the need to sleep. He controlled the A.I. and killed a lot of people before Oeufcoque turned against him. It seems Boiled can’t let go. He says to himself, if he can’t get Oeufcoque back, he’s going to kill him.
This entry isn’t has violent as the first one, but it does have a couple of moments when Boiled brings with him one of the surviving mutant assassins I thought Rune had all but killed in First Compression. He was all bandaged up, and looked like he had been through hell. He slips into Paradise, while Boiled is having a face-to-face with the head scientist, and slices off a few limbs of the people/patients he finds there, but his time comes to an abrupt end when these flying sharks swoop down and basically eats the fucker. Yeah, “Paradise” is one weird place.
The nudity of Rune Balot is still just as strong in this entry too, but only in the beginning as she’s spending time in the ocean. She still wants to be with Oeufcoque, who she kind of sees as a boyfriend now, and she’s given the decision of what she wants to do next. She still wants to put Shell away and is still fighting her need for revenge. She may have slipped temporarily into “Boiled’s world of psychosis” in the first movie, but Oeufcoque didn’t abandon her because she has the ability to learn from her mistakes where Boiled does not. Not a bad second part actually.
In The Third Exhaust (2012), the final installment in the Mardock Scramble trilogy had me feeling like I had certainly been through something after it was all over. This installment picks right up where the last left off with Rune, Easter and Oeufcoque trying to win big and win those chips no one is expected to ever win. All they want are Shell’s memories contained within and it’s the second half of this roughly hour-long chapter that leads the story into unexpected territory. With Shell’s memories finally retrieved we learn his childhood was not all that different than Rune’s. It was interesting to see two people who suffered the same kind of sexual abuse become totally different people from each other. One a serial killer, the other a suicidal hooker.
What really makes this chapter and Rune’s character interesting are the decisions she makes. I have to admit she ends up being a better person than I would have been had I been given these decisions. There’s a twist where she ends up actually having to protect Shell, the very person who killed her, and she agrees to do it. And yet another moment where her thirst for revenge is tested yet again and she pretty much does the opposite of what I may have done. I may have just pulled the trigger, but Rune knows better and that makes her better than Boiled. Speaking of Oeufcoque’s ex-partner the finale is what you expect—a physical gun-toting confrontation. Where Rune and Oeufcoque promise each other they won’t kill him, they’ll find some other way to defeat him, but unfortunately it seems promises are made to be broken.
Even in this third installment they still managed to get Rune naked, but ever so briefly this time. Go into this expecting to feel emotionally taxed. I was but it was well worth it.
Back on June 9th Sentai Filmworks (Section 23) released these movies in one blu-ray collection. They can still be bought separately as well.
Transfer and audio were excellent!
- Japanese Trailer (Disc #1)
- Japanese Promo (Disc #1)
- Mardock Scramble: Path To The Premiere (30:37) (Disc #3)
- Mardock Scramble: Blackjack Showdown (30:02) (Disc #3)
- Mardock Scramble: Memorial Track (33:05) (Disc #3)
- Director’s Cut Promo (Disc #3)
- Narrated Promo (Disc #3)
There was another anime I reviewed, Zetman, that had similar “dysfunctional family dynamics,” but not to this degree. That one was a hell of watch too.