Fully four years after ADV published volume six of Gunslinger Girl, I finally hold in my hands volumes seven and eight in omnibus, thanks to Seven Seas. The mere fact that this series, one of my top-five all-time favourites, is actually available in a form I can understand makes me giddy. I’d tried to fill in the gap between releases by buying some of the Japanese volumes, but the technical jargon and lack of furigana mostly rendered the books a reminder of my lousy literacy. There’s also the excellent first season of the anime adaptation, on glorious blu-ray, no less, but even that’s soured by the second season, which had a first episode so badly animated that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the rest.
In any case, author Aida Yu didn’t disappoint me. These volumes focus almost entirely on Alessandro and Petrushka, who’d been introduced in volume six, with the older characters appearing only in a handful of scenes, though those scenes do add significantly to their characterisation. This does mark a noticeable shift in narrative structure. Most previous volumes were episodic, with story arcs no more than a few chapters long, and each focusing on a specific fratello.
The relationship between the girls and their handlers has always been the main draw of the series for me, but Sandro and Petrushka may be the most interesting yet, because she is older and more lightly conditioned than the other girls. As a result, she is less predictable – she’s occasionally moody, more conscious of the relationship between her and her handler, and at one point even fights her conditioning to tell him how she feels about him.
So, I’m more enthusiastic about this series than I’ve ever been. Though Gunslinger Girl has always been solid, introducing a character with more room to grow and focusing on her long enough to gradually develop her as a character is probably the best decision Aida’s made for his comic, and I can hardly wait to see the next volume.