“Mardock Scramble: The First Compression”. Yep, such a bizarre title can only come from the land of the rising sun. This anime is just as Japanese as sake and sushi. This cartoon does not touch on sick themes such as child abuse, prostitution and murder. The heavy fare is presented as a brutal sci-fi action film. A film that makes you think. Cyberpunk fans shouldn’t miss this movie.
In “Mardock Scramble: The First Compression” you meet Rune. This young woman earns a living as a prostitute. An encounter with a mysterious gambler is fatal. End of story? No, not that. Rune is revived by Doctor Easter. Rune “revives” as a cyborg. With the help of Easter and a weapon that can turn into any shape, she sets out to find her killer. This serial killer enjoys his “work”. After each murder, he has his memory erased in order to keep his moral compass clean to enjoy the killing again and again. Rune discovers that her killer is doing everything he can to silence her again.
While there are some spectacular action and sex scenes in “Mardock Scramble: The First Compression,” the film is mainly about character development. Especially the resurrection of Rune is central. She’s been given a second chance, but how do you enter a new life when you’re stuck in a certain pattern? Rune has had a life of adversity. Love is alien to her and compassion is a concept she has received little from. This film is about the value of a life, destiny and your moral compass. If you have been brought up badly, how do you know what is right?
They are interesting themes that are designed in a stimulating way. Rune craves appreciation. When she finally gets recognition, she doesn’t know how to deal with it. The conversations between her and the living weapon – which can take any form, including a golden mouse very much like “Stuart Little” – are very moving. The scenes in court where Rune accuses her murderer are also emotional. Our heroine has really been spared nothing. “Mardock Scramble: The First Compression” also addresses male-female relationships in (Japanese) society. Women have to be submissive and are seen as utensils. In 2012 men still have more rights than women. Men who plunge into bed with every woman are tough, but prostitutes aren’t. “Mardock Scramble: The First Compression” tackles fascinating topics without appearing to be pedantic.
Director Susumu Kudo has found a perfect balance between action and drama. When the drama seems to take over, he presents some impressive action scenes. The animation is smooth and the use of color sober – and flashy – at the same time. What also helps is that the characters look very special. When Rune is suddenly confronted with a number of cyborgs, it is striking how flamboyant they look. These are not anonymous crooks, but villains with character (even though they are not actually explored). Visually, this film is just as impressive as it is content-wise.
“Mardock Scramble: The First Compression” is the first part of a trilogy. That is actually the only downside of this film. This part ends with a huge cliffhanger. Fans of series like “Boogiepop Phantom” and “Ghost in the Shell” should just check this series.