Every now and then there comes along an anime title that makes even the most open-minded individual pause and think surely this one has to be a case of mistranslation. Such is the case with Pumpkin Scissors; a show with a title that seems made up of two completely unrelated nouns. I mean could have it worked just as well if it were called Zucchini Shears, Squash Clippers, or Cucumber Nose Hair Trimmers? Guess we'll never know but who cares? The fact is, as indicated by the insignias on the character's uniforms, Pumpkin Scissors was indeed an intentional collaboration of symbols used to identify a certain military brigade within a surprisingly rich tale.
This anime release represents but another gem created by Gonzo that Funimation wisely picked up in their collaborative deal with ADV Films. Labeling this specific release The Complete Series, it contains episodes 1-24 of the show across 4 dvds. Packaged within a pair of thin packs (each holding two discs) within a very nicely decorated cardboard sleeve, the total runtime comes in at 600 minutes-even.
The show wears an appropriate TV 14 rating due to its grandiose themes of violence and militaristic operatives. There is no nudity or particularly offensive language, and some sequences, though violent in nature, seem to avoid indulging in gore.
Language options consist of both the original Japanese dialog track (stereo) or English dub (Dolby 5.1 Surround) and the choice of English subtitles for either vocal track.
Extras are limited to texless songs and two crops of Funimation trailers.
The story goes something like this: We pick up at the conclusion of a long and grueling war between the Empire and the Republic. It's a period where a forced peace treaty struggles to find its footing and soldiers, who were accustomed to the thralls of battle, now find themselves on war relief duty in lands that have been ravaged by battle.
We follow the young female character Alice, an idealist heir to nobility and Second Lieutenant in Military Intelligence Section 3 (aka Pumpkin Scissors). While she's expected to obey commands and do things "by the book", our protagonist makes it her own personal mission to fight for what's right, even if it means taking out rogue soldiers who refuse to follow the peace treaty or exposing corrupt, power-abusing nobles.
The show is an interesting blend of action and strategy and its pacing makes no apologies for failing to favor one element over the other. The themes are quite ambitious, some might even say too ambitious, but the major story arc is broken up pretty evenly by the minor day to day trials and tribulations of the characters involved. Credit is definitely due to the show's artists and production teams for managing to combine bright, clean visuals and cutesy moments with an underlying sense of ominous that builds without drawing too much attention to itself. Comic relief is sprinkled about to break up the potential monotony of what boils down to a brash female soldier who decides to reveal the corruption of the power-crazed nobles who dictate her society.
In the end, a whole plethora of minor battles and grand conflicts serve as the catalyst to reveal the mysteries surrounding a covered-up super soldier program (kind of like a bunch of Captain Americas with eerie lanterns) known as the Invisible Nine.
This is one of few shows out there that can genuinely boast the ability to appeal to a pretty broad fan base. Some will find attraction to the military-themes, antiquated technology, and action sequences while others will just as successfully cling to the character development of the interesting and likable cast. Finally, there could just as likely be a devotion to the visual style and crisp animation presented here as it's definitely got the type of class that Gonzo seemed to be able to extract time and time again in their works.
The vocal tracks are just about equally solid in either language option. One would suspect that the depth of talent in the Japanese track would overshadow the efforts of the English dub but the fact is that each take of the script has its own merit. Occasionally it even sounds as though the English actors may have had a little more fun getting into the characters than their Japanese counterpart!
In all, Pumpkin Scissors could very well earn the award for the strangest anime title to reach our shores but the material itself is solid enough to warrant serious consideration. Some may argue that the pacing is just a tad bit inconsistent and sure, there are episodes that tend to drag on with little overall plot progression, but in the end a rich story is cleverly weaved here through a group of honest characters unwilling to accept a corrupt society. A majority of the bits and tangents that pop up along the way ultimately lead to a satisfying conclusion that's worth the effort of following along (even if little of what's happening makes sense at the time). Multiple viewings reveal subtle overlooked details that slipped past the first few times through. In all, a definite winner that will surely spend very little time collecting dust on a shelf.
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