A young prostitute is murdered by her pimp, then resurrected by a mad scientist and given a super-intelligent mouse to protect her.
Thus begins a complex and compelling story about a powerless girl who is suddenly made strong.
There’s an anime import store that used to translate interviews with Japanese porn stars for its website. Unlike American porn stars, who say their inspiration was a love of sex, or at worst, a need for quick cash; the Japanese actors were frequently motivated by an event in the past, typically a rape or some other abuse. They then said, with complete frankness, that since they were no longer pure virgins, they might as well embrace and benefit from being the opposite.
This isn’t unique to Japan, of course. It’s the Mary/Mary complex. Society places women in to one of two categories; either that of the Virgin Mary or the whore Mary Magdelene (the television series Mad Men used Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Munroe to illustrate the same dichotomy).
The girl in Mardock Scramble, Rune Ballot, had a past similar to that of the Japanese porn stars. She was abused by her father and turned to prostitution to survive. In a flashback scene, she tells two police officers as much, and their response is to laugh and call her ‘messed up.’
What’s great about Mardock Scramble is that it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of the situation; the starkest example being her relationship with her father. The man is not portrayed as sympathetic in the film; and yet, the child’s view of her father, regardless of what he has done, is not so easily changed. It’s a fine line, and most movies wouldn’t have the courage or subtlety to pull off the mix of hated and unconditional love, but this film does.
As a side-effect of the process that revived her, Ballot is gifted with super-powers; telekinesis, as well as increased strength and speed. She uses these to defend herself against the assassins sent by the lawyer defending her murderer.
One attempt on her life is by a group who uses advanced medical technology to implant the body parts of their victims on to their own bodies, but in the wrong place. Their leader is called ‘Welldone the Pussyhand,’ which I thought was a classic case of a Japanese writer taking random words out of the English dictionary without knowing what they meant. but actually, ‘pussyhand’ is a literal description.
During an attack, as Rune makes full use of her new-found powers, she remarks that this is what the men in her life must have felt like. The complete domination over a helpless victim gives her some sense of strength and self-determination, perhaps for the first time in her life.
The audio and video look great. The opening credits are in English, but given the font, I think they always were. The closing credits, though, are definitely changed into English, with white text on black background. What’s worse is that this release resurrects the old ADV Films practice of listing the English dub cast ahead of the Japanese cast, which I find grossly egotistical.
Another thing to note is that the 125 minute run-time listed on the back is a lie. It’s actually a 65 minute director’s cut, and the 60 minute theatrical version.
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression is a deep and satisfying start to a trilogy. The Blu Ray itself gives the movie a less-than-perfect presentation.