This is the way it is with trilogies. The first entry has the grand origin story, rife with mystery. The last is the epic conclusion, filling in all the gaps and answering all the questions. And the middle one is the one where a few random, and ultimately unimportant, things happen.
The first Mardock Scramble film was something of a revelation. Its depiction of Rune Ballot, a damaged young woman forced into prostitution by her abusive father, and a series men thereafter, had a depth and subtlety you rarely see in anime. And the way the writers used her history of victimization as a counterpoint / contrast to her new life as a super-powered cyborg was down right inspired.
Add to that some brilliant stylistic choices, a truly creative an compelling world, and a character named ‘Welldone the Pussyhand,’ and Mardock Scramble: The First Compression was one of the most surprisingly good anime films I’ve ever seen.
So, how is the second film in the trilogy? It’s fine.
I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it. It still has that great style, but we’ve seen it before. And Rune is still an interesting character, but she doesn’t really advance much this time around. It’s part cool down from the first movie, and part build up for the third; but on its own, it lacks that defining moment that would make it special.
The first part of the film takes place in ‘The Paradise,’ and odd research facility complete with talking dolphins and flying sharks. We’re told that this is the place that the technology that saved Rune’s life, the ‘Mardock Scramble’ was first developed, but we don’t learn much about it.
Rune meets a young man who informs her that he was similarly saved by the banned technology, and is thus a ‘brother’ to her. He and Rune develop a light, but pleasant relationship. He is not, in any way, a love interest to her (he professes his homosexual love with the talking dolphin (wait, maybe those anti-gay people were right when they said gay marriage leads to bestiality?))
Anyway, given her history with men (Even Dr. Easter, though not abusive, is using her), it’s an important relationship for her. He is, perhaps, the first person to show her love without taking anything in return.
Hey, I just realized that everyone has an egg-based name. Dr. Easter (egg), Boiled (egg), Oeufcoque the talking mouse (Oeuf is the French word for egg), and ‘Scramble,’ of course.
After Paradise, Rune and Easter plot to hit a casino where certain information relevant to her case is being stored inside several casino chips (why?). Their plan is to play the tables, using the time-honored strategy of cheating, and take a lot of money, then… that’s basically where the movie ended. The scene, which takes up a good half of the movie, is played pretty drily. There’s no high-tension, no guards looking over their shoulders; just careful, calculating betting. It’s the kind of thing that you’d really like to see a payoff for; but alas, that will have to wait for ‘The Third Exhaust.’
I watched the Japanese imported version of this film, which includes English subtitles, and comes with a casino chip necklace with a USB flash drive hidden within. No such extras from the American version, but the movie itself would be the same.