Hell yeah! This is going to be review number 666, and what better series to spend it on than another controversial Bee-Train title?And I mean, after watching Madlax, I just have to say that these guys continue to amaze me.
Madlax is the second instalment in the “Girls with Guns” trilogy, after Noir and before El Cazador. Girls with Guns is a very misleading title, though. It’s true that all series focus on girls that have guns and all, but in essence, Noir is the only one of the three that should be watched as an action series. The focuses of the other two are completely different, and therefore they don’t spend a lot of their time on creating interesting action scenes. With El Cazador, the main focus was its characters. With Madlax, the main focus is the plot. Despite the many similarities in the premises, this leads to three completely different series: if you dislike the simple battles of Madlax, there is Noir’s action and atmosphere. If you find the characters of Noir not fleshed out enough, there is El Cazador. If you were annoyed with how nothing in El Cazador seemed connected, there is Madlax.
And really, all three series are truly excellent at what they focus at. Madlax has a truly excellent plot that is wonderfully told. The plot never takes a break or drags: every episode is meant to flesh it out, and contains just the right balance between build up and new developments that just make the story of this series more and more interesting with every iteration. The story itself is very creative, and I loved the many different twists that would give either a character or a subplot a whole new dimension. For every conventional element of the plot, there’s also an unconventional one.
In terms of the characterization, out of all the lead characters of the Girls With Guns Trilogy, Margaret has the least interesting characterization. She has however the most interesting background, so it all evens out this way. Madlax meanwhile is a very compelling main character, who really keeps the series interesting, along with just about every other side character. This show also seems to have the talent to make any minor side-character who just only has one or two lines more than just a paper bag, and actually like someone with a clear purpose in the story.
The graphics of this series are by far its weakest point. There’s nothing wrong with the inbetween animation (which really can get quite good at times), but there is hardly any animation cleanup, leading to tons and tons of distorted faces. In the same way, the gunfights in this series are simply tools to tell the story. The music on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic. It manages to save the simple action scenes time and time again, and does an absolutely wonderful job at supporting the storytelling.
Now, there is something that you should know before you check out this series: in order to build up, it uses repetition and one liners. This is a series full of morals, and in a lot of scenes, characters often tend to repeat things that have just been said. This isn’t to the point where it gets in the way of the story: it’s all properly balanced so that you don’t have endless scenes of characters saying the same things over and over again, but there nevertheless is a lot of it in this series. If you already know that you don’t like the series that pull these things, then Madlax will be a bit harder to enjoy. It would also have helped if the voice acting was a bit better for these build up techniques to really work.
I’ve often been criticized with why I keep complaining at other repetitive franchises like Shaft and Gundam, and yet keep praising Bee-Train. And yes, I agree that there are a lot of similarities between Shaft and Bee-Train: both are pretty much built around one director with his particular style, and both produce series with a lot of similarities. Bee-Train often has ridiculously skilled marksmen, mystery plots, strong female characters and similar settings (in Madlax, people continuously travel back and forth between two countries, just like they did with El Cazador; half of the show takes place in France, just like it did in Noir), while Shaft, while having many different premises and characters often repeats the same jokes, gimmicks and scenarios and has a lot of pointless sequels. (Both have more than enough exceptions, of course)
For me, the essential difference is that Bee-Train keeps recycling is premises, while Shaft keeps recycling its scenarios. Based on the right execution, you can make any cliche good, and that’s what Bee-Train keep doing: all of their series have this distinct style, but yet when you look at the details they’re nearly all interesting in their own way (their good series in any case). With Shaft on the contrary, it gets a lot harder to care about their premises when they keep repeating the same joke or joke formats that I’ve gotten tired of ages ago. Repetition can be a bad thing, but it’s not as black and white that it’s impossible to make something great out of it.
|Storytelling:||10/10 – A number of coincidences are used here and there, but aside from that it has a terrific use of build-up, an excellent plot that just keeps moving, many intriguing plot twists and wonderful use of music to support the storytelling.|
|Characters:||8/10 – For Bee-Train’s standards they may not have the best characterization and the voice acting is a bit off at times, but they’re still wonderfully colourful and interesting to watch.|
|Production-Values:||8/10 – Bad cleanup animation, good inbetween animation, awesome soundtrack.|
|Setting:||9/10 – Moral-heavy, but a very interesting back story that’s well portrayed as well.|
– El Cazador de la Bruja