Gunslinger Girl, vol. 1

If you’ve been horribly injured, the Social Welfare Agency is here to help. They’ll use state-of-the-art cyborg prosthetics to get you on your feet again. In return, you’ll have to become a government assassin. In Gunslinger Girl, the Social Welfare Agency is a shadowy group sponsored by the Italian government that trains young girls to do political dirty work. Each girl is conditioned to obey her grown-up handler without question and to use her technologically enhanced strength and speed to protect him at all costs. She regains her mobility, but loses any chance for a normal life.

Gunslinger Girl tells the stories of the girl assassins and their relationships with the adults who train them: sensitive Henrietta, who looses control when her handler is threatened; teenage Triela, whose emerging womanhood is both a tool and a challenge; and Rico, who will happily kill as long as she can keep her functioning body. It’s a disturbing premise, and the manga doesn’t flinch from the troubling questions it raises. How much of these girls’ humanity remains? Do they feel love, or are they simply brainwashed? Can their handlers control these living weapons without destroying them?

Gunslinger Girl is a gripping read. Readers may be disturbed by the implications of young girls trained to love and obey adult men, and not all the handlers treat their charges well, but the manga never exploits its characters to titillate. There are no Lolitas here. Yu Aida has created fascinating characters and sensitive stories that even have a touch of grim humor at times, and the art is excellent; the characters have distinctive, expressive faces. The elegant use of blank space and shading give the pages a feeling of stillness, which in turn make the occasional explosions of violence more effective.

Gunslinger Girl: Volume 1
by Yu Aida
ISBN: 1413900208
ADV, 2003

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