REVIEW: Mardock Scramble Vol. 1 (2010)

A Manga series by Yoshitoki Ōima, based on the novel by Tow Ubukata

I’m always looking for a good cyberpunk story to read, and one of my many trips into either Kindle Unlimited or Comixology popped this title up. At it’s base level, Mardock Scramble seems far different than your Ghost in the Shell or Appleseed Comics, but the more one reads it, the more you realize it feels far more like an anime from the late 80’s/early 90’s sci-fi anime craze than anything modern. I’ve actually seen a few episodes of the anime in the past, but this manga is interesting as it’s not a beat-by-beat retread and seems to be based on the novel rather than being a manga adaptation of the anime. The art style is significantly different, it’s less sexualized, and reigns the plot in a bit more.

“Taking place in a futuristic city called Mardock City, Rune Balot is a former prostitute turned vigilante who was taken in by the notorious gambler Shell Septinos. One night, Shell abandons Rune and attempts to murder her in an explosion. However, she is rescued and transformed into a cyborg by Dr. Easter under regulation Mardock Scramble 09, an emergency ordinance where experimental technologies can be used to preserve life. An Artificial intelligence who takes the form of a mouse accompanies her to adapt to her new life. Rune is trained to use the advanced technology fitted on her to defend herself against Shell’s attempts to have her killed to stop her from testifying against him.”

Rune Balot has all of the hallmarks of a VERY tragic hero, although this book is not about that. It’s more about how a girl that survived losing everything, her home, her job, even the rights to her own body basically, was tragically killed when it appeared a charming man was going to take her in, however that’s only the beginning. Taken in by the man hunting the murderer, she is augmented with cybernetics and given a second chance at life and a means to belong to something bigger than herself. Reluctantly becoming something of a hero, alongside a shape-shifting mouse than more or less grants her powers similar to something like Ultraman or The Guyver, it’s definitely a unique title.

I did enjoy that despite the fact that while Rune survived for a number of years selling her body while homeless, we don’t see a gross over-sexualization of the character. if anything the story is about how she is trying to recover from her past life of hardships and mental anguish. It always seems like any anime or manga that goes into that territory uses the female lead as a convenient way to make the character into a male wish fulfillment character. Even ones that don’t glamorize it, like a recent anime that comes to mind called Gangsta, still use the female lead as fan-service in many ways.

This is a good start to an interesting story and I will be excited to see how it progresses. It’s different than most cyberpunk stories in that it has almost fantastical characters, such as a augmented mouse than can turn into various weapons, but it never comes across as being “magical”. One of these days, I should watch more the anime because I am very interested to see exactly how different the two properties are, and if there are many similarities at all.

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