Rune Balot is a down-and-out teen prostitute in Mardock City. One day, she's picked up by an ambitious casino manager named Shell who gives her everything she could want. Renewed by a false innocence, a false past, and now the false life Shell has given her, Balot feels grateful. However, she can't help but be curious about why he's done so much for her, so she does some research about his past on a computer. This turns out to be a mistake which will change her life greatly. When Shell finds out what she's done, he attempts to burn her to death by blowing up her car.
Due to the high crime rate in Mardock, a new law called "Scramble 09" has given police carte blanche to take extreme and otherwise illegal measures to revive crime witnesses. With this in mind, they allow a professor to bring Balot back from the brink of death by reassembling her entire body with reinforced synthetic fiber. When she finally wakes up, her confused mental state eventually turns toward revenge as Shell is revealed as her killer.
If there’s one thing that can be said about anime, it’s that it can get quite controversial at times. From the Ecchi genre, to the Horror genre, to the Psychological genre, anime is often presented with scenes of intense language, violence, gore, nudity, sex, and highly questionable themes. Mardock Scramble is one such anime.
The story follows a young Rune Balot, who as a child was raped by her father. Enraged, her brother then proceeds to shoot the father. As her family falls to pieces, Rune grows up as an underage prostitute, and where she is ultimately caught and put in jail. Enter Shell, the
main antagonist of this anime, who gets her out, gives her shelter, offers her his love and support… and then proceeds to blow her up.
Severely injured and on the verge of death, she is then rescued by Dr.Easter , who effectively turns her into a sexy Japanese version of Robocop. She is then given the ability to hack electronics, kick ass, and take names. To bring the crimes of Shell to light, she partners up with Oeufcoque, a highly intelligent electronical mouse that can transform, doubling as; her wardrobe, voice collar, gun, knife, shield, radar, emotional support, and love interest. Effectively putting batman’s utility belt to shame.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, yes this anime is rated R-18+, with themes of rape, incest, prostitution, murder, and impending bestiality. To put into perspective how fucked up this anime gets. One of the villains, is a giant tit sack. . . No really. While his boss, Mr. Pussyhands, gives quite a new meaning to the term “pussyslap”, and takes the act of “masturbation” to a whole new level.
One of the things I can say about this anime, is that it is very dark, and takes itself very seriously. You get a feel for Balot’s fear & mistrust of strangers, her loneliness & desperation, and her pain & anguish. As you begin to comprehend the tormented soul of Rune Balot, you start to get an understanding of what this anime is trying to convey.
A ‘balot’ , or ‘balut’, is an underdeveloped duck embryo. It is a representation of the fragility of Rune’s character as well as her torqued innocence. While Oeufcoque (French for egg shell), serves to protect Rune, both physically and mentally.
This dark and gritty concept, question of morals, and beautiful use of symbolism, makes this an anime I would definitely recommend checking out. The animation is a mix of 3d cg, brilliant slow mo, and fast paced action. While the anime takes very serious tones and displays them in a very serious manner. Which is a nice break from all the mindless violence, gore, sex, and nudity often found in other anime.
I hope you enjoyed this review, and as always, thank you for reading.
(P.S. I wonder what the director’s obsession with eggs is all about though. Dr. Easter, Boiled, Scramble, Balot, Oeufcoque, Shell, and Humpty Dumpty. Now all they need is a character named Sunny Side Up)
Story - Very interesting, but suffered from pacing issues. It moved wayyy too fast and didn't explain what was going on--or why--very well. Then again, some people may like this kind of vagueness that puts the jobs of interpretation and filling in the gaps on the viewer. If they had tacked an extra 20-30 minutes onto it, they could've SLOWED THE HELL DOWN and taken their time.
Art - Incredible, clean, and beautiful, except I'm not a fan of the grain layering they used over the duration of the film. It was different, but not my taste. Watching it
on an HD-TV greatly reduces its gravity, so I recommend that.
Sound - Great sound effects, excellent voice acting (both English and Japanese). But there wasn't a lot of music--and when there was, it didn't stand out very much. Their take on "Amazing Grace" at the end sounded really nice, but wasn't appropriate whatsoever for the mood of the ending.
Characters - The two mains were very well-written and interesting. Balot's backstory was painted very vividly. Her actions are very appropriate for what she's been through. Oeufcocque has an intriguingly quirky personality, which is interesting to see when watching them interact. The rest of the characters, however, are sadly boring and underdeveloped--even Dr. Easter and Shell (the villain). Hopefully this changes over the course of the next two films.
All in all, it's definitely a fun watch worthy of multiple viewings both for enjoyment, and to help yourself understand the story. It's graphic and brutally honest, depicting the world as it truly is. Choice scenes of a nude Balot that would normally be taken as fanservice simply cannot be seen as such--given the situations in which they occur: her being used by men. Looking forward to the next installment. Too bad it was so short.
*Be advised: The sex scenes and nudity are censored in R1 DVD release, and a few scenes were inexplicably removed. Just a word of warning if you're looking to buy the North American version.
This installment of Mardock Scramble is the first in what’s planned to be a 3-part series. In it, a teenage prostitute is killed by the man who took care of her, but she’s brought back to life by some magical science to try get revenge on her killers. She’s given a robotic body, lots of skin tight clothing and a highly intelligent golden mouse who can transform into whatever he wants, normally a gun of some sort.
It’s hard to talk about Mardock Scramble without giving out some plot setting spoilers. People might say that descriptions of the plot aren’t spoilers at all, but it does
seem a shame to hurt one of the few things this movie actually does very well. The exposition, often a clunky and tedious part of a movie, was revealed in a gradual course of exchanges between the female lead, Balot, and her mouse sidekick, Eufcoque. Asides from revealing how the world works and what the extents of Balot’s and Eufcoque’s powers are, it also builds up the relationship between the two in one of the most strangely charming duos I’ve ever seen. Balot doesn’t exactly think straight, hardly surprising given her past, and abuses her powers for various reasons. Eufcoque doesn’t think like a human, seeing as he’s a mouse and everything, but his mind works off a logic that hauls in Balot and builds a trust between the two. Using the other as a springboard for further exploration, the movie excels in the exchanges between the two that make up about half of the movie.
I did say that this was one of the things that it actually did well, which implies that the movie performed less favourable in other areas. This movie has a lot of grand ideas about how great it is and how it’s exploring themes of depression and sexual desires, but most of it is done in such awful fashion that parts of the movie come out as unintentional humour. There’s a group of underground surgeons towards the end of the movie with a taste for attaching parts of human bodies to themselves. One guy has eyes all over his body, which was probably supposed to be intimidating but really just looked stupid. There was another guy with breasts sewn all over his body like that ghost from the Fat Stocking episode of Panty and Stocking. The rest all equally looked like characters Apocalypse Zero. As for the disturbingly literal nickname of their leader, Pussyhands, the less said the better.
These characters were probably supposed to symbolise humans living out their sexual fantasies, but like much of the rest of the foreshadowing and imagery, it mainly resulted with scenes in various degrees of clunky or stupid. A bunch of the characters are given names related to eggs, such as Boiled and Shell, probably meant to symbolise birth of a new life or whatever, but that was rather eye-roll inducing, like calling the violent villain in your show Vicious or something. There were some more standard problems, such as lots of cryptic conversations that failed to grab the interest, or overbearing level of madness they gave characters that didn’t fit well into the story. Oh, and playing Amazing Grace as your ending song was pretty eye-rolling too.
Not all of the symbolism failed, to be fair, the relationship between Balot and Eufcoque being the best example. Heck, anything good about this movie came about when it was just those two together. The best scene in the movie was one where Balot asked Eufcoque to love her, with the golden mouse’s stuttered retort being that he wasn’t capable of loving as a mouse and that “I can’t just turn into a male human in order to love you”. The scene, asides from revealing a slightly messed up side to Balot’s mind, also shook Eufcoque and revealed we wasn’t quite as assured and logically perfect as earlier scenes had you believe.
(As an aside, I kept expecting Balot to turn Eufcoque into a dildo. That wasn’t just a dirty mind at play in a highly sexualised anime. Balot kept going on about how she just wanted someone to love her, with the only way she knew love in her depraved life was through sex, but Eufcoque kept pointing out that he was just a vessel that was incapable of love and that he was just a tool to pretend she was being loved. See where I’m going with this? Contrast this to our good friend Mr.Pussyhands, who quite literally has sex with his hand. I would not be that surprised if Eufcoque becomes masturbation aid at some point in the later movies)
Again, this movie only ever good when it was just interactions between the main character and her mouse sidekick, the rest of the movie being dumb, sometimes painfully so. Thankfully a lot of the movie was just interactions between the main two, which is enough to keep my interest to watch the later installments. But it’s not enough for me to recommend it either.
These are the opening words of Mardock Scramble, spoken by 15-year old prostitute Rune Balot, that set the downcast and existential tone for the rest of the series.
The story is set in Mardock City, a futuristic world where the skyline is filled with skyscrapers, cars glide on fluorescent green roads, and everything sparkles like champagne. It’s a stunning place to look at, but it’s also a savage place where cruelty and crime are often left unpunished.
Homicide has become so rampant that the government has authorized a controversial procedure to resurrect victims so that they can testify against their assailants. This is
one of several unusual, and perhaps implausible, concepts in Mardock Scramble, but it's presented with such confidence that it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and suspend disbelief.
The main plotline, which is essentially about Rune’s revenge, is likely just a catalyst for weightier themes. There are some fantastical action sequences, but the series presents itself more as a psychological character study than your typical action-adventure. The conversations between the characters in Mardock Scramble is the centerpiece, covering a wide range of topics such as the nature of memories and regret, free will, finding purpose in life, and rebirth.
There’s a lot of hidden symbolism to keep your mind busy if you choose to look for it, such as the egg references that frequently appear. The doctor who performs the resurrection procedure is named Dr. Easter; "scramble" is, of course, one of the ways in which eggs are cooked; and one of the main characters is named “Oeufcoque”, which is French for “soft-boiled egg.” What all these egg references mean, I’m not sure.
Mardock Scramble is different from the typical anime. The character features are detailed rather than simplified; the personalities are introspective rather than frantic; it has an electronic and ambient music soundtrack that’s devoid of catchy pop rock singing or guitar riffs; there aren’t any slapstick gags or spit takes; and there isn’t a high school classroom in sight.
If you like science-fiction fantasy, stylish art, and strong animation, and don't have a problem with scenes featuring graphic violence, mental and physical abuse, and nudity, you should definitively check out Mardock Scramble. If you haven't read the synopsis yet, don't. The less you know going in, the more surprised you’ll be.