by Yu Aida
Published in the U.S. by ADV Manga
Slugline: Government agency rebuilds damaged girls into killing machines and assigns each a handler. The girls shoot bad guys, protect good guys, and try to deal with their remaining shreds of normalcy.
Volume 1 introduces us to the team of gunslinger girls, cyborg assassins for the Italian government. Each is a sick or injured girl rebuilt and reprogrammed to handle weapons and hand-to-hand combat with ease. Each also has a "brother" who serves as an interface between the needs of the government and the needs of highly trained tweener girls.
It's a story that could very easily veer into melodrama and sentiment, but it doesn't. It's an action title. The girls are there to carry big guns and shoot when their handlers say so. But what lifts this story above mere violence are the touches of reality showing through. These girls have real - in that each is different and not all are happy or healthy - relationships with their "brothers," everyone's aware of the sins they're committing, and there is only uncertainty about the long term results of turning girls into cyborgs.
The volumes also contain translator's notes, which I'm always in favor of.
Volume 1 contains several missions with various girls, interspersed with group scenes for character-building and filling in the background. The art is clean and straightforward and the action isn't so cluttered with speed lines and sound effects as to drown out the characters. As a long-time reader of manga, I'm giving this title a big thumbs-up.
Gunslinger Girls, v.1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.