The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion

Title: Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: GoHands
Format: Movie; 64 minutes.
Date: 3 Sep 2011

Synopsis: Œufcoque is mortally wounded and Rune is staring right in the eyes of death as the two are ambushed and cornered by Boiled. Just as he closes in for the kill, Dr. Easter comes to their rescue using an escape pod called the Humpty Dumpty and manages to flee from Boiled. The two recuperate at a special facility called Paradise, which is also the same place Boiled was “reborn.” Despite Paradise being a comfortable haven, Rune chooses to live in the outer world and see justice being served as she, together with Dr. Easter and the recovered Œufcoque, infiltrates one of Shell’s associated casinos after learning where Shell has hidden his memories.

The Highlights
Delivery: Pretty much the same as First Compression, but…
Aesthetics: A tad better this time round; Paradise is quite an immersive experience.
Supporting cast: Reaping more of the spotlight than the main cast, to my delight.
Casino scene: Requires suspension of disbelief, though the Roulette scene is intriguing.
What the final installment needs: A climatic ending, preferably one with a lot of cyberpunk action.

First Compression was a pleasant surprise for me. Even if the genre and premises are hardly novel, I am an avid cyberpunk fan and occasionally enjoy titles with grim stories and deliciously violent action sequences. Thus, it left me wanting more from the three-part movie series, and I am keen to know what happens next in the plot. It does not really surprise me to see Second Combustion deliver a similar experience to the first movie on the surface, but it is welcoming to see differences both subtle and apparent in other aspects such as character focus and pacing.

From an aesthetic point of view, Second Combustion is not drastically different from First Compression. It basically continues from where the first movie left off, showcasing the same high quality fluid animation and grainy visuals to give it that cinematic atmosphere. Indeed, the movie series’ strongest point is the production values. Although it’s aesthetically on par with First Compression, what puts this movie slightly ahead of the first is the portrayal of Paradise, a setting where the movie’s visuals are at their peak. The show does not simply show the futuristic sanctuary but makes it an immersive experience that drastically differs from the hellhole that is the outside world, thus amplifying the gravity of the protagonist’s choice on whether to live out the rest of her life at the utopia or see justice being served in the cruel world.

While the two movies share a number of similarities with the visual delivery, what really sets Second Combustion apart from the first movie is the pacing. First Compression is simply your typical cyberpunk action flick, where the climax is marked with furious gunfight and plenty of bloodshed, and the pacing does not slow down as soon as the first fire is shot. However, the second movie takes the pacing down a notch and comes off more as a cyberpunk drama, exploring Rune’s reflective state and focusing more on the dialogue between the characters. As a result, the characters get fleshed out even further, making them more sympathetic and having more substance in characterization.

Another major distinction between Second Combustion and First Compression is the overall character focus. While the spotlight was shown more on Rune and her budding relationship with Œufcoque in the first movie, it is now shifted more toward the supporting cast. Some light is finally shed on Boiled, a stoic and mechanical killing machine with unknown motives, as glimpses of his mysterious past are finally shown. But perhaps the bigger surprise comes in the form of a roulette dealer, an enigmatic figure whose character exploration during a riveting high-stake game serves as the highlight of the movie itself.

Although Second Combustion‘s storyline requires some suspension of disbelief when it comes to Rune and Dr. Easter’s attempt at infiltrating the casino, and how the change of pace would irk some viewers, it does not make this movie less entertaining than First Compression. Despite the different approach to its cast and plot, it is still an absorbing installment that maintains the quality of the movie series. Now that there is only one movie left, a climatic ending is to be expected be it in the form of an all-out bloody shootout or a high-tension court drama (or perhaps, even both of them). I still hold certain expectations from Mardock Scramble, and I would like to see the direction it takes to wrap things up.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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