Cantaloupe Slicer or Somesuch… (Animé Fansubs XI)

Pumpkin Scissors is a stupid name for both a show and a military unit, but it drew me in for a while with a mix of action, political intrigue, Central European flavor, and setting. The military technology of this alternate world has advanced to perhaps early WWII (top of the line tanks appear to have 75mm short-barreled guns), though I’ve seen no aircraft. The Empire and Republic didn’t really settle anything with their cease-fire and armistice three years ago, but the Empire is in ruins, and “war relief” in the ruined countryside is the mission of the Pumpkin Scissors unit. They are three (later four) soldiers, led by the noble (and naive) Lt. Alice Malvin, who travel around the country doing everything from heading up the rebuilding of railroad tunnels to bringing bandits and renegade nobles to heel.

The character designs are unique; no bishie boys or pretty girls here, except perhaps for Alice, but she’s a fish out of water in the army. The artwork is strongly evocative of post-WWI Europe, in ruins. The tanks and cars are boxy designs that give off a distinctly central european flavor, strengthened by liberal use of German and Russian terms. It didn’t seem to be the usual animé series at all, and I followed it for a while when it came out in fansubs.

The problem was, that while the trappings were non-standard, the elements were cliché. Lt. Malvin was just too simple-minded and overzealous. Heir to a highly placed family, you can see that she’s too honest for the world she’s in. Her supportive boss is too world-weary and cynical, and I have to wonder why her staff isn’t speding time turning in transfer requests. Also, some of the stunts just too unbelieveable when matched up with the ultra-realistic style of the art and animation. What finally got me was the obvious “Evil Conspiricy of Nobles” faced by the main characters, contrasted to Alice’s utter naiveté, and the ignorance of the rest of her staff. Corporal Oland, I could see. He’s just a giant, but gentle country peasant — who was subjected to a horrible experiment the left him with nightmares and the ability to kill a tank with only an oversized pistol. The powers that conducted these experiments are still around — and don’t want to be found. Yet the Pumpkin Scissors unit barely pays lip service to the idea that, hey, someone official might not want them doing what they’re supposed to do.

In episode 4, the tank seiezed from the viscount in episode 2 has been found to have an advanced autoloading mechanism, far more advanced than anything fielded by the major powers. Where did it come from, and why were people willing to kill in order to prevent its secrets from falling into the wrong hands — that is, the government’s? Just how many secrets are there behind “the invisible 9’s,” the military units that didn’t exist? Corporal Oland belonged to the 901st Anti Tank Trooper brigade, and there was a 903rd Chemical Tank Troop… what else is out there, and what hellish experiments have they conducted? Sergeant Major Machs, Lt. Malvin, and the rest of the team see Corporal Oland in action from up close…and Machs is terrified by a man who can save his life by single-handedly killing a tank with an oversized pistol — even if it does put the corporal in the hospital for a month. Oland’s nightmare sequences are creepy, and it’s evident that what was done to him has extracted its own cost.

Given the nature of the show, one would expect the principals to start developing a healthy paranoia, but they don’t do that even after several people near them die in unusual circumstances. I finally gave up when they were driving their car around (in the sewers, no less) and chose to drive right up to a suited figure carrying a flamethrower. Ok, granted they were running from people that had just tried to kill them, but talk about going from the frying pan to the fire!

As I said, I followed it for 14 fansubbed episodes, but eventually I dropped it in annoyance. I bought the 1st DVD as an obligation purchase, but have never been tempted to break the seal. In the end, I think it was Alice that ruined it for me; she had no room for fear or doubt; she was little more than a wind-up toy determined to batter down any brick wall in front of her. I prefer heroines a little less psychotic, and a little more human.

Unless it’s a fun kind of psychotic, that is.

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2 Responses to Cantaloupe Slicer or Somesuch… (Animé Fansubs XI)

  1. IKnight says:

    He’s just a giant, but gentle country peasant — who was subjected to a horrible experiment the left him with nightmares and the ability to kill a tank with only an oversized pistol.

    . . . and that sort of thing is why I love anime. Shame the show sounds a little incoherent. The first volume’s released over here next Monday, but I doubt I’ll give it a try.

  2. Ubu Roi says:

    I don’t think the show’s as incoherent as my article is. It’s got a plot that is unfolding slowly. What spoiled it for me was Lt. Alice Malvin. She has no fear whatsoever; she’s determined to blindly charge ahead. Intellectually, she seems to understand that “hey, this is dangerous,” but she never seems to really believe that she (and by extension, her unit) is in danger. She sort of knows that she is, it’s just not relevant to her.

    That makes her far less interesting and heroic than someone who realizes emotionally that they could get everyone around them killed, but choses to do their duty anyway.

    Another thing that annoyed me, but it has to go behind the tag: They’re telegraphing that one or both of her sisters are part of the conspiracy. I don’t object to that cliché so much as I do the expression of it: the darkened room, overhead light, can’t-see-the-conspirators’-faces form of the trope.

    Theaters and studios normally have a “prop room” where commonly used items are kept. Bad writers have a “cliché room” where they keep commonly used tropes.

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