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 animÃ© 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 clichÃ©. 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 naivetÃ©, 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.
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.