Madlax: anime review – girls, guns and lazy animation

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Review: Retrospectively, Madlax’s theme is very interesting and exceptional. I’ve scarcely seen any anime that tells similar story or even shares similar idea. Madlax stands right between being fantasy anime involving magic and superpower and a serious action anime with political commentaries. Unfortunately, the show suffers from poorly executed storytelling. This is the series that seriously needs re-editing and probably shortening to half of its original run time.

Like Noir, Madlax is directed by Mashimo Koichi and it is closely related to Noir in so many ways including ‘girls with guns’ theme, the original soundtracks (also composed by Yuki Kajiura), the shoujo-ai implication, the background that resembles Europe and the character design of the two female leads. One has long hair; the other has short hair and they suffer from some kind of amnesia. On the down side, Noir and Madlax share the same weakness in slow pacing and they both obsessively and repetitively insert the flash back scenes throughout the show. While the most obvious difference between the two series is that Madlax is more convoluted, less episodic and contains less actions.

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Madlax sets in two fictional countries; the civil war plagued Gazth-Sonika and the peaceful Nafrece. The anime follows two young women, Madlax and Margaret, in their quests to rediscover themselves. Madlax works as an assassin in Gazth-Sonika. She has no memory of her life prior to twelve yeas ago; all she has are a torn page of a book written in strange language and the word ‘Madlax’ which she adopts as her own name. Margaret is the daughter of a wealthy Nafrece politician and the sole survivor from a terrible plane crash which killed her entire family twelve years age. Strange enough, the only thing she remembers after the incident is also the word ‘Madlax’ and she happens to have an old book with one page torn out in her possession. Upon investigating about the origin of the book, Margaret and her friends are inevitably drawn into a dangerous situation involving underground crime syndicate, government conspiracy, the terrifying true nature of the book and the truth about her past which will eventually lead her to meet Madlax.

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The biggest problem for the show is its slow and sometimes static pace and overarching storytelling. There is a good deal of nearly meaningless conversations, unanswered questions and flash back scenes repetitively shown through out the show. The anime obviously tries to make the viewers curious and mystified by constantly providing hints by using these unclear talking and incomprehensible scenes. The result is quite the opposite. After a while, Madlax gets more and more boring. It seems like the anime makes no progression at all, especially in the first half. This is where Noir is superior to Madlax because Noir is more episodic so there are always new characters introduced and lots of exciting scenes to keep the viewers entertained. While Madlax only offers hints and unclear messages and seems to be holding something back all the time.

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By the time the show begins to heat up, eighteen slow episodes has already passed. The two protagonists finally meet and the truth about their pasts starts to take shape. To my delight, the idea about the human essence and the truth about Margaret and Madlax’s mysterious connection is truly jaw-dropping. I dare say that the finale of Madlax is worth the laborious waits. But be warned that the ending features very few action sequences so those who expect explosive finale will be disappointed. Surprisingly, the supernatural portion of the anime is blended nicely with the realistic part about the civil war. Nevertheless, by revealing that the civil war is caused by magical powers rather than human makes the anime’s ideal against violence somewhat weaker.

In the earlier episodes, the music with tribal chanting sound quite weird to me but when the theme about the mystical books enters the picture, the haunting chants actually help enhancing the mysterious atmosphere of the show. The animation quality is generally mediocre with significantly numerous static images. Conclusion: Madlax provides many innovative and imaginative ideas but suffers from poorly executed storytelling for the most part of the show. Is it worth a try? My answer is yes, albeit with considerable hesitation.
Rating: C+

Facts

Title: Madlax
Genre: action, drama, mystery, supernatural
Released date: 5 April 2004 – 27 September 2004
Episode: 26
Director: Koichi Mashimo
Animated by: Bee Train

10 responses to “Madlax: anime review – girls, guns and lazy animation

  1. I loved Madlax, I devoured everything Yuki Kajiura did the music for. She seemed to really counterpoint a slow paced anime with hugely exciting music. Hack, Noir, Madlax, all really slow with heavy characterisation and high mystery, but with brief periods of intense excitement.

    You might be right about Madlax though, it was the slowest of the three, and it probably needed more plot and less flashbacks, but I think slow reveal animes work best with a full 24ish episodes. I’m just sad that there haven’t been any more anime quite like Madlax/Noir recently.

    • When discussed separately, there’s no doubt that Kajiura’s musical score was one of the strongest point of this show.
      I would love to see more anime like Noir as well :)

  2. I really wanted to love Madlax, because it was the spiritual successor to Noir. As you said, it had so much potential with its plot, but it just fell apart with its pacing and execution. I’m not in love with its animation either.

    At least Madlax is still better than the last of the trilogy, El Cazador de la Bruja.

    • The most annoying thing about Madlax’s animation was the hair. There would be only a few strand of hair moving while the rest of the head was totally static (-_-)

  3. I’ve learned one thing during my time watching anime: All Bee Train shows are carbon copies of each other, and they all suck.

  4. So I’ll add this one to my list, but it won’t be very high on the list. One of those anime for the eventuality that I seriously have nothing better to watch. This could take several more years.

  5. I actually never even made it all the way through Noir.

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