Madlax (Japan 2004)

Rating: **
Review Date: 7/13/08

Divided into 26 installments.

From the creators of "Noir" (2001) comes another tale of a female assassin and a psychologically troubled young girl set against a backdrop of political intrigue. Madlax is a highly proficient assassin and superb marksman. She's so good that she can shoot enemies with her eyes closed, getting an almost sexual thrill from the kill. She also likes to don sexy evening gowns when she performs her bullet ballet of death, and is pretty much a total air-head. The other girl in the story is Margaret Burton, a vapid high school student who is completely disconnected from reality. Having suffered some trauma at a young age, her nightmares hold the key to a dreadful secret. Everything revolves around an international criminal organization named Enfant and its involvement with a civil war in a fictional South Asian country.

While it's always nice to see attractive women kicking butts and taking names, none of the characters are very interesting. In her own way, Madlax is as disconnected from reality as Margaret is, which ultimately has the effect of leaving the viewer emotionally stranded. However, there's a reason for that, and if you can get through the first five or six episodes, there's a good chance you'll be hooked by the deep and twisted story. Many comparisons to "Noir" can be drawn in regards to the characters, their relationships, the production values, the narrative progression, and the overly complicated and completely baffling story line. Everything gets turned upside down at the very end, and the bizarre and ambiguous ending is quite a letdown. However, it's also quintessentially Japanese.

The animation is on par with "Noir" in that it's pretty standard looking. The character designs and backgrounds are nice, but the animation can be a bit choppy and the series recycles a lot of scenes. The soundtrack is superb, but it wears out its welcome from being heavily reused. The action scenes tend to be brief, but it's always a treat to watch Madlax in action. Again, similar to "Noir" a LOT of people get shot and die, but there's nary a spot of blood to be seen. I would prefer to see more action and more down-to-earth characters than "Madlax" has to offer, but if you can stick it out for more than a few episodes, the series can be quite enjoyable.