In a futuristic society, a 15-year-old prostitute named Rune Balot is rescued after being nearly killed. She is subconsciously given the choice to continue living due to an emergency ordinance to preserve life called Mardock Scramble 09. Turned into a cyborg, Balot is then given the choice of assisting the investigations against the man who tried to terminate her. He is part of the powerful October corporation that is stealthily conducting illegal activities.
User Reviews: Be warned, this engages with some problematic content but I think it tries to do so in a respectful way about larger questions at play, not just shock value.
It’s called Mardock Scramble because a scientist has military and restricted tech that enables him to save someone who’s dead, so long as a neural link is formed with the individual and the subconscious is probed to ask a number of questions, most important of which is, "Do you want to live?". She’s reborn as a cyborg with super-strong skin, the ability to manipulate electronics around her, programming for self defense and spacial awareness. She can shoot like a billion ping pong balls in 10 seconds – that kind of thing.
Where this takes an interesting turn for me was that they bring her back specifically to give her justice, providing information and evidence against Shell in order to bring him down. But what follows is a young woman’s struggle to find something she lives for as previously it was entangled in Shell’s identity.
A vehicle for that exploration is Oeufcoque, a futuristic malleable, intelligent, tool that is presented to her. Whose primary function is to protect her. "He" changes his physical form to a lot of different things, bulletproof clothing, knives, guns. Whatever is needed. Oeufcoque’s identity is completely wrapped up in his creation purpose, to be a case officer and tool to help other people get what they need.
As the three movies progress this thread intensifies, we learn more of Rune’s back story, we get Shell’s back story. And we learn Oeufcoque had a previous user who turned murderous, abusing him and using him as a tool for murder – which actually physically harms Oeufcoque. When attempting to defend herself and get justice, Rune constantly struggles with the "right way" to get justice. This previous user’s name has a full name but is known as Boiled (I know, anime right). Rune finds herself slowly going down the same path as he as she becomes consumed with the idea of revenge and how easy it would be to use Oeufcoque to get it for her. And when she even goes so far as attempt it without realizing the consequences, Oeufcoque is hurt very badly. The imagery is intense when this happens because he’s taken the form as Rune’s dual guns, which ends up exploding as if shot and leaking blood as she attempts to kill someone who’s attacked her but is no longer a threat.
Everyone in the show are flawed beings and ultimately the commentary I think is one of a societal constraints and ideas implanted in us from environmental factors, and what happens when we defy them. Even Oeufcoque, who can’t physically deviate from his ascribed task in life, cannot deviate from what was forced on him. Rune is a prisoner initially of society too, completely unable to see the value in her worth and wanting to die, but within her is the desire to live, which allows her to defy the restraints and attempt to find herself. Her life before was also to be a tool, one used only wielded by men. Even Shell and his motivations as they unravel and peel back is a commentary on our function in society and what upsetting the "natural" order does to someone.
It also manages to interweave a lot of questions about technology from the very beginning. How ethical is this technology that brings back victims from the dead? How ethical is it create entity that is intelligent but then place constraints on it due to your own morality? Some similar themes as Ghost in the Shell also come into play, such as the manipulations of memory in the human mind and what that could do to a person’s identity, and what value and pressure we place on the things we ourselves create, living or otherwise.
This violent change that see-saws within her throughout the narrative is really compelling to watch. At least, from my point of view. At one point she is at a Casino in an effort to do an elaborate heist to lift data they need to get to take down Shell. They explore fate, luck, and trust. Although it made for a slower scenes it was interesting because another woman at the Casino at first tells Rune that if a woman cultivates a her femininity, she will be rewarded in life, effectively having really good luck. While later on saying telling her that the only way she would truly be satisfied is if she set aside everything else and listened to herself, shirking society and everyone else’s viewpoint in order to truly know her own. While always supporting her as well, Oeufcoque is a very endearing character. Often asking probing questions about her welfare and her reactions to even small events. I feel like these particular scenes are the real heart of the movies.
There’s tons of good action between these cyborgs, there’s a really good digital environment, larger questions being posed, entities that can turn into guns and clothing and knives and cool things. It’s really entertaining. There is a couple aspects that seem like they were forgotten at the end or were interesting tangents that were cast aside. But I’ve got the book to read as well, which is very hefty. So I’ll dig into that at some point. After watching it twice I would definitely recommend it despite the problematic subject matter. And if someone has seen it and disagrees with it being handled OK, definitely let me know. I am always happy to learn more.