PUMPKIN SCISSORS COLLECTION (15)4 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 559 minutes approx.
At the turn of the twentieth century an unnamed region is in the midst of rebuilding itself after a costly war which ended when the two opposing sides - the Royal Empire and the Republic of Frost - agreed to an indefinite ceasefire. This results in a downturn in fortune for many within the Empire, with starvation and poverty a common and growing problem. Former soldiers have formed gangs and turned to crime just to survive while the nobility and social elite continue to live in luxury. To off set the corruption of the rich and aid those suffering, the Empire instigated its war relief effort, forming the Imperial Army State Section III. Under the leadership of 2nd Lieutenant Alice L. Malvin and her superior Captain Hunks, the division know as Pumpkin Scissors find themselves torn between the protection of the rich and the plight of the poor.
Some of you may be familiar with this title as it was one of the last to be released by ADV before their demise, only to be cut off after one volume. This oddly titled opus, rescued from obscurity by MVM, is the creation of Ryotaro Iwanaga whose manga is still running to this day. As we learn via a flashback episodes late in the series run the name of the group came from Alice when the division was first formed. Her idea came from likening the corruption of the rich to the thick rind of a pumpkin and they were the scissors strong enough to cut through it. I don't know about you I but thought most people used knives to cut a pumpkin up!
It's not just the show's title that is fanciful and somewhat oblique, the characters are all subject to that wonderful Japanese practice of creating fancy English sounding names by taking two unrelated words and putting them together regardless. On Alice's team there are the two Warrant Officers Martis and Oreldo, Sgt Major Lillie Stecchin and in the first episode they meet and recruit gentle giant Randel Oland; that's a lot of "L"s for a nation that has difficulty pronouncing them!
A post war world is a long time favourite setting for anime, and in reflecting Japan's current peaceful outlook, the war relief aspect has also bred a few titles, most recently the overlooked Sora no Woto. The class system and the rich/poor division of the people of the Royal Empire is a somewhat apt theme in light of the current financial upheaval we are experiencing, despite the series being seven years old. It also gives the series its only true extended story arc, spanning the last six episodes (or if you will, the entire fourth disc) while the majority of the stories are standalone affairs. For a twenty four episode series this formula exposes the paucity of sustainable ideas and while some instalments try to flesh out the characters and give them depth, it doesn't really help so much as they remain unremarkably dull and easily forgotten.
Leading lady Alice L Malvin is not very likeable. She is a very gung-ho young woman who charges in with all guns - or in her case a short sword - blazing when gathering simple things like data, facts and thinking things through are preferable alternatives. The most interesting aspect of her character is that she is in fact a member of the very nobility whose corruption she is trying to expose. The youngest of three eligible sisters Alice is torn between attending glamorous dinner balls with the Empire Elite and kicking their butts! However, after being teased in an early episode, this is left mostly untouched until the aforementioned final arc which revolves around a group of poor and homeless people storming the elitist dinner ball in order to kill a rich snob who has profited from their poverty. And no, his name is not David or George either .
Alice's team are a little less dynamic, with Martis being a speccy nerd with a tragic girly haircut and Oreldo being the deluded ladies man. Of greater interest is the giant Oland, somewhere between seven or eight feet tall - depending on the animators perspective or whim - this facially scarred brute is seemingly impervious to pain and is capable of knocking a house down with his bare hands but is actually a pacifist and wants a quiet life. This is a unique dynamic to bestow upon this character but the trouble is that they make him into a total wimp, who kowtows to Alice's every order - largely because he is in love with her. For some unexplained reason, he only shows his true power when he switches on a halogen lamp he carries with him. Oland is also subject to a running joke in which a hospital nurse struggles to find a urine bottle big enough and strong enough for him to use.
The animation is handled by Gonzo who score points for some impressive artwork and set pieces depicting a location similar to Western Europe, but lose many for the sloppy animation and every changing character details which get lazier as the show progresses. On that note a number of character designs are extremely reminiscent of Fullmetal Alchemist; in fact, if you can imagine FMA without the Elric brothers and the fantasy aspect that focuses solely on the activities of the cast from Central then you pretty much have this show.
Having a good idea is one thing; fleshing it out and sustaining it is another. Pumpkin Scissors is a series that, while it provides solid entertainment, is basically a one note theme stretched beyond it basic means. Had it been thirteen episodes and focused solely on the rich vs poor arc, the quality of the storytelling and attention to the characters would surely benefit from such prudent streamlining. Instead we have three discs of throwaway fluff one and one that addresses the central concept with any great depth. Enjoyable enough but fine for a rainy afternoon at best.
English Language Japanese Language English Subtitles
Disc 1 & 3 only:
Clean Opening AnimationClean Closing Animation
Disc 2 & 4 only:
MAN IN BLACK