Friday, December 14, 2007

MADLAX: Diz iz Mad

Schizophrenic. There is no other way to describe how this anime feels. I suppose that's where the title comes from. "Madlax" is neither a verb nor an adjective.... But --

ah, it's a proper noun! Because that's what the main character is called.

Am I confusing you yet? Sorry. Just being schizophrenic here.

More Info:
Official Site (English)

Official Site (Japanese)

Wikipedia Article

Watch "Madlax" Trailer

"Madlax" Complete Collection DVD @ Amazon
"Madlax" @ Yes Asia
"Madlax" Complete DVD Collection @ Righstuf
"Madlax" @ Play-Asia
So Madlax is a fairly old anime by BeeTrain, the same group who did Noir, except that I haven't finished watching Noir yet (I'm up to the 6th episode). Madlax is actually the second part of BeeTrain's trilogy that deals with the so-called "gun-slinger girl" genre -- the first being Noir and the third one, which I think just finished airing, El Cazador de la Bruja.

Like Noir, Madlax revolves around two girls who lead two very different lives and who are unlikely to meet in the ordinary course of events. In fact, the two are not even aware of each other's existence until more than halfway through the show. Amazing, isn't it?

Think about it: Can you write a story about two girls who don't seem to interact with each other and yet are supposed to be connected in some uber-mysterious way? I think it would be very difficult to hold your readers' (or viewers, for that matter) attention for long with that kind of story concept, which is why Madlax is frequently accused of being dragging and nonsensical.

Well, of course! It's...MADLAX! Which I think is probably just a contraction of "mad" and "lax," and which then explains everything about the show.

To appreciate Madlax, you have to be a little mad.

Or maybe not. But you do have to take in its dual aspect because Madlax is duality to the max (ha! did you see what I did just there? Did you? I said "madlax" and then I...never mind).

Okay, so we start with the "mad" part, because, face it, schizophrenia is interesting.


Right from the first episode, the anime plunges us into the madness that the world has turned into.

It's 2011 and there is a 12-year civil war going on in the Kingdom of Gozth-Sonika, a tiny little South Asian country. This is the world that the titular character, Madlax, lives in. She's typical: blond, 17 years old (Japanese people like teenaged girls), goes around in short shorts (that is, when she's not wearing a slinky white/red dress which she amazingly changes into in the heat of battle. Why she opts to wear a dress while fighting off the bad guys is beyond me. But it's fanservice and everybody knows that fanservice is not supposed to make any sense). The only thing that separates her from all other teenaged anime females out there is that she wields guns, and I mean, GUNS. Why, for the love of all that's mad, you ask? Because she's a SOOPER-SEEKRIT agent slash assassin slash disturbed person who has no life and no memories.

Madlax is supposed to be an independent entity who moves behind the scene of the war. But she actually receives her mission without question from someone called SSS, whom we never get to see for the entire duration of the show. And when she's not doing her missions and killing people with cool, Madlax spends her days in semi-catatonia in a cheap-looking apartment with a nice view of the city, thinking about pasta.

So you see, Madlax exists only to kill and when she's not killing, she's not alive. Is there anything more insane than that?


The "lax" part of Madlax is represented by absent-minded, soft-spoken, amnesiac Margaret Burton, who is explained to us in Episode 2 as the daughter of an aristocratic family in Nafrece, a country that is obviously a misspelled anagram of France. Apparently, Margaret lost all her memories from twelve years ago after the plane she and her mother were on crashed in Gozth-Sonika. When Margaret mysteriously turned up in Nafrece, the only word she remembered was "Madlax."

And here we make a connection: Madlax likewise has no memories from before twelve years ago and the only word she could remember was "Madlax," which she took for her own name.


Then all of the characters die. Well, except for Madlax, a little girl named Laetecia (who is far too cryptic to make any kind of sense) and Margaret, and that's the end of it.

But Holy Yuri and Magical Books like Woah!

But at this point, the anime takes a very weird turn: it suddenly goes Fushigi Yuugi (like, magical books and stuff!) on the characters, except that there are not enough guys in the series to fall in love with the main characters and that there are thankfully no Miakas in this anime. That's another weird thing about Madlax. There are virtually no guys; none who are not malformed and wear a mask while scheming world domination or none who don't get dead, at least.

Instead, we get fanservice of the yuri kind from the love-triangle undertones in the dysfunctional relationships between Madlax and Vanessa; Madlax and Limerda. Not to mention the existing fandom for the Madlax-Margaret pairing. Like, dude, they're supposed to be one person! What kind of narcissistic ego complex is that? Oops, did I just totally reveal the most vital point of the story?

Well, having said that, yeah. Did I not say at the onset that this show is schizophrenic?

Spoiler, but you knew that

Margaret Burton has Multiple Personality Disorder and the amnesiac Margaret, the kind killer Madlax, and the creepy little girl Laeticia are all personalities of her own device due to a particular traumatic experience that occurred, not surprisingly, twelve years before the beginning of the anime.

And really, I should end the story with that, but you see Madlax doesn't let you off that easy. There are elements of the supernatural here, not only as regards the magical books that can open doors into different dimensions, but also as regards Madlax's and Margaret's abilities -- the former with her combat skills and battle tactics and superhealing powers, the latter with her ability to create physical manifestations of her different personas.

Then, there is the obligatory evil character (ridiculously named Friday Monday) who, quite originally, wants to plunge the world into chaos, which he plans to accomplish by collecting all three magical books and, I guess, bore us to death by reading their contents aloud.

And finally, there are other lackeys in the story who do nothing but help the story along, help the character along, please the yuri fans, and provide cryptic expositions about what happens next. I must say that in this regard they are all very well-written side characters, if a bit flat and unimaginative, in that they do nothing but keep at their appointed task.

I think the main problem with Madlax is the grandiosity of the idea of the plot that makes it very difficult to fit into a 26-episode series. There are too many characters, each of whom have the potential to be interesting but could do with some development.

If the series were longer, there would be no problem with pacing because then the makers of the anime could devote an episode to each character while at the same time moving the plot along. And if the series were longer, BeeTrain could have explored the duality aspect that makes Madlax so fascinating even further and give the anime a proper close, instead of cramming them all in in the last three episodes.

However, if you forget for a moment the "what could have been," Madlax is a pleasing-enough experience. Schizophrenic, yes, but it makes you think about the "real" truth rather than your "perceptions" of truth. Or is there no difference?

It makes you ask questions (WTF is going on?). It makes you heighten your cursive eloquence (Shit-fuck! Vanessa is so totally gay! LYK WOAH SRSLY!). And finally, it makes you want to play Tombraider III: The Lost Artifact (Oh, am I the only one who got the irresistible urge to play Tombraider after watching this?)

p.s. And don't forget the OST. I think that even if the animation is worse than it is I would still like the anime because of the OST. I hear that the OST for Noir, composed by the same person, is better. anime fandom!