Based on Ryotaro Iwanaga’s ongoing manga series, the aftermath of the Great War has taken a huge toll on the citizens of the Royal Empire. Former soldiers have become bandits, poverty is widespread, and food is scarce. As a proud member of the Malvin house of nobility, Alice L. Malvin joined the military to continue the family’s tradition of serving in the armed forces of their homeland. But as Alice was graduating, a ceasefire had already been reached between the Royal Empire and the Republic of Frost. Cities and countrysides alike were ravaged by the war. Three years after the ceasefire, a new war relief unit has been formed within the military. Imperial Army Section III, better known as Pumpkin Scissors, is to investigate and assist with the problems reported across the nation. But for Second Lt. Alice L. Malvin, leading the field efforts of this unit is more than just a job. Animated jointly by GONZO (Hellsing, Last Exile) and AIC (Blue Gender, Armitage III) comes Pumpkin Scissors: 1 – Honor and Blood from ADV Films.
Audio: English 5.1 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English, Signs-Only
Extras: Clean Opening and Closing, ADV Previews
Notes: Review is based on a copy of the final product provided by ADV.
Episode one opens with the Pumpkin Scissors unit surveying a small town that has been constantly harassed by bandits from a former tank unit. The Grauwolf drifted into the area a year ago and set up camp at the two river damns overlooking the town. The bandits have a tank at their disposal, so the town has had no choice but to submit to the whims of their bullies. Seeing this as a time of action, Pumpkin Scissors’ hot-headed field commander, Alice Malvin, is more than ready to charge in and rescue the helpless citizens. If it wasn’t for the effort of her two subordinates, Alice probably would have gotten herself killed very quickly. Down at the town restaurant rests Randel Oland, a veteran of the Great War, eating his bowl of greens quietly. As Alice barges into the place, she notices the large, quiet man sitting there. Only the explosion outside distracts her from the odd sensation she feels in her neck about him.
The mayor pleads with Wolmarf, the Grauwolf commander, but he will not listen to reason. Naturally, Alice Malvin races to the scene and confronts the rogue tank unit and their steel beast. Wolmarf decides to pull back for now, but not before firing off a special chemical agent into the air unbeknownst to those in the town square. The town is celebrating the minor victory of the Pumpkin Scissors that night when people start to pass out. Alice and company now realize that the townsfolk have been exposed to a chemical agent and only Wolmarf has the cure. Going up against a tank unit will be tough, but Randel Oland’s former experience as a member of the 901 ATT (Anti-Tank Trooper) may come in handy. The former Gespenst Jäger (Ghost Hunter) has found a noble purpose in the aftermath of the war.
The second and third episodes give brief looks into how the region has resettled since the great war. Episode two explores the Pumpkin Scissors squad meeting with Viscount Wolkins to offer advice. Oland has joined the team and he’s put to use quickly when the unit discovers the Viscount’s deadly game of hunting villagers with a tank. Episode three confronts Alice personally on how easy her life has been as an aristocrat. Lack of food and a distrust for the military after having been tricked previously puts the Pumpkin Scissors unit at odds with a now-remote village. Alice’s group has been assigned to repair a railroad tunnel connecting the town to the rest of the region, but the villagers don’t believe Alice’s stated intentions. Meanwhile, her family sees Alice’s work in the military as frivolous and unbecoming for a lady of the House of Malvin.
The final episode begins looking into the background of Randel Oland. Those with a 900 series designation during the Great War are a well kept secret because of what they did and what may have been done to them. Inside the Pumpkin Scissors squad, Major Hunks has an idea of Oland’s past, but doesn’t believe it needs to be explored. However, Warrant Officer Martis seems determined to find out more about their mysterious giant who can take on tanks without fear. Viscount Wolkin’s tank was equipped with an automatic feed for the gun turrent, a technology that is currently in the research level of the Royal Empire and Republic of Frost. Alice’s squad is sent to investigate, starting with the expertise of Dr. Kortu. Dr. Kortu is considered “the Father of the Tank” and is their best chance to find out who designed the gunshell feeder.
Dr. Kortu looks at the material, but can’t help the Pumpkin Scissors squad. As they begin to leave, Martis recognizes the prototype handgun on the wall. The “Doorknocker” was an experimental gun designed to pierce the skin of a tank at its weakest points using a special 13mm shell. However, Dr. Kortu mentions that it was never put into service. He also says the government never proceeded with conditioning a special type of soldier to be able to use this overpowered weapon. As the investigation probes deeper, the Pumpkin Squad finds itself on the wrong end of a tank turret. Someone wants this investigation stopped and will do whatever is needed to make it happen.
Pumpkin Scissors takes a few pages from World War II in Europe as we see a re-creation of the destruction and problems the continent faced in the aftermath. A lot of the military weaponry is based off of the World War II-era. Also, many of the terms used are German, such as “Gespenst Jäger” and the basic programming drilled into Randel Oland’s mind. Randel’s conditioned background is hinted at in brief glimpses, and there is no questioning the deadly nature inside him when he activates his blue lamp to focus on the target. However, it’ll be a while before they reveal if Roland went the Steve Rogers route or if he was tricked into it along with many other men by evil bureaucrats. The series has great potential, but it really needs to bring something more substantial to the next disc if I’m going to continue. The Japanese cast fits decently enough as a unit, but supporting characters like Martis (Chihiro Suzuki) and Oreldo (Kousuke Toriumi) could use more time getting into character to carry their individual scenes. Shizuka Itou (Alice Malvin) starts off a bit rough, but by the third episode she has a good grasp of where the character is coming from. The English production by ADV’s Houston-based Amusement Park Media is either decent or groan-worthy depending on your opinion of the German accents added to many of the supporting and minor characters. Charles Campbell’s direction isn’t too bad for emotional reactions, but the cheesy caricatures and accents combined with the so-so script by George Manley makes it easily skippable. Kaytha Coker presents a decent Alice L. Malvin with an equally decent Randel Oland by Adam Dudley to play off of, but so far the script dulls their shine in this series. The rest of the supporting cast need some more episodes to work out the kinks, just like the Japanese cast.
Pumpkin Scissors: 1 – Honor and Blood brings a lot of bang for four episodes as Randel Oland conquers a tank and Alice Melvin conquers the team objective almost every episode so far. But I don’t find myself having a need to continue on just yet. The series has the action and now it needs to find the heart as well as develop Alice and Randel further. The DVD’s video is clean and the subtitle tracks contain no errors. The DVD extras are clean opening and closing animations. Pumpkin Scissors: 1 – Honor and Blood is fully what I expect to see out of GONZO of late, and this isn’t a good thing. It needs to focus more story and less on heavy action to drive each episode. Pumpkin Scissors is great for a rental, but it will take more to decide to buy the rest of the series now rather than later.