Mardock Scramble

Private-eye Dr Easter and his shapeshifting companion Oeufcoque rescue teen hooker Balot from a fiery death, before putting her to work in a campaign to bring down a sinister crime boss. Mardock Scramble is that rarest of opportunities – a chance to read the source material of an anime before most foreign viewers get the opportunity to see the spin-off in a cinema (the anime will be released here in a few months). In a refreshing change from piecemeal publications, US-based Haikasoru have combined an entire trilogy in one monster volume. This not only delivers superb value for money on the page-count, but also avoids the likely loss of readers that would have been likely to have otherwise bailed out during an overlong casino interlude.

Habitual anime viewers will sense strong echoes of Ghost in the Shell in Ubukata’s resurrected cyborg protagonist, and also resonances of the sly misogyny to be found in the anime scripts of Chiaki Konaka. Like Konaka, Ubukata wants to have his cake and eat it, presenting women in peril, distress and abusive situations for the titillation of a male readership, while simultaneously inviting disapproval of their plight.

Ubukata also does himself no favours by resorting to the tiresome Japanese habit of naming characters with punning associations in English. Ever since Osamu Tezuka, this practice has rendered uncountable stories seem laughably inept in translation – the author might cackle over the foreshadowings and egg-related references in his subtexts, but they are all too obvious to English readers, and can distract from an otherwise serious narrative, as if Frodo’s name were Dave Ring2mordor and Boromir were called Placeholder Deadsoon. Translator Edwin Hawkes does the best he can with such material, resulting in an illuminating window on what is both good and bad about modern Japanese science fiction.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This review first appeared in the SFX Ultimate Guide to Anime, 2011.

3 thoughts on “Mardock Scramble

  1. Hullo there.

    I’m afraid to say that this isn’t a comment on your post, really. However, I could find no other way of contacting you, so this seemed like my best bet.

    Back in the day, when you presented Saiko Exciting, I sent you an e-mail. I signed it, something-hime (possibly Anna-hime?), and in it I rambled on about the lack of J-Rock featured on the show or somesuch. To my great surprise, you responded!
    Then on the episode that you left, my e-mail scrolled along the bottom of the screen as you sang (in Chinese, I believe.)

    I just wanted to say that I really looked up to you back then, and I still do today. I’m always delighted when I spot your name in credits, on books, etc. and I always make sure to gleefully point it out to my partner, “He’s awesome.”

    You’re such an insanely hardworker, I wish you received more credit than you do. I’m just glad that you’re still working, and still being awesome.

    I’d love to chat some time, feel free to contact me at:

    Have a good monday! C:

  2. Nathaniel/Mariya/Anna-hime, that’s a lovely thing to hear — and almost accidental that I did. I very rarely look this far back at the comments sections because they are usually full of spam, so it was just an accident that I stumbled across yours.

    Still working away: a new book on anime in the pipeline, and just about to sign a contract for another. I’m happy to be making a living out of doing what I do. I’m still amazed at how many people remember Saiko Exciting. For a show that supposedly nobody watched, it seems to have an oddly large number of fond fans.

    Thank you for taking the time to say hello — it really means a lot to me that people are actually paying attention!

  3. (Lordy, the names. This is what gender transition does to you.)

    It’s so wonderful to hear from someone who truly loves what they do for a living, and it’s so commendable that you found a way to make said living out of something you’re so interested in and so good at.

    I shall definitely keep an eye out for any new books! And yeah, I tend to always feel like I’m a bit crazy when I try and explain Saiko Exciting to people and they just look at me as though anime has somehow only gained a following in the last few years. (Horrendously incorrect, as you’ll know.)

    You definitely have a long-term fan in me, and I’m glad that you got to see my comment (even if you probably don’t see this one XD).

    I wish you all the best!


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