Gunslinger Girl is one of those anime properties that can easily be mistaken as being a gimmicky show. You know the type; the premise itself is so eccentric (in this case cybernetic-children assassins) that there's little need to bother with such details as say a good story or decent script. However, and as I had to discover for myself, Gunslinger Girl isn't nearly as one-dimensional. In fact it's a pretty darn well rounded property containing everything from political struggles to warring factions, and emotional overload to slight supernatural elements.
Though technically based on the series sequel, Gunslinger Girl IL Teatrino breaks the prose down into two episodes (each with a runtime of 17.5 minutes). The collection spans a single DVD packaged within a standard size clamshell DVD case. The total runtime comes in at 35 minutes and extras include an interview with a member of the Japanese vocal cast (the voice of Hilshire), textless opening and closing themes, and a host of Funimation trailers.
Language options are standard sub & dub meaning the viewer has the choice of viewing the OVA in either the original Japanese dialog (stereo) or with an English dub (5.1 Dolby Surround) and the option of turning on English subtitles beneath either track.
Finally the program wears an appropriate TV MA (mature, 17+) rating due to violent themes, gunfights, blood and a bit of gore. There is however no nudity and the foul language is kept to a minimum.
The story follows the exploits of the Social Welfare Agency and their ongoing exploits (missions) using mechanically bodied adolescents. While the Il Teatrino story arc is actually quite a bit more involved, the OVA concerns itself with one particular mission: Marco and Angelica's take-down of a heavily guarded Five Republics Faction safe house in Venice while Jean and Rico simultaneously travel to Venice in effort to do a job on a local Mafioso who is proven to be in cahoots with terrorists.
That said, viewers can expect quite a nice artistic presentation here, with moments retained from the series earning subtle (but definitely noticeable) gains in the amount of attention paid to visual detail. Surprisingly, the source material lends itself quite naturally to the OVA medium in that the deliberately slowed pacing makes the relatively short episodes feel quite complete.
At this point I cannot comment on whether or not Funimation intends on releasing further OVA episodes until the entire series is thus translated, but I can confess that the end of this particular collection does leave the viewer with a sense of non-fulfillment due to the fact that it basically highlights a single mission and not much more. There is some great character development scattered throughout but on the whole, the ending can't exactly be called conclusive either. I had the fortunate luxury of digging out my Gunslinger Girl anime series collection to ascertain where this particular thread of the tale was heading but it's likely that not everyone who purchases this OVA will have that opportunity (which I imagine would be a bit frustrating).
Aside from revamped visual treatment, the OVA contains all new audio in both language options, much of which manages to maintain (and sometimes improve upon) the standard set in the series. Though close, my nod to the superior language effort goes to the original Japanese track for it's more natural inflection and emotional range of the characters. The English vocals are nothing to shake a stick it either (Funimation has simply been raising the bar in this regard with each and every release), but a few of the vocal talents here in the States seem to try a bit too hard to be monotone and emotionless (and no I'm not talking about the cyborgs either). Still either selection really does a fine job of accompanying the visuals & themes presented.
In all, this is definitely a solid OVA selection that is easy to recommend to fans of the series especially. Deliberate and flawless pacing can totally be credited for making the relatively short episodes feel both big budget and never rushed. The only negatives to report are that with a total runtime of only 35 minutes, there is a lot of the tale (and I mean A LOT) that gets left behind on the cutting room floor. Additionally non-fans of the show may find the OVA to be a bit perplexing in its prose at times and especially the ending, which makes no apologies for lacking finality.
It's a safe bet to say that had this collection been spread over four episodes (rather than two), my few complaints would have been nullified completely. As it stands however, highly recommended only to those who know (or better yet own) the anime series DVD releases as this OVA collection compliments them perfectly.