A while ago, I reviewed Bee Train’s works and managed to create a minor backlash when I placed Madlax in the ‘miss’ category. If I had any sense, I would probably have left it at that, but having brought up the topic of Madlax, I came to feel as if I needed to say more on just where Madlax went wrong for me.
Back when Madlax was first being released on DVD, I let myself get caught up in a wave of enthusiasm for the series, even going so far as to buy it with no more knowledge than “it’s Noir II”. And indeed, for a time, it seemed as if I had made the right choice, with the series promising an intricately linked tale between Madlax, a compassionate assassin, and Margaret Burton, an amnesiac high school student who clearly had more to her than met the eye. Unfortunately, having built up such a comprehensive mental idea of the story I wanted, the reality of the situation could not fail to disappoint.
Despite its promising start, Madlax soon managed to sabotage my attempts to pay attention to it, creating a story so unnecessarily convoluted and filled with characters I didn’t care about that it was hard to even pay attention. And even as I struggled onwards, the series took a turn towards the more supernatural side of things, ensuring a transition from the dull to the completely ridiculous. Alternate realities with psychedelic backgrounds, books that opened a doorway to another world, magic words that affect everyone who hears them, split personas living in different bodies- no matter how ridiculous and hard to swallow it sounded, Madlax seemed determined to include it.
Noir II with a splash of .hack
As the second in Bee Train’s ‘Girls with Guns’ trilogy, Madlax must inevitably be compared to its predecessor, and unfortunately, it cannot live up to the standard set by Noir. Although the characters are arguably warmer and more human than the cool and detached Mireille and Kirika, they are also shallow and lacking the development they needed to fulfil their potential. And where Noir kept a tight focus on its four regular cast members whilst unfolding an intriguing mystery, Madlax is a far more bloated and convoluted tale that ends only in disappointment.
In the world of Madlax, there are three magical and powerful books (yes, books) that effectively enable those with equally unbelievable supernatural powers to access an alternate dimension where ridiculous plot related events can occur. The actual point of these books is, however, doubtful, as the magical effects seem to be contained in a mere six words, rendering the bulk of the text within the books negligible.
As if to add insult to injury, these three books are individually named Firstari, Secondari and Thirstari, names which simultaneously display and incredible lackof imagination and a stupidity that goes beyond mere Engrish; for even if the first two names could be accepted, the third sounds like “Thirst Diary”, a journal of one man’s search for water.
Character summaries, a ranting convention
Madlax: Our eponymous heroine, Madlax (her code name) is a seventeen year old assassin living in war-torn Gazth-Sonika. Since she is technically not a real person but actually a split persona of Margaret Burton, she has various special abilities, such as enhanced combat skills, near immortal endurance and most remarkably, a tendency to magically change from her normal attire into a clinging white dress in the middle of missions- surely practical wear for any assassin. Madlax was created twelve years ago when Margaret Burton killed her father and then used her special gift to separate the part of her that committed that act. Towards the end, they briefly become one, but upon realising that HARD YURI is difficult in a single body, they choose to separate again.
Margaret Burton: The other protagonist of the tale, Margaret was forced to kill her father in self-defence after Friday Monday used the magic ‘Words of Awakening’ to make him shoot her. No one would want to remember shooting their beloved father, but in Margaret’s case she has the rather unique solution of splitting into three personas- herself, Madlax and Laetitia, with only the latter retaining any memory of the event. From that point onwards, Margaret becomes quite an irritatingly spaced out person who seems barely able to look after herself.
Elenore Baker: As often happens, Elenore has compressed her entire high school education into a single year, enabling her to graduate and become Margaret’s maid as soon as possible. Her motive is ostensibly to look after her beloved Margaret, but it may just be so that she can wear a maid’s uniform for no real reason.
Vanessa Rene: The face of HARD YURI in the series, Vanessa is actually one of the more inoffensive characters during the times when she wasn’t tempting Madlax away from all possibility of STRAIGHT. Vanessa’s role should not be underestimated, however, as it is her actions that drive the plot forwards.
Friday Monday: When you’re a villain, you don’t want to be like everyone else- that’s why you have to name yourself after days of the week and wear a custom made but unlikely looking mask to cover your damaged eye. You also need to have a burning desire to plunge the world into never-ending war for no apparent reason, which is exactly what Friday’s agenda is. The laughable pointlessness of his goals goes beyond that of any final boss before him, and his lengthy diatribes only serve to ensure that the series ends on an extremely underwhelming note.
Limelda Jorg: The anti-heroine of the series, Limelda’s job is to chase relentlessly after Madlax, but never mess up the plot by actually killing her. Her character can be summarised by the line “I’ll get you next time, Madlax!” as she runs away after passing up yet another opportunity to kill her.
Carrossea Doon: As a child, Carrossea fell in love with Margaret within the space of about two minutes after the pair survived a plane crash. Unfortunately, he died protecting Margaret soon after, but thanks to several plot contrivances, he was resurrected without his memories, and became the bishie face of evil as an adult, spreading STRAIGHT in order to combat HARD YURI.
Quanzitta: The guardian of a magical book and the gateway to another dimension, Quanzitta’s debut was the first indication that the series was getting too bloated with characters and convoluted storyline for its own good. Her job is to offer exposition and plot advancement for the more supernatural side of the story.
Nakhl: Quanzitta’s assistant, Nakhl is a blade expert and spiritual successor to Noir’s Chloe. Aside from adding to the character count, she seems to exist for the sake of action scenes that do not involve the shooting of generics.
Laetitia and Poupee: Separated parts of Margaret and Carrossea respectively, these two children live in the alternate dimension and possess the lost memories of twelve years ago. Throughout the series, they appear to utter cryptic lines. Laetitia also bears a distinct resemblance to .hack’s aura.
Where Noir succeeded with its minimal cast and intriguing storyline, Madlax seemed almost determined to fail by introducing more thinly developed characters than the audience could ever care about and placing them in a world with ridiculously convoluted supernatural elements. There was certainly potential in the initial setting, but the execution left far too much to be desired.