published in Empire No.70, Sydney
In the fictitious country of Gazth-Sonika (a name only anime can invent), a civil war is waged. The nearby idyllic country of Nafrece appears unaffected – until young blue-blood Margaret studying there is psychically drawn closer to Madlax, a sexy mercenary with heightened skills plying her trade in Gazth–Sonika. Through their parallel arcs, Madlax mixes contemporary warfare – replete with all the subterfuge and governmental cover-ups which control the world’s hot-spots – with a hard-psychic soft-erotic attraction between two nubile women with serious gun fetishes. The relation between the two slowly unfolds, creating a simmering vein of characterization running counter to the side-stories which document the foreboding complexity of Gazth-Sonika’s situation.
In some respects, this is a staple of anime: sexy babes with guns. Madlax pays strong lip-service to this fixation, at once promoting puerile titillation for the otaku while producing some undeniably poetic moments of slo-mo body dives and bullet trajectories. Swirling hair, swimming-pool eyes that fill the screen, exhausting attention to mechanical detail – there is certainly much visual pleasure here. Not an entirely original anime, the dubious thrills of Madlax are nonetheless laced with an engrossing story with multiple braided twists across its 28 episodes.