In the fictional country of Gazth-Sonika, a twelve-year-long civil war has engulfed the nation and made this one of the most dangerous places in the world. It’s here that an elite agent known as Madlax plies her craft as a contract killer. Meanwhile, in the France-like country of Nafrece, Margaret Burton—a teenager with no recollection of her past—lives a sheltered life, with only her maid there to assist her. The fates of these two seemingly disparate individuals are somehow interconnected, and through a series of events, they discover that nothing is as it seems…
Going from the moe madness that is Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days to something as fundamentally different as this is quite jarring, to say the least. Anyway, if you’ve seen Noir, I think you’ll notice how similar the story of Madlax feels in comparison. We have the two female protagonists whose stories parallel each other, amnesia plays a major role in both shows, not to mention both feature a mysterious organization that threatens the fate of the free world. I liked most of these aspects in Noir (even though I’m not a fan of the amnesia-related plots), so I can’t personally complain too much. I think this show did a better job of tying its story together, episode by episode, so even though it’s twenty-six episodes, the pacing never really felt to me like it was stagnant and going nowhere (like Noir occasionally did).
Margaret’s search for not only her past but her identity, is a central storyline that contributes to the story being confusing for a lot of people. By the end, so many strange things have happened that it’s a bit of a mind screw, and if you’re not ready to interpret what’s really going on, you’re bound to wonder what the hell is happening. I think these underlying philosophical aspects of the story do make sense, but I don’t think they’re presented in a way that best leverages their potential impact on the viewer. In fact, perhaps the show’s biggest plot twist was apparently written while the director and the script writer were drunk, so that might explain a lot. 😛
Lastly, I like that there are consequences in this anime. This isn’t an anime where everyone is going to live. Some will die, but these deaths will add to the story, and it’ll be better because of them. Overall, I think the story might be what ultimately makes or breaks this show for viewers, but even if they might find it cumbersome and complicated, the stories of these characters helped make Madlax at least somewhat worth watching~
I feel like the story may not be for everyone, but I’m not sure the same can be said about the cast of characters, because, in my eyes, they’re undeniably good.
Starting off with the show’s namesake, Madlax, it’s almost impossible not to like her. She’s a skilled mercenary whose also very attractive, and away from the battlefield, she’s surprisingly sweet and kind. She’s not lacking in charisma, and overall, she’s a pretty nice lead character. Just like Margaret, her past is a mystery, but it doesn’t get the same story push that Margaret’s amnesia does, which to me, ends up being a good thing.
Margaret, the show’s other protagonist, is essentially the polar opposite of Madlax. Thanks to the events of her past, Elenore, her maid, is oftentimes the only person playing an active role in her life (though this changes when Vanessa comes around). She’s incredibly naive, but she’s also very cute and innocent, so she’s easy to root for as well.
The cast of Madlax is easily bigger than that of Noir, but most of these characters get enough screen time that they make a very favorable impression, and I think that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment. Other than Madlax and Margaret, Vanessa and Elenore play perhaps the biggest roles, and I was actually surprised how much I liked them both. They just have very warm personalities, so it’s easy to see why Madlax and Margaret care about them so.
And then there’s the main antagonist that I didn’t like in the slightest. From his incredibly annoying manner of speaking to his stereotypical bad guy motivations, Friday Monday (I know, that’s a ridiculous name) was definitely the weak link among the characters, in my opinion. To me, Doon came off as a superior villain, as did Madlax’ number one stalker, Limelda (who we’ll get to a bit more later in a moment), so that’s one negative that I can draw from this anime.
Moving on to the yuri aspects of this show, I’m happy to say that I think this is a marked improvement over Noir and El Cazador, in that regard. Well, Noir did have a kiss, and even though Madlax can’t say the same thing, there are relationships that undeniably fall on the yuri spectrum.
Given how Noir subtlely hinted at Mireille x Kirika being a thing, you might expect that Madlax and Margaret would be the ones leading the yuri charge, but you’d be very wrong. Actually, Madlax is sort of a magnet that attracts nearly anyone and everyone that comes in contact with her. The most obvious instance here involves Limelda, the elite soldier that develops a heated rivalry (and strange obsession) with her. I know it came out after Madlax, but these two remind me a lot of Canaan and Alphard from Canaan. Two extremely dangerous and sexy women together?! I’ll take more of that. You could even say that these two become canon, and I wouldn’t really disagree. But Limelda isn’t the only person you can ship Madlax with…
For a good stretch of this show, I was actively shipping Vanessa with Madlax, since those two had such great chemistry and they were so damn cute together. That scene when they slept together on the sofa was beyond adorable, and the episodes in which they were the main focus were pretty great. It’s obviously a very different relationship than the one Madlax has with Limelda, yet it’s just as rewarding for yuri fans~
I’m making it sound like Madlax is the only one engaging in these girl’s love activities, but that’s not exactly true. Shipping Margaret and Elenore is perfectly fine. Elenore is selflessly devoted to Margaret, and they are about the same age, so that’s yet another ship that is set for sail. Like Madlax x Vanessa, these two are super sweet together, and we see a lot of them, so chalk it up as another victory for yuri. There may be some that prefer shipping Elenore with Vanessa, and I could kind of see some sense in that, but Vanessa’s time with Madlax prevents me from following suit.
Featuring a larger and more diverse cast than its predecessor, Madlax nevertheless gives us some plenty of entertaining and interesting characters to follow. We see quite a bit of character development, and other than the big bad, I think I may actually prefer this cast over that of Noir and El Cazador. It certainly doesn’t hurt that there’s more yuri subtext floating around, so I think I may not be alone in thinking this~
For a show with so much killing going on, I have to say that the lack of blood is pretty surprising. You probably see dozens of people die, but I’m not even sure that the number of them that shed blood ever hits double digits (I didn’t actually count, but it seems that way). Compared to its predecessor, it seemed that there was actually less fighting in this show, yet I didn’t really mind that at all. Of course, this is where Madlax is at its visual best, with animation that looks very solid for the year that it started airing (2004). All in all, you could say this is a slight visual improvement over Noir, so fans of that should feel right at home here.
As was the case with Noir and El Cazador, Yuki Kajiura is handling the music, which means, of course, that the music of Madlax is fantastic. With two official soundtracks comprising forty-seven total tracks, there’s a lot of music to digest in this anime. The moment that Nowhere starts playing, you just know it’s about to go down, so it’s pretty much Madlax‘ version of Salva nos from Noir. Whether it’s an emotional scene, an action-packed scene, or anything in-between, the music is stellar, and to me, it’s easily the best thing about this anime.
A girls with guns anime that takes a more supernatural approach than its predecessor, Noir, Madlax‘ convoluted story doesn’t do the philosophical undertones running throughout the show any favors, but plenty of compelling characters, sublime music, and an increase in yuri, helps make Madlax a worthy second installment in Bee Train’s trilogy. I think I may give a slight edge to Noir in terms of total enjoyment, but this certainly isn’t that far behind and sits just ahead of El Cazador de la Bruja for me~