"Is this the truth that I've been searching for?!" "No, this is reality."
Madlax is the second installment of Bee Train's Girls with Guns trilogy, following Noir and followed by El Cazador de la Bruja. As arguably the most striking innovation in action-adventure anime since Noir, Madlax incorporates many supernatural aspects and concepts associated with psychological thrillers and surrealism, which the audience must often interpret without further explanation. The title is a portmanteau of the English words "mad" and "relaxed", playing on the prominent theme of active insanity vs. near-catatonic sensibility in the story (it isn't supposed to sound like "Mad Max").The story revolves around two young women who, at first, seem completely unrelated and don't even know of each other's existence. The title character is a legendary mercenary and assassin plying her bloody trade in the fictional civil war-torn Asian country of Gazth-Sonika. Almost everything about her, from her real name to her past, is a mystery—even to herself, as she had lost her memory soon after the war started twelve years ago. The other protagonist is Margaret Burton, the sole heir of a wealthy aristocratic family attending school in the peaceful European country of Nafrece. Twelve years ago, an airliner carrying her mother and her crashed over Gazth-Sonika, and its passengers, as well as Margaret's father who led the rescue party, have been missing ever since. By means unknown, Margaret returned to Nafrece soon after the crash, becoming its only known survivor but losing all memories of the event—all except a single word: "Madlax". Twelve years later, this strange connection and the mystery behind their amnesias come back to haunt them after they cross paths with a powerful crime syndicate, "Enfant", whose Diabolical Mastermind seems to have sinister plans for both of them.Although originally dismissed as a Noirrip-off by many a viewer, Madlax was universally praised for its complex yet comprehensible plot (which successfully blends Mind Screwing mysteries, over-the-top Heroic Bloodshed action, and heavy doses of existentialistic symbolism in later episodes), memorable characters, and an ingenious soundtrack on par with Noir's. Nevertheless, the initial resentment and three years between the two series' air dates left Madlax forever in its predecessor's shadow, much to discontent of a small number of extremely dedicated fans. The show was licensed by ADV Films in America and Europe.
This show provides examples of:
Achilles in His Tent: Madlax spends four episodes in borderline clinical depression after Vanessa's death.
Action Girl: Madlax, Elenore, Limelda, and Nakhl all kick ass and take names throughout the series.
All There in the Manual: Creator comments on the DVD inlets contain a great deal of background information about the characters, partly explaining the big Mind Screw this series is.
Alternate History Counterpart Culture: Gazth-Sonika is somewhere in the vague vicinity of Pakistan but is Southeast-Asian in culture; Nafrece shows some English influence but is mostly France; parallels with the Vietnam War are obvious (and clearly intentional).
Amnesiac Dissonance: Carrossea discovers that he is actually dead, episode 21. Margaret eventually finds out that she killed her own father.
Ancient Tradition: Quanzitta is the last in a long line of the guardians of Thirstari, the third of the Holy Books.
Anti-Hero: Madlax is the pragmatic kind: while she is a kind and empathetic individual off-work, she shows absolutely no reservations about killing people. Which may be justified by the fact that she was created specifically for murder—it is part of her true nature.
Anyone Can Die: Less than a half of the main characters survive to the end of the series.
Beach Episode: Sort of. Episode 9 takes place in a holiday resort, complete with swimsuits and gratuitous fanservice. It also happens to be a Myth Arc-heavy one that bridges the Nafrece and Gazth-Sonikan storylines for the first time.
Bi the Way: Madlax arranges a date with a guy she is hired to assist, comes to "comfort" her mark the night before his assassination, then cuddles with a woman she bodyguards (going as far as calling her her princess), before ultimately hooking up with her killer.
Big Damn Heroes: Madlax does this often, such as when she first introduces herself to Chris Krana and, later, to Vanessa.
Big Fancy House: The Burton Manor is pretty indicative of the family's vast wealth. Too bad the sole heir is too infantile and too amnesiac to appreciate it.
Brown Note: The Holy Words of Saruon drive pretty much anyone who hears them murderously insane. Only those who possess the Gift are able to No Sell it.
Bullet Dodges You: After embracing her other selves (Madlax and Laetitia) in the final episode, Margaret unlocks the full extent of her Reality Warping powers and effortlessly redirects incoming bullets when Monday tries to kill her.
Cartwright Curse: Every single person who is or attempts to be romantically involved with Madlax dies with the sole exception of Limelda. Most of them of them die in the time period between her agreeing to go on a date with them and the time the date was supposed to happen.
Character Title: The show is named after one of its protagonists, though her name was originally the codename of her creator's father... whom she killed.
Children Forced To Kill: Has this as part of the Back Story: the entire plot basically stems from the fact that Margaret killed her own father (in self-defense) when she was 5 years old.
Climactic Battle Resurrection: Vanessa, Carrossea, and Elenore are implied to have been resurrected at the end but, in a subversion, don't actually assist in the battle with Monday or show up again at all.
Code Name: "Madlax" is both her codename and the only name she has. This is because it originally belonged to the man she was specifically created to kill.
Cold Sniper: Limelda is a professional sniper who demonstrates stoic adherence to her duties, before going completely off the rails after she learns the truth about how the war that defined her life got started.
Colonel Badass: Col. Richard Burton, Margaret's dad: not only was he able to enter the Sanctuary without possessing the Gift, but he also confronted the Big Bad Monday, mutilating and stripping him of most of his powers, a feat only surpassed by Madlax who actually killed him... did we mention that "Madlax" originally was his callsign? Too bad he wasn't immune to the Words of Awakening.
Conspicuously Public Assassination: Invoked by Guen McNichol. He hires Madlax to kill him while he delivers a speech in order to show the people who were controlling his entire life that he is going out on his own terms.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Vanessa's superiors are actually in cahoots with Enfant and directly involved in selling arms to both the government and the rebels in Gazth-Sonika.
Cosy Catastrophe: The curiously intact airliner and overturned military vehicles that resemble scattered toys more than the shredded wreckage typically found at crash sites and battlefields. Heck, the two plane crash survivors don't even get dirty. But then again, their Gift probably did it.
Creepy Child: Laetitia and Poupee, two eerie children who appear inhabiting the war-torn nightmare land visions throughout the series. They are eventually revealed to be "memory keepers" of Margaret and Carrossea, trapped within the Sanctuary to prevent them from learning the truth about her patricide and his Dead All Along state, respectively.
Criminal Amnesiac: Implied about Madlax and Carrossea. Subverted in both cases, however: Madlax did not even exist before her "amnesia" and Carrossea only turned to crime afterwards. The real criminal amnesiac is Margaret.
Cursed with Awesome: Madlax eventually becomes effectively immortal—ironically, death is the only thing she longs for at that point.
Curtain Camouflage: Kinda. When Madlax comes to visit Guen McNichol before his assassination, she is first seen wrapped in a curtain—probably to conceal the fact that she's wearing a cocktail dress.
Dead All Along: Carrossea is eventually revealed to have been Poupee: a boy slightly older than Margaret who fell in love with her on the plane and survived the crash thanks to also having a weak Gift. However, Poupee died by Taking the Bullet for Margaret when her Brainwashed and Crazy father shot her but before she brought herself to kill him. Poupee's love for Margaret allowed him to use his Gift to cast out the memory of his own death in the last moment, creating the Poupee we see in the Sanctuary visions and the amnesiac young man who was picked up by Friday Monday and given the name "Carrossea Doon".
Death by Flashback: After Carrossea learns how his original self was killed twelve years ago, he instantly dies.
Diabolical Mastermind: Monday. Running a Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy involved in everything from political corruption on a global scale to occult rituals for well over a decade towards the ultimate goal of brainwashing the entire humanity into a world war definitely qualifies.
Dragon with an Agenda: Carrossea serves Monday to get access to the resources he needs to protect Margaret, the girl he loves so much, even his death couldn't stop him.
During the War: Most of the plot takes place against the backdrop of the Gazth-Sonikan civil war and goes out of its way to remind the audience that people are dying every day.
Easy Amnesia: Madlax, Margaret, and Carrossea all lost their memories from before 1999, but seemed to have no trouble picking up all the basic skills like language in no time. That's because their amnesias were supernatural and self-inflicted.
Enemy Without: Subverted with Margaret and Madlax. Margaret originally created Madlax by casting out her self-preservation instinct (and some other parts of her psyche) and discarded her after she fulfilled her purpose. Although she begins to see Madlax as her enemy under Monday's influence, she eventually understands the need to accept her as part of herself and Madlax's right to a separate existence.
Enigmatic Minion: Carrossea is working for Enfant, so why does he go out of his way to keep Margaret out of their hands?
Evil Costume Switch: After Margaret is brainwashed by Monday, she takes to wearing a darker and more ominous version of her usual clothes.
Evil Laugh: Carrossea pulls this off when burning down Enfant's base. Monday does this all the time in the later episodes.
Eyepatch of Power/Mask Power: Monday wears a cool red-and-gold half-mask over his right eye, which was shot out by Colonel Burton during their confrontation twelve years ago—which apparently had a side-effect of robbing Monday of most of his Gift powers.
The Faceless: The most we see of SSS, Madlax's liaison and manager, is the lower half of his face. Friday Monday also gets this treatment early in the series.
Faceless Goons: Enfant's agents usually come in droves and die by the dozens.
Fingore: Do not lay your hands upon Margaret while Elenore is less than four hundred kilometers away—she will break them.
Firing One-Handed: Madlax and Limelda do this all the time, especially during their duels.
THE Flashback: The flashback of what really happened 12 years ago is glimpsed in bits and pieces throughout the series before finally coming together in the end: Monday attempted to use his Gift, the three Holy Books, and the power of the Sanctuary to plunge the world into mindless self-slaughter. This accidentally brought down a plane flying over the site of his ritual and carrying two unwitting Gifted children: a boy, Poupee, and a girl, Margaret. Margaret's military officer father went looking for her but stumbled onto Monday's ritual and managed to stop it by depowering Monday. Monday retaliated by driving Colonel Burton violently insane and turning him onto Poupee and Margaret, who survived the crash thanks to their Gift and were watching them from the sidelines. Poupee died Taking the Bullet for Margaret, who, unable to shoot her own father, created a Literal Split Personality to pull the trigger for her. Poupee, who fell in love with Margaret during their brief time together, used his Gift to cast out the memories of his past life, including his death, and trap them within the Sanctuary in order to continue to exist for Margaret's sake. Margaret herself similarly trapped the memories of killing her father in the Sanctuary and warped back home to Nafrece, leaving her other, murderous self behind. The self-resurrected Poupee was picked up by Monday to serve as an Enfant agent under his new identity of "Carrossea Doon"; Margaret's split personality, in the meantime, was left to fend for herself and took on the name "Madlax"—Colonel Burton's old codename, which Monday used to address him during their fight. The cast-out memories of Carrossea and Margaret/Madlax sublimated themselves within the Sanctuary as Poupee and Laetitia, respectively.
Forgot the Call: After walking into Enfant's data trap, Madlax loses all memory of being a badass mercenary for a couple of episodes.
Gag Dub: The original English releases from ADV included a hilarious series of extras called "Conversations with SSS", where SSS is shown partaking in some extremely random, outlandish, and just plain weird dialog with the rest of the show cast.
The Gunslinger: Madlax is a mix of the Trickshot and the Woo: she has incredible sharpshooting skills but is also proves quite efficient when surrounded and outgunned.
Healing Factor: Towards the end of the series, Madlax's body seems to effortlessly recover from pretty much any injury she suffers. This probably has something to do with proximity to her creator.
Heel-Face Turn: Although Vanessa wasn't aware at first of what her company was up to, she was too complicit with it for this to count a Mook-Face Turn when she learns the truth and goes against the system. Also Limelda, playing up her role as Vanessa's Foil, though "Face" in her case means more of a murderous avenger/vigilante.
Here We Go Again: The series opens and closes with SSS contacting Madlax about her new assignment.
Heroic Bloodshed: The series obviously takes up a lot of stylistic clues from Hong Kong Blood Opera movies, just like Noir took inspiration from European crime films and, of course, Film Noir.
Heroic Sacrifice: Vanessa attempts to save Madlax from Limelda, but ends up getting herself killed instead. The fact that Madlax didn't need to be protected at that point any more makes it a borderline Senseless Sacrifice, too.
King Bob the Nth: King Korslan IV of Gazth-Sonika never appears on screen, but is mentioned from time to time as one of the major forces in the Civil War.
Knife Nut: Nakhl, Quanzitta's bodyguard, never parts with her trusty dagger and is scarily proficient with it—even able to dominate Madlax in a close quarters fight.
Last of her Kind: Lady Quanzitta is the last remaining member of the Ancient Tradition that guards Thirstari and, following her apparent death in the ending, presumably the last overall.
Let's Get Dangerous: In an early episode, the snarky but harmless-looking maid Elenore suddenly goes into SWAT mode when she cannot locate her mistress, mounting an emergency search-and-rescue mission and going completely medieval on a guy who dared to lay a hand on Margaret.
Literal Split Personality: Madlax and Laetitia are Margaret's self-preservation instinct and memory, respectively. While Poupee is Carrossea's memory of his own death.
Love Makes You Crazy: Limelda's love-hate obsession with Madlax eventually renders her a borderline raving lunatic ready to stalk her object of affection through the jungle, indiscriminately murdering anyone who stands in hes way. She gets over it, eventually.
MacGuffin: The three Holy Books. Nobody quite knows where they come from and what exactly their contents are, but many characters want them for their own purposes.
One Last Job: Luciano's hit on Carrossea is supposed to be his last job before quitting his mercenary life and settling down. Of course, given how Luciano is a minor character and Carrossea is one of the main ones and is guarded by Limelda, another main, this job can only end well.
Only a Flesh Wound: As described above, Madlax starts regenerating her wounds so fast in the final episodes, she is practically immune to injury.
The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: This is how Limelda comes to see Madlax eventually, even picking off some of Madlax's pursuers when she thinks they came a little to close to killing her.
Only One Name: Madlax and Nakhl. Madlax doesn't remember her name because she never had one and goes by her codename, while Nakhl is happy with whatever Quanzitta decided to call her.
Out of the Inferno: In the very first episode, Madlax walks out of an inferno she herself caused. In a completely uncharred cocktail dress.
Parachute in a Tree: In the first episode, Madlax paradrops into the middle of a jungle and, unsurprisingly, gets stuck on a tree. Instead of dangling there, however, she simply unstraps herself and lands gracefully on the ground.
Parental Abandonment: Sort of. Madlax has regular flashbacks of being abandoned by her father in the middle of a warzone, but these are actually fake memories. She never had a father and the man she sees is actually Margaret's dad, whom Madlax was specifically created to kill. Madlax was, however, abandoned by her progenitor—namely, by Margaret, who left her behind in Gazth-Sonika when she returned to Nafrece (something that Margaret ultimately makes up for), so the two facts seem to have conflated into one flashback in Madlax's mind.
Posthumous Character: Richard Burton, Margaret's father who went missing twelve years ago and is presumed dead by everyone.
The Promise: Madlax and Vanessa promise each other to survive the current predicament. Vanessa breaks her promise.
Psycho Lesbian: Limelda's obsession with Madlax costs her much of her sanity (though there are other major contributing factors to this), leading her to alternate between trying to kill her and trying to kill anyone trying to kill her.
Rare Guns: Madlax's SIG P210s are a collector item in real life.
She's Back: Madlax does it at least twice: after snapping out of her temporary Enfant-trap induced amnesia to save Vanessa and after getting a pep talk from Nakhl to finally snap out of Vanessa's death-inducedHeroic BSOD and go save Margaret.
Sleep Cute: Madlax and Vanessa pull this off at least twice.
Slow Motion Pass By: Happens at the end of episode 17, when Margaret and Madlax just happen to be in the cars driving past each other on the same road. They don't notice/recognize each other yet, however.
Suicide by Cop: General Guen McNichol hires Madlax to kill him in public since he's that sick of the war. This triggers the rivalry between Madlax and Limelda, who was in charge of the general's safety.
Synchronization: Early in the series, Margaret and Madlax seem to synchronize some fleeting feelings, such as a sudden hunger for pasta or a feeling that it will rain soon—despite being geographically separated.
The Syndicate: Enfant, a global underworld network with ties to the highest corporate and governmental echelons.
Undying Loyalty: Elenore, towards Margaret. Sadly, she isn't as undying herself...
Unperson: Maclay Marini, the PI investigating Enfant, comes so close to learning the truth about him that they destroy all evidence of his existence, eventually forcing even him to acknowledge that he never existed (and fabricating a new identity for himself).
Urban Fantasy: All right, it's set partly in a European city, partly in a South Asian city, and partly in the jungle (including most of the last twelve or so episodes). Its contemporary (if Alternate History) setting still qualifies.
The Voice: SSS is only ever seen in glimpses, while we mostly hear his voice on the phone talking to Madlax.
The Voiceless: Poupee never speaks, except for a single flashback in the beginning of episode 6.
War for Fun and Profit: This is what Enfant (and Bookwald) seems to perpetrate the Gazth-Sonikan civil war for, but this war is actually a minor albeit beneficial side effect of Monday's previous failed attempt to plunge the world in chaos twelve years ago. He later uses it mainly as a ruse to conceal his base of operations in the middle of the warzone.
Weird Moon: It's either red or blue (and in the Sanctuary, there are both at once) in this series.
Where The Hell Is Gazth-Sonika: Signs point to somewhere around where Pakistan should be, but it has Vietnam-like jungle and several recognizable Hong Kong landmarks. The name might have been inspired by the Gaza Strip.