"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 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 seemingly have little in common and do not know of the other's existence, at first. The eponymous Madlax is a legend amongst the mercenaries and assassins of the fictional civil war-torn country of Gazth-Sonika. "Madlax" is a code name and a substitute for her real one, forgotten along with the rest of her past before 1999, when the war started. The other protagonist is Margaret Burton, the sole heir of a wealthy aristocratic family in the peaceful European country of Nafrece. Twelve years before the story begins, an airliner her mother and she were on crashed over Gazth-Sonika, and its passengers, as well as Margaret's father who lead the rescuers, have been missing ever since. Margaret managed to travel back to Nafrece on her own, though how she made it remains a mystery considering that she too has lost her memories prior to her return; the only thing she recalls it the one word "Madlax". With this thread linking the two girls, they both independently start investigating the powerful crime syndicate Enfant and its Diabolical Mastermind who, for some reason, shows interest in both of them.Although originally dismissed as yet another 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), ingenious soundtrack on par with Noir's, and memorable characters. Never the less, 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.
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 finds out that she killed her own father, episode 25.
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.
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.
Cold Sniper: Limelda, in the first third of the series.
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 Mc Nichol. 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.
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.
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 cast of the show.
Heel-Face Turn: Vanessa; although she wasn't aware of what her company was up to at first, she was too complicit for it to be a Mook-Face Turn. And Limelda, playing up her and Vanessa's role as the other's Foil.
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.
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.