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Literature: Mardock Scramble
"Why me?" - Rune Balot

A three volume novel by Tow Ubukata (published by Viz Media's Haikasora label in English as a single omnibus volume). An OVA series was commissioned to be animated by Gonzo with character designs by Range Murata, this was later cancelled and instead it was released as a series of three films animated by GoHands, with a dub + subtitled release by Sentai Filmworks in America and Canada, Madman Entertainment in Australia and New Zealand, and Kaze in the UK, Ireland and Europe.

Rune Balot is a teen prostitute whose life is saved after an attempted murder by being cybernetically enhanced. Partnered with a cyborg mouse who can transform into any tool or weapon, she has to defend her life by putting away the man responsible using her new abilities to sense her entire environment and control any nearby electronics.


Tropes:

  • The Ace: Ashley Harvest is this for the Eggnog Blue casino. He's their last-resort dealer when dealing with problem gamers, and is almost super-humanly skilled at manipulating the deck.
  • Action Girl: Rune, when she begins to use Œufcoque for combating the Bandersnatchers.
  • Action Pet: Œufcoque in his mouse form.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: The film glosses over certain details, such as why Balot couldn't shoot Boiled on the ground, but could in the Humpty-Dumpty. Or the detail about Shell attempting to kill Balot because he knew she'd looked into her fake ID. Particularly, most of the details of Boiled's past and his history with Œufcoque and Easter are merely hinted at and glossed over.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: The ending theme of the first movie. Appears again as background music in the third movie.
  • Artificial Limbs: Medium replaces the hand that Balot blew off with a mechanical prosthetic.
  • Asexual: Doctor Easter left his wife because the hundreds of hours of ethics counseling his government research required rendered him impotent. He thinks it makes him saintly.
  • Avenging the Villain: Medium intends to do this for his fallen comrades by teaming up with Boiled and attacking the Paradise Research facility, unaware that Boiled set up his team to lose in the first place and only intends to use him as a distraction.
  • Bad Boss: OctoberCorp is quick to sell Shell down the river when it becomes clear he's legally screwed.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Rune and Œufcoque, mutually.
  • Bland-Name Product: The movies have Wisa (credit card).
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: Averted. Rune does this a few times, but it always causes severe damage to the gun-wielder's hand. And she usually kills them anyway.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The reaction Rune's brother had to finding out their father was raping her was... decisive.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Rune's father was an out of work laborer with a degenerative neurological disorder, who raped Rune several times. Her mother was a mentally unbalanced emotionally and physically abusive drug addict. And her brother was forced to resort to gunrunning for money, and nearly killed the father after learning about the aforementioned rape. Currently both parents are hospitalized, and her brother is serving a prison sentence.
  • Blood Knight: Boiled is no longer capable of experiencing anything even resembling emotional sensation unless he is in combat.
  • Body Horror: The Bandersnatch Company, in spades. Let's see, we've got: a guy with eyeballs implanted everywhere, a Fat Bastard with numerous boobs glued to his chest, and... Pussyhand.
  • Bottomless Bladder: Averted. Rune has to use a department store toilet on her first trip away from Dr Easter's lab, where she finds and disables a camera. Her urine smells of medication.
  • Broken Bird: Rune. Oh so much...
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Thanks to Shell's neurological condition he has no memories of Rune Balot whatsoever.
  • Celibate Heroine: Rune's history has resulted in her having absolutely no interest in sex whatsoever.
  • Cool Big Sis: The way Rune idolizes Belle Wing has shades of this.
  • Cool Shades: Shell wears a pair of color-shifting Chameleon Sunglasses.
  • Conspicuous CG: Mostly in scenes with cars.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Basically the entirety of OctoberCorp. However Cleanwill John October takes the cake, what with him raping, abusing and selling his mentally challenged daughter, and being a huge pedophile. However, the founder of OctoberCorp is an idealist, and Doctor Easter insists she'd be disgusted with the direction the company is going now, were she not borderline brain-dead.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Rune's confrontation with the Bandersnatch Company is completely and brutally one-sided. This is reversed seconds later when Boiled enters the fray and has Rune on the ropes instantly.
  • Cute Mute: Rune's vocal chords were incinerated, so she can only speak by snarking nearby speakers or screens. In the manga, this was because Shell slit her throat before blowing up the car.
  • Cutting the Knot: The reason Boiled killed all those people when he still worked with Œufcoque and Easter. They had uncovered a case where acting, or not acting on their discovery would probably see them all in prison. So Boiled simply killed all involved and made the problem disappear.
  • Cyborg: Rune, Shell, Boiled and the Bandersnatch Company.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Dimsdale Boiled's lost empathy is due to Paradise's experimental technology.
  • Cyber Punk: The overall setting.
  • Dark Action Girl: Rune as standard, but particularly when she begins to enjoy killing the Bandersnatchers in horrible and painful ways. Also applies with regard to her disregarding Œufcoque's initial pleas for her to stop abusing his powers.
  • Death Seeker: It becomes increasingly clear that more than anything, Dimsdale Boiled is tired and wants his miserable life to end.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Rune and many other children were the victims of gross negligence and sexual abuse from the volunteers at the orphanage she was taken to.
  • Didn't Need Those Anyway: Tweedledee barely reacts to having both his arms sliced off. He later comments that they'll soon grow back.
    • Boiled loses two limbs in his final battle with Balot. It barely slows him down.
  • Dimensional Traveler: Œufcoque is some kind of multi-dimensional being. Though this only means he exists in several simultaneously, not that he can teleport or open wormholes like the trope usually refers to.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Shell views Rune as this. It comes back to bite him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Rune's abuse of Œufcoque's powers late in the first movie is very strongly reminiscent of rape, especially considering the latter's reactions to it.
  • The Dragon: Boiled's place in Shell's employ.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Despite Rune's ultimate goal being the taking down of Shell, Boiled is by far the greater presence and more significant threat throughout the story.
  • Duel to the Death: An intense one between Balot and Boiled at the climax of the series.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Do they EVER. But in the end, it was all worth it.
  • Egg Theme Naming: It's everywhere!
    • Rune Balot (a chick boiled inside its own shell)
    • Œufcoque (from the French for soft-boiled egg, Œuf à la coque)
    • Doctor Easter
    • Shell Septinos
    • Dimsdale Boiled
    • The Bandersnatch Company: Mince, Welldone, Rare, Medium, Fresh/Flesh.
    • The flying house Humpty (which overlaps with the Lewis Carroll-based Shout-Out Theme Naming)
    • The Eggnog Blue Casino
    • And of course, the title: Mardock Scramble.
  • Electronic Eyes: The Bandersnatchers all have cybernetic eyes as a standard feature.
  • Emotionless Girl: Balot's unique selling point as a prostitute.
  • Empty Shell: In an odd protagonist version, Rune starts as this. She gets better, though.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Paradise's security forces include flying sharks. They're perfectly friendly off-duty, though.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Welldone the Pussyhand (indeed all the Bandersnatchers)
  • External Combustion: How Shell intended to do away with Balot. He also did this to his mother.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Mincemeat the Wink; his body is covered in stolen eyes.
  • Fingore: Medium the Fingernail, and later Shell.
  • Flying Car: Anti-gravity hover cars, to be precise. Rich people show off by getting old-fashioned cars, to show they have the money to waste on gasoline.
  • Freudian Excuse: Shell's murderous impulses are rooted in having been raped by his mother for years. This leads to him targeting women who were also sexually abused by their parents and making them "clean" again by turning them into blue diamonds. Doctor Easter theorizes that his neurological disorder is also a factor since it has robbed him of the capacity to develop stress coping mechanisms.
    • The Bandersnatch Company has an excuse in the manga, and the novels to a lesser extent. They were a tight-knit company in a horrific war, and Welldone refused to force cyberization on them. Soon after, the horrors of war caught up with them and they all broke. Having fallen to despair, Welldone gave in, and they were converted into cyborg killing machines.
  • From Bad to Worse: Rune's entire life. At least up until meeting Œufcoque and Dr. Easter.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: The Doctor's Tech Glasses display information. This only really comes up once, though.
  • Gonk: Characters who are merely ugly in the movies and novels, like Cleanwill John October, are cartoonishly hideous in the manga.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted, as the novel strongly implies Balot has had one.
  • Gravity Master: Boiled, and Paradise's Cherubim, both through the power of magnets.
  • Groin Attack: Delivered to Welldone, courtesy of Balot. Later Medium suffers one. From a shark.
  • Guns Akimbo: Rune, sometimes. It makes sense, since she really is that good, and Œufcoque can generate new magazines inside the guns to reload. If she ever needs a free hand, she can just toss a gun and have Œufcoque generate a whole new one later.
  • Hand Cannon: Boiled's revolver. It's so ridiculously powerful that he is only capable of firing it due to his PGF ability.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Rune is basically this. Although she retires from prostitution early in the story.
  • Hot Blade: Hutchinson knives.
  • Human Resources: The Bandersnatch Company proudly claims that they let nothing go to waste from their "livestock".
  • Implacable Man: You'd be forgiven for mistaking Boiled for The Terminator.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Rune's battle-suit. Justified by it being made out of Œufcoque.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Rune is good enough that shooting bullets out of the air isn't even a strain for her. Justified taking into account just how big a Game Breaker her new skin makes her.
  • Instant Expert: Balot is a natural with her new skin, and its snarking function affords her instinctual mastery of any electronics she comes into contact with.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: The Bandersnatch Company, for one. Not to mention the ass kicking they receive from Balot in the last quarter of the first movie gets Balot reminiscing about all the abuse she's been through.
  • Interspecies Romance: Rune and Œufcoque, as well as Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Second Combustion.
  • Karmic Death: The Bandersnatch Company is destroyed by the same type of young victim they've been preying on for years.
  • Lack of Empathy: Most of the antagonists, though especially Boiled due to experimental technology implanted into him by Paradise.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Justified with Shell. His faulty brain implant will cause irrevocable damage if the memories he has associated with stress aren't regularly removed. He's ritualized this whole process.
  • Mad Scientist: Easter is a heroic but still eccentric version of this.
  • Made of Iron: Boiled and the Bandersnatchers.
  • Mega Corp.: OctoberCorp
  • Mentor Mascot: Œufcoque
  • Morality Pet: Œufcoque used to be this for Boiled, and now fulfills a similar role for Rune.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Rune spends a lot of time naked, or wearing a Naked Apron. She alternates between Reluctant Fanservice Girl and Innocent Fanservice Girl depending on the situation.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Rune buys sanitary napkins.
  • No Sell: A pack of Paradise's Cherubs attempt to stop Boiled from infiltrating the facility. They quickly realize that their advanced PGF technology means next to nothing compared to him. Right before he blows them all away.
  • Not So Different: During her massacre of the Bandersnatchers, Balot becomes intoxicated by the feeling of power it gives her, and reasons that this is what all the men who used her must have felt.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Doctor and Rune look completely harmless (and Œufcoque usually looks like part of Rune's wardrobe). They are not. They particularly take advantage of this to play a couple of fools (and wardrobe) to rob a casino blind. The casino is almost certain nobody can be that lucky, but can't prove it for sure.
  • Out of the Inferno: Thanks to Œufcoque, Balot manages to survive the explosion set off by Rare unscathed.
    • Boiled reacts to being in the middle of a massive explosion set off by Balot with casual indifference.
  • Parental Incest: Rune lost her virginity when her father raped her after school. She was twelve.
    • Shell was also a victim of this for years at the hands of his mother. This is, in fact, the detail that connects all of the women he has killed, and the answer to why Balot was to be his next victim.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: By the end of her conflict with the Bandersnatchers, it's clear that Rune's projecting every shame and indignity she's felt throughout her life onto them. Eventually she doesn't even see them as people, just representations of everything that has done her wrong that she can gleefully dismember in revenge.
  • Playful Hacker: Rune can snark virtually anything, and displays a sadistic mischievousness about it when she does so to the Bandersnatchers.
  • Professional Killer: Boiled is basically this, despite being a licensed case officer. The Bandersnatch Company also qualifies, though killing is only a side-effect of their chosen career.
  • Psychos for Hire: The Bandersnatch Company. They didn't even want money for the Rune Balot job. They fancied her parts so much that they considered the job and the payment to be one in the same.
  • Race Lift: Some characters described as dark-skinned in the novel version appear as the usual mukokuseki in the movies, though skin color isn't the only area where designs are changed.
  • Rape as Backstory: Rune, as detailed in the Parental Incest entry.
  • Razor Floss: Rare the Hair's preferred ranged weapon.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The eyes of the Bandersnatchers turn red when activating their night vision.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Tweedledum the dolphin.
  • Serial Killer: Shell has made a ritual of taking in young women, killing them when he finds out they've looked into the fake IDs he gives them, and turning their remains into blue diamonds. Balot was setup to be his next victim.
  • Shoot the Bullet: Balot can do this consistently, even to multiple rounds at once. Played with concerning Boiled's bullets though. They're just so huge that shooting them hardly alters their trajectory in any appreciable way.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Humpty-Dumpty, the Bandersnatch Company as well as snark... and Charles Ludwig sounds awfully familiar.
  • Sissy Villain: Rare the Hair, and Flesh the Pike to a lesser extent.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: Boiled's Gravity Master powers can generate a nearly impenetrable personal shield.
  • Smug Snake: Shell.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Aside from Balot and Bell Wing, all main and secondary characters are male.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Snarc/Snark, Flesh/Fresh
  • Spy Catsuit: One of the forms Œufcoque can assume, which Balot later modifies to be more Stripperiffic because it wasn't "cute" enough.
  • The Stoic: Boiled.
  • Super Reflexes: Balot can snark her own body to react at the speed of her Super Senses, and block out pain.
  • Super Senses: Balot's new skin, on top of affording her incredible technopathic ability, gives her a spatial perception that affords her total awareness of her immediate surroundings in a 360 degree radius.
    • The Bandersnatch Company's cybernetic eyes, and mental network is another example of this.
  • Taking You with Me: Rare attempts to do this to Rune via internal explosives.
  • Technopath: Rune and Boiled to a much lesser extent.
  • They Know Too Much: Why Shell has the Bandersnatch Company dispose of his neurosurgeons.
  • Too Many Belts
  • Transgender: Rare the Hair dresses in feminine clothing and wears a woman's funeral veil, transplants the hair and skin of women he fancies to himself, and has surgically altered his vocal chords to sound female.
  • Traumatic Haircut: In the anime movie, Rune is reconstructed with short hair.
  • Tron Lines: Glowing patterns appear on Boiled's forehead when he activates his PGF in the film's interpretation.
  • Uplifted Animal: Œufcoque and Tweedledum.
  • Vehicular Theme Naming: The book and chapter titles are all related the internal combustion engine.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Shell seems to go through a constant one throughout the series.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Œufcoque is implied to be able to literally Turn into almost anything. Though he insists he could never become a human, and seems restricted to inanimate objects.
  • We Can Rebuild Her: Rune is reborn as a cyber-being after "dying" in an exploding car.
  • Where The Hell Is Springfield?: It's never specified where in the future Mardock City is, aside from that its within a area called the "Commonwealth", and they were once at war with the "Continent".
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Boiled's past is tragic. Balot skirts this trope herself.
  • Worf Had The Flu: Normally Balot is nigh unstoppable unless against monsters like Boiled. However, during her second fight against Medium in the manga she lacked Œufcoque, and thus all his weaponry and battle-suit. While her personal powers were still available, she was nearly powerless to inflict harm on a military-grade cyborg like Medium and was forced to retreat.
  • You're Drinking Breast Milk: Flesh certainly is. His own.
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