There was greatness buried in here somewhere
What could have been a great anime was almost ruined by awful pacing, an incoherent and murky ending, and a character whose existence doesn't even dignify the term "scrappy". In short, there are great elements in this show, and that's usually enough to get me to overlook flaws and declare it to be great, the fact that these flaws detracted not only from the show itself but also from the great elements of the show, I'll shove it into my "THEY COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING AMAZING HERE DAMMIT" shelf. To start with the good stuff that was almost ruined: Madlax is a wonderful protagonist. Despite a lack of flaws, she still manages to be complex and likeable, as an anti-heroic assassin who still tries to be kind. Vanessa and Carossea are also done well, as, apart from being generally competent, they both have their motivations and characters fleshed out well. The plot's pretty damn confusing, but it's a good plot, and I don't mind confusion so long as I don't think it's being used to conceal how shitty it is. Animation quality and music are givens: both are excellent. Now, onto the bad: Despite my liking of the plot itself, I have a lot of problems with the execution. I don't care if you're giving me a jigsaw puzzle plot, but make sure that when you're giving me the bloody piece I know what freaking happened, or you completely ruin the emotional impact of the moment. I'm usually a total sucker for existentialist themes, but the dialogue was so repetitive and incoherent I couldn't tell what the hell was going on half the time. In short: your plot can be confusing; your explanation of it cannot. Also, pacing was terrible in spots— the show grinds to a halt whenever it shows a flashback as it goes on a budget-saving reel of stock footage explaining stuff that everyone already knows. Finally, there's the flaw that, though not the biggest, is definitely the most annoying: MARGARET BURTON. A combination of nonbadassery, Too Dumb to Live, being The Load to literally every other character in the show, and shocking Lack of Empathy leaves her one of the worst scrappies I've ever seen. It's like Shinji Ikari without all the issues that make him sympathetic. It's still pretty good, but damn the flaws got on my nerves. It's not ruined, and if you can look past the flaws, it'd be great, but I couldn't.