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Literature / Mardock Scramble

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"Why me?"
Rune Balot

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 casino owner and October Corporation employee Shell Septimos, the man responsible, using her new abilities to sense her entire environment and control any nearby electronics.

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 Go Hands, 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.

A Prequel called Mardock Velocity was published in 2006. A sequel called Mardock Anonymous was published in March 2016.

Mardock Scramble provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Professor Faceman quotes the book of Genesis during his conversations with Balot and Boiled, comparing them to Eve and Cain, respectively.
  • 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.
  • Batman Gambit: Boiled's hiring the Bandersnatch Company to get rid of Balot comes off like a pretty classic version of the trope. Boiled doesn't actually expect them to be able to kill her, because he's aware of what Oeufcoque can do. He's therefore sending them in to test the extent of her abilities and how she will react to a threat on her life. If they do manage to kill her, all well and good. If not, then he still will have learned how tough she'll be to kill and hopefully worn her down a bit. He also wants to see if he can push her into abusing Oeufcoque so that he will reject her, thereby making Balot an easy target.
  • 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: When Rune's brother found out their father was raping her, he shot him.
  • 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. Her brother was forced to resort to gunrunning for money, and nearly killed their 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 who replaces his fingers with those of his victims, a guy with eyeballs implanted all over his chest and arms, a cackling sadist whose skin and hair are a patchwork of grafts taken from his victims, a Fat Bastard with human breasts grafted all over his body, and... the 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 hidden camera. Her urine smells of medication.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Thanks to Shell's neurological condition he has no memories of Rune Balot whatsoever.
  • Celibate Hero: Rune's history has resulted in her having absolutely no interest in sex.
  • Cool Shades: Shell wears a pair of color-shifting Chameleon Sunglasses.
  • 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 was 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 cords 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.
  • 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 dimensions simultaneously, not that he can teleport or open wormholes like the trope usually refers to. It's part of how he can turn into almost any kind of object. In the novel, the Doctor also explains to Balot that it's helping keep him alive; Œufcoque suffers from hypertrophism, meaning that he is growing exponentially as his cells increase in size. He'll eventually smother under his own weight, but for now he's able to shunt the extra mass into these other dimensions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Edible 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
    • "We go for the yolk, not touching the shell or the white."
    • And of course, the title: Mardock Scramble.
  • Electronic Eyes: The Bandersnatchers all have cybernetic eyes as a standard feature. This backfires on them pretty nastily when Œufcoque is able to hack their network and screw their visual receptors all to hell.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Welldone the Pussyhand has a vulva on his hand (indeed all the Bandersnatchers are named after the body parts they like to collect)
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: October Corp is Shell's employer and the ones responsible for his screwed-up mental state, thanks to their programs of supplying "corrective" surgeries and recreational drugs to Mardock's poor. The Doctor and Œufcoque are out to take the company down, and Balot's case is part of their efforts to do so. At one point, the Doctor states that they effectively control the entertainment and pleasure industries in Mardock City and have their fingers in all kinds of illegal pies.
  • Guns Akimbo: Rune, sometimes. It makes sense, since she really is that good thanks to her new artificial skin, 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. When Œufcoque turns into a copy for Balot to use, the recoil nearly breaks her wrist.
  • He Knows Too Much: Why Shell has the Bandersnatch Company dispose of his neurosurgeons.
  • Human Resources: The Bandersnatch Company proudly claims that they let nothing go to waste from their "livestock".
  • 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.
  • Karmic Death: The Bandersnatch Company is destroyed by the same type of young victim they've been preying on for years.
  • 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Rune spends a lot of time either wearing snug clothing, naked, or wearing a Naked Apron. She alternates between Reluctant Fanservice Girl and Innocent Fanservice Girl depending on the situation.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Shell Septinos is a lot of things; a show gambler, a crooked businessman, and a serial killer. But a skilled fighter is not one of them.
  • Non-Action Guy: The Doctor is a scientist and physician, not a soldier. He openly admits to Balot that he's useless in a fight and leaves the fighting to her and Œufcoque, though at one point he does grab a rifle to try and deter Boiled.
  • 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" Remark: 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. In the novel, she also punishes some teenagers for parking in a handicapped space by shutting the gates of the car park on them, forcing them to pay a fine to get out.
  • 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.
  • Psycho 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 was raped by her father. Shell was raped by his mother, as it turns out.
  • 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 set up 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.
  • 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.
  • Tron Lines: Glowing patterns appear on Boiled's forehead when he activates his PGF in the film's interpretation.
  • 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.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: After Rune's abuse of Œufcoque's powers late in the first movie, he vomits in her hands.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: 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 it's within a area called the "Commonwealth", and that the Commonwealth was once at war with the "Continent". It's mentioned to have a coastal district, and the novel refers to Central Park, Times Square, and Trump Tower, all of which suggests it could be a future version of New York City, but it remains ambiguous.
  • 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.