Greetings Commanders! This is a very special edition of Setting Exploration! Collaborations are a part of the game too, so why shouldn’t those various series we’re involved with receive the same love!? Without further ado, let’s get on with this special exploration!
If you're curious how these Gunslinger Girls perform in Girls' Frontline, check out their analyses linked below in their character sections!
Social Welfare Agency
Often referred to simply as “the Agency”, the Social Welfare Agency (SWA) of the Italian Public Security Bureau (Italian: Ente Pubblico per il Benessere Sociale) is a government-sponsored institution. While the Agency professes to aid the rehabilitation of the physically injured, it is actually a military organization specializing in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism.
The SWA is composed of two independent branches: Public Safety, its surveillance and intelligence-gather division, and Special Ops, the anti-terrorist division. Special Ops is itself divided into Sections 1 and 2, the latter of which employs young girls fitted with cybernetic implants and agents.
These young girls are the titular "Gunslinger Girl"s who are fitted with cybernetic implants. The implants, which consist of synthesized muscles and carbon fiber frames, result in heightened strength and reflexes as well as high resilience to damage and pain.
While most of the “framework” of the body is replaced or augmented, the brain and other… juicy bits remain intact. The vulnerability point of a Cyborg is through their eyes - as it is a direct path to their brain. Protection of these points are absolutely vital. The cyborgs of GSG are even strong enough to lift steel construction beams! Such power packed in tiny bodies. That power comes at a price, though.
Chemical brainwashing known as “Conditioning” is used to ensure their loyalty to both the agency they work for, and their handler. It even suppresses their original memories. The “Conditioning” has a side-effect of shortening a Cyborg’s lifespan and causes them to have debilitating memory loss after long-term use. There is also a potential for them to become addicted to the chemical. Because of this, they’re seen as disposable tools.
The effect of the “Conditioning” which ensures a Cyborg’s loyalty often manifests as a love for their handler. It is a potentially dangerous position for both agents as the handler must carefully tread their interpersonal relationship with their Cyborg partner. Most handlers are willing to show their partner affection, treat them as a sibling and equal, strive to be attentive to their needs and wants, and even push them to be more than just killing machines by learning various life skills and pursue hobbies such as music or literature.
A normally shy and quiet girl who becomes assertive when she’s upset. Often prone jealousy when her handler pays even the slightest attention to other women. Becomes interested in Astronomy thanks to her handler, and even passes on this interest to the other Cyborgs. She was given a diary to maintain, and while she doesn’t understand the point of the book at first, she eventually finds it enjoyable to record her daily events.
Triela is witty and sarcastic towards adults, but otherwise a warm and understanding person. Triela serves as a mentor and big sister toward the other Cyborgs, often taking care of them, or ensuring they are taken care of when out on an operation. She is the second oldest Cyborg within the agency and has a realistic view of her situation, making her one of the more level-headed girls. She has a collection of Teddy Bears given to her by her handler, which she named after the seven dwarfs of Snow White. Although after receiving more than seven, she began to name the bears after Roman Emperors. She wears suits as a matter of her handler’s lack of knowledge in young girl’s tastes, but she has grown to like them and even prefers them over other attire
Angelica became the very first Cyborg, and is also the first to suffer the long-term effects of SWA's conditioning process. She was originally a sociable and out-going girl, but became quiet and withdrawn as the side effects worsened over time. Angelica has a dog which was left in the care of a relative.
Her favorite story was The Prince of the Kingdom of Pasta, told to her by her handler. This story was later turned into a picture book, and even a sequel was created with the help of other members of the agency.
Claes is outwardly cold most of the time, but can be sympathetic and kind when the situation calls for it. She is usually anti-social, preferring to read books, tend to her garden, or go fishing. Her handler taught her how to enjoy time spent “doing nothing”, and she became very close to them as a result.
Claes made a promise to her handler to “be good” whenever her glasses are on, and not engage in any violence.
Rico loves her Cyborg body and her life at the agency. She views each day as a blessing and has a happy disposition, although she is a bit socially stunted and quiet. At first she only speaks when spoken to, but she later opens up as the series progresses.
Rico is obedient, well-behaved, and has a positive way of thinking. She is the only Cyborg with a clear memory of her life before arriving at the agency. Rico has a strong devotion to her handler, citing them as her purpose for living
A handler is assigned to each Cyborg; handlers are responsible for their cyborg's well-being both on- and off- duty. Fortunately, most handlers take good care of their cute little killing machines, and even opt to only use the minimum amount of conditioning required so as to prolong their life and keep them as healthy as possible.
Handlers operate in the field alongside their Cyborg partners; the pairs are referred to as “Fratello” (lit. “brothers"). Each handler has their own method of maintaining their relationship with their partner.
Gioseffo Croce, otherwise known as Jose, is Henrietta’s handler within the series. Jean Croce is his brother and they both entered employment to the agency at the same time as handlers.
In contrast with his brother, Jose is very kind and loving towards his partner, Henrietta, more so than any other handlers and treats her like his own sister. His cigarette smoking is something he gave up solely for the sake of Henrietta’s health. He is strongly against treating any of the Cyborgs as disposable tools.
Brother of Jose Groce and partner of Rico, he is the leader of the handlers within the agency and trusted advisor of the department’s director.
Jean is a cold, ruthless, harsh, and relentless individual who has difficulty expressing his emotions. Compared to his brother’s warm reception toward their Cyborg partner, Jean is very demanding and brutal toward Rico and what he expects of her. Despite his personality, Jean cares a great deal for both his brother and his partner, and is able to express these feelings on rare occasions.
Marco is Angelica’s handler. A reserved man who attends to his partner like a father would their daughter. He came up with the fairy tale called The Prince of the Land of Pasta to help Angelica cope and adjust to her new surroundings as a Cyborg of the SWA.
Marco's girlfriend, Patricia, later wrote and published a picture book based on the story. A sequel to the story was made in a group effort including Marco and other members of the agency and presented to Angelica.
Originally named Victor Hartman, he changed his name upon entering service with the SWA. While Hilshire was originally appalled by the ethical idea of Cyborgs, he was eventually convinced to join the agency and became Triela’s handler.
Victor is a soft man of set morals, and he forms a strong bond with Triela. He is often unsure how to treat her, given her age and how she acts towards adults, but nonetheless they have a powerful mutual respect for one another. One of Hilshire’s main concerns is the effect repairs and conditioning have on Triela’s life, and because of this, he strives to protect her and keep her alive as long as possible. This duo signifies the “Fratello” pairing nickname more than any other team.
Raballo is the handler of Claes. He is an aloof and quiet man, spending most of his time reading literature.
It’s his belief that educated men made better soldiers and so he reads anything and everything he can get his hands on, regardless of content. Because of this he has amassed a great library of his own, which he shared with Claes. Between his own beliefs and Claes’ continuous pursuit of knowledge, the pair found a common ground in reading despite Raballo’s aversion to the use of children as Cyborg soldiers. This belief of reading anything and everything was applied to Claes as an assassin.
The name Padania refers to the valley in Northern Italy formed by the river Po. Within Gunslinger Girl, Padania is a term used synonymously with the Five Republics Faction, a radical right-wing separatist movement pushing for Northern independence. This terrorist group and its associates typically employ the tactics of kidnapping and bombings.
While the default art of each obtainable Gunslinger Girl collab Doll is the usual appearance of the girls in the manga, the costumes available to each are quite special. Both the damaged, and non-damaged versions of these costumes are references to important moments or events in the girl’s stories.
This outfit belonging to Jose’s deceased younger sister, Enrica. It was given to Henrietta to wear during their brief vacation. In the same chapter, Henrietta reveals to Jose and company that she would rather kill her loved one and then herself if it were not possible to be with them anymore. This is an important moment as this is called back in the final operation of the manga in which Jose tells her to fulfill her promise from back then, and they both shoot each other in the head, dying together.
The damaged version of this costume has Henrietta in the same pose as she was in during the New Turin Power Plant operation in which she mistakenly shot Joce after he tried to calm her down when flashbacks of her traumatic past were triggered by an enemy soldier. The pose itself is the reference here, as Henrietta was in full tactical gear at the time.
Henrietta's Default Costume
Henrietta’s default art has her holding her camera, a gift from Jose. The damaged version is a reference to her shooting stance in the first combat appearance she makes in the manga. This dipping low posture becomes a frequent sight.
This is a direct reference to an infiltration operation she was involved in early in the manga in which she disguised herself as a maid of a hotel to gain access to her assassination target. The damaged version is also a direct reference to a key panel in the manga in which a young Bellboy working in the hotel witnesses her leaving the room. As per Rico’s orders she shoots and kills the young boy to conceal her identity. This is after having met and befriended the same boy earlier in the day when she was casing the location.
Rico's Default Costume
The damaged version of Rico’s default art is in reference to her first combat appearance in the manga as she provides fire support.
This is in reference to her idle time spent at the SWA tending to her garden following the death of her handler, Raballo. In particular, the non-damaged version signifies her early pleasant demeanor, while the damaged version portrays her lost, daze-like existence following the death of Raballo. Note that Clae’s glasses are on in the non-damaged version, showing that she is being a good girl and off in the damage version, implying they were removed by her and she had to be violent.
Claes' Default Art
This costume is an outfit worn by Claes following the New Turin incident when the SWA is to be terminated by the military under the guise of wiping out a terrorist organization. Claes relieves a doctor of the M249 SAW they're holding, and this is the only moment of the manga where she wields this firearm. Claes confronts the soldiers, saying there is nothing of value for them there besides the contents of her modest life and asks them not to invade. She breaks down after the mention her handler, Raballo, but still cannot remember why she is crying. The technicians and engineers taking shelter rush to Claes' aid, feeling indebted to her, and plan to use their own bodies to make her bulletproof. The situation is resolved peacefully when the military soldiers refuse the order, given by a politician, to fire upon those who appear to be innocent civilians.
This costume is a reference to Angelica’s origin of nearly being killed during a hit-and-run staged by her father while she was out with her dog. The damaged version of this costume is another direct reference to a key panel in the manga in which Angelica shields her handler, Marco, from an explosion set off during a terrorist attack.
This is a very special costume we have here. This outfit is worn in a chapter following Angelica’s death, causing Hilshire to confront the reality of the mortality of the Cyborgs, and his partner, Triela. After a fight between Hilshire and Triela regarding his leaving her to sit out of an operation because he feared for her safety, Triela learns of and comes to terms with her own past, Hilshire's past and his reasons and sincerity behind what he did. Triela realizes it wasn’t because he doubted her, but because he treasured her.
The damage version of this costume may be in reference to a panel in the same chapter in which Triela returns to their hotel room after the above mentioned fight, and finds Hilshire asleep on the couch. With tears in her eyes, she hugs Hilshire tightly, kisses him, and decides to live for and with that person for the rest of her life. In this piece of art, the Teddy Bear which she treasures may be a symbolic stand-in for Hilshire.
Triela's Default Art
The damaged version of her default art is a direct reference to a key panel in the manga during her confrontation with the assassin named “Pinocchio” in which she jumps back through a second story window after previously being thrown out of it. This is an important confrontation for Triela as it is her second encounter with this assassin after being thoroughly bested the first time around, wounding not only her body, but also her pride.