Madlax (マドラックス, Madorakkusu) is an 26-episode Japanese anime television series produced in 2004 by the Bee Train animation studio. Kōichi Mashimo directed Madlax and the soundtrack was composed by Yuki Kajiura.
The story turns to two young women named Margaret and Madlax, who apparently have little in common and do not know of the other's existence at the beginning. Madlax is a legendary mercenary and assassin in the fictional civil war-torn country of Gazth-Sonika, who cannot remember her past or indeed her real name before twelve years ago, when the war started. The other main character is Margaret Burton, the sole heir of a wealthy aristocratic family in the peaceful European country Nafrece. Twelve years before the story begins, an airliner Margaret and her mother were on crashed over Gazth-Sonika, and its passengers, as well as Margaret's father who led the rescuers, have been missing ever since. Margaret, however, mysteriously traveled back to Nafrece on her own, losing her memories prior to her return; the only thing she recalls is a single word, "Madlax". With this thread linking the two girls, they both independently start investigating the powerful crime syndicate Enfant after its enigmatic mastermind shows interest in both of them.
Madlax was produced as a spiritual successor to the studio's earlier project, Noir, and together with El Cazador de la Bruja, these series constitute a trilogy exploring the "girls-with-guns" genre. The production of Madlax began in 2002 but it didn't last until Yōsuke Kuroda joined the project that the series took its final form. While reviewers noted the resulting similarities between Noir and Madlax, they also acknowledged the differences, such as the latter's less episodic and more plot-driven style and, in particular contrast to the predominantly realistic Noir, incorporation of many supernatural elements, which the audience must often describe without further explanation.
The first half of the series alternates between the two leads. Madlax is one of the most efficient forces agents for hire in the war-torn Gazth-Sonika, while Margaret Burton is a sleepy, clumsy amnesiac living in Nafrece, a country styled after France. When a "picture book", likely given to Margaret by her late father, attracts the attention of international criminal network Enfant, she discovers that the origins of the book lie in Gazth-Sonika. Enfant's top operative, Carrossea Doon, tracks Margaret down but tips off his superiors in the wrong direction, towards Madlax, who has been causing Enfant trouble for some time. Meanwhile, Vanessa Rene, Margaret's former tutor whose parents died because of Gazth-Sonikan war, discovers that her current employer, Bookwald Industries, covertly supports the war by supplying both sides with firearms and starts investigating its true cause. Her investigation brings her to Gazth-Sonika, where Madlax is hired as her bodyguard, and together, they uncover data that proves Enfant set up the entire conflict. Enfant eventually intercepts them and they are forced into hiding. Back in Nafrece, Margaret decides to help Vanessa and travels to Gazth-Sonika, accompanied by her devoted and sometimes overprotective maid Elenore Baker and Carrossea Doon.
Eventually, Madlax and Margaret meet and board on a search for Quanzitta Marison, a Gazth-Sonikan mystic who supposedly knows about Margaret's book, Enfant's involvement with it, and Enfant itself. Lady Quanzitta does indeed tell them about Enfant and its plans to plunge the entire world into a total war, starting with Gazth-Sonika. She reveals that Enfant's leader Friday Monday possesses supernatural powers connected to the three ancient books, one of which belongs to Margaret. Margaret uses her own supernatural abilities and that of her book to return her lost memories. Carrossea, who has been aiding Margaret, requests that his memories be restored as well despite warnings not to do so; he discovers that he, in fact, died 12 years ago and held on to life only by sheer force of will to protect Margaret. Carrossea disappears, and Margaret is captured by Monday who intends to use her abilities to advance his own plans.
While Margaret and Carrossea perform the ritual, Madlax is attacked by Limelda Jorg, a Gazth-Sonikan sniper who holds a fight against Madlax ever since she failed to stop an assassination by Madlax earlier in the show. Limelda kills Vanessa while targeting Madlax, sending the latter into clinical depression. Elenore and Lady Quanzitta's servant Nakhl manage to restore Madlax's will to live and persuade her to save Margaret, and the three storm Enfant's headquarters together. During the assault, Elenore is killed and Margaret, now under Monday's control, shoots Madlax.
Believing Madlax to be dead, Monday commences a ritual to unleash people's inhibitions and trigger worldwide anarchy; but Margaret's memories return and she snaps out of his mind control. Only now does the audience learn the back-story: back in 1999, Monday drove Margaret's father insane with his powers and she was forced to kill her own father. To escape the horrible truth of her murder, Margaret split herself into three personae: the "memory keeper" Laetitia, the sinful Madlax, and the innocent Margaret herself. Margaret then fuses her three personae back together to undo the ritual she previously performed with Monday, saving the world from insanity. Madlax, who should no longer exist after the fusion, appears and guns down Monday. It becomes true that Margaret has once again split herself into three, judging that after twelve years, she no longer has the right to make decisions for her other personae.
When everything is said and done, Margaret fully releases Madlax so she can live her life freely and also adopts Laetitia as her younger sister so she won't be alone. Madlax ultimately makes peace with Limelda and they travel together.
Madlax is set against the setting of Gazth-Sonikan war and the first episodes in contrast to the tranquil Nafrece with the war-torn Gazth-Sonika; later, the story moves completely to the combat zone, focusing on the central characters, such as Limelda Jorg, and their suffering. In an interview, the director Mashimo stated that "[t]he story is about portraying inner struggles of people, while showing what life is like in this place of madness and this other place of peace". Accordingly, the series' title is a portmanteau of two English words, "mad" and "relaxed", mirroring the authors' intention to portray the two extremes of human being.
Madlax also plays as the story of Margaret Burton's search for her psychological identity. Based on the Mashimo Menu theme titles available to her, Yuki Kajiura has suggested an interpretation that while searching for her memories, Margaret meets the other characters ("Gatekeepers") one after another and learns about the lifestyles ("Gates") they represent. In the end, she finds her own "Gate", which is the new identity that finally replaces the one she lost twelve years ago.
- Galza Lieutenant: "What'll be a big deal is when THAT one shows up. ... A super-skilled agent named Ma ..." Gun Dance ~dance~.
- Carter, Jason (2005-07-20). "Madlax DVD #1 review". AnimeJump.com. Archived from the original on May 10, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- Vanessa: "My father was a diplomat in Nafrece, you see, and at the time that the threat of civil war here was coming to a peak, he was in charge of relations with Gazth-Sonika. Then the civil war broke out, and my parents were detained by the Gazth-Sonika army under suspicion of inciting the war". Awakening Sound ~awake~.
- Hattaway, Mitchell (2005-04-28). "Madlax DVD #1 review". DVDVerdict.com. Retrieved 2006-11-08.
- Beveridge, Chris (2005-12-22). "Madlax DVD #5 review". Mania.com. Archived from the original on 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
[Limelda's] decision ... sets her on a path that isn't quite easy to understand but makes a twisted sort of sense. The kind of sense that someone who's grown up in a country torn apart by civil war and bloodshed might be able to come up with.
- Wong, Amos (March 2005). "Inside Bee Train". Newtype USA: 8–15.
- Houston, Don (2007-07-17). "Review: Madlax: Complete Collection". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
The title of the show was a combination of two English words (mad and relaxed) that director/writer Kouichi [sic] Mashimo used to portray the duality of human nature he was going for with the themes of the show. ... Looking past the metaphysical pondering that was the main way in which this show deviated from Noir, there was a tightly scripted story that took a lengthy time getting to where it was going but it did so in such a satisfying manner that I honestly can't imagine anyone interested in the genre finding fault with it.