Rachael has PTSD from being bullied herself. She likes certain anime because they offer some emotional solace and show great friendships.
Pumpkin Scissors focuses on a military unit tasked with "war relief" efforts, helping to restore peace to a country that has been hit by a devastating war. The country, simply known as the Republic, seems to resemble Germany after WWI, but it is not explicitly stated as such.
The main character is Alice Malvin. Her family is one of 13 of the top noble families in the country. As such a high-ranking noblewoman, her choice to be involved in the military is shocking to many. Commoners think she's just a detached rich person who can't understand their plight, and nobles think that her behavior is improper. Despite negativity from others, Alice strongly believes in the importance of the work she's doing. She named her unit Pumpkin Scissors, comparing corruption to the thick shell of a pumpkin, and saying her unit's task is to slice through the layers of corruption in society to restore the country.
In her unit is Corporal Randel Oland, a gentle giant of a man, covered in scars, with a mysterious and dark past. Before joining the Pumpkin Scissors crew to help out with the war relief effort, he was a member of a secret experimental unit, 901 anti-tank trooper, whose members were called Gespenst Jäger, German for "ghost hunter". His was one of a few units known as the "invisible 9" because of their top-secret, experimental natures. Oland seems to actually be a bit shell-shocked and cowardly in a fight, despite his immense stature.
Other members of Pumpkin Scissors include Captain Hunks: their older commanding officer, a shrewd, crafty man, Warrant Officer Martis: a quiet, studious guy, Warrant Officer Oreldo: a sarcastic, handsome, lecherous man, and Sergeant Major Lili Stecchin: a young woman who's often unsure of herself and mainly performs minor background duties. They also have a good military dog named Mercury, who is able to carry items and disarm or distract enemies.
As a unit, they battle many of the real, depressing social problems that come whenever a country is ravaged by war, including famine, parental abandonment, drug dealers, and they even fight corruption in the top rungs of society. None of this is easy, and none of it makes them popular, often with their actions earning them more contempt than praise. However, Alice, as an inspiring leader, is able to move them into action with her passionate speeches and her determination not to back down when she's convinced that she's right.
The series' message remains strong throughout; that even in the darkest times there's still hope, but you have to be willing to fight through it, piercing through tough layers.
What I Liked About It:
This is one of the best animes I've seen in a while. Critics can sometimes get used to seeing so many of the same clichés repeated, that our medium becomes harder to enjoy. However, this definitely breaks a lot of anime clichés and avoids a lot of the pitfalls some series fall into.
For example, it knows when to follow serious moments with a little light-hearted comedy to break the tension, but the comedy never goes on tirelessly long or becomes irritating, overplayed, and distracting. It also had some compelling romantic intrigue, but left it mysterious enough that the audience can interpret for themselves how it ended. The romance was only hinted at, not a main part of the story. It had a good heroine without having one that was too perfect.
For a long time, I had wondered if anime had lost it's ability to move me emotionally. This one was able to resonate with me on a personal level. It's rare for something to be able to speak to my emotions, because I usually approach anime, and life, with an intellectual mindset. This is an anime about action, not contemplation. It's about being motivated to reach out and help your fellow man, and I feel like that would resonate strongly with a lot of people. It's about fighting for what's right, no matter what people try to say or do to make you back down. It's also about teamwork. I won't spoil the ending, but the final triumph of the Pumpkin Scissors team (at least as far as the show is concerned) would not have been possible without every single member of Pumpkin Scissors giving it their best effort.
In other words, it's one of the most mature, thought-provoking, and emotionally moving anime series I've seen since either Evangelion, Trigun, or Fullmetal Alchemist. I'm not kidding!
What I Didn't Like:
The dub was regrettable, which might be why this series hasn't achieved much popularity in the U.S. I felt like Oland's voice sounded too wilted, sort of like Eeyore or Droopy Dog. I also felt like they gave a mad scientist lady a German accent for no reason other than that she was, in fact, a mad scientist lady. And it was a terrible German accent at that. Everyone in this show is the same nationality, so it made no sense for her to have a different accent than everyone else. This also lessened the horror and evil that her character was supposed to represent, because it made her more ridiculous and stereotypical. The difference is like that between Hannibal Lecter and Harley Quinn - realistic vs. cartoony. At any rate, if you're going to see this show, subtitled is where it's at.