After re-watching Gunslinger Girl, I thought I'd put together a short episode guide to the anime.
Episode 01, Fratello: This is Henrietta's introductory episode. Henrietta is ostensibly the star of this show, although it does have an ensemble cast. Henrietta is the rookie on the team. Like the other girls, she is a cyborg with enhanced strength.
Each of the girls is paired with an adult male human partner, who serves as an instructor and as the other half of each Fratello team.
Henrietta is paired with Giuse, one of the more sympathetic Fratello males. He is reluctant to subject Henrietta to too much "conditioning." He hopes to allow her to retain more of her humanity.
In episode one Henrietta goes ape shit and wipes out a bunch of people wholesale. Some of the other characters make brief appearances in this episode, including Rico as the sniper.
Episode 02, Orione: Episode two contains a lot of flashbacks. The Gunslinger Girl anime approximately follows the material in the first volume of the manga. There wasn't enough material between the Henrietta and Rico manga introductions to fill an entire episode, so episode two uses a lot of flashback while demonstrating how pathologically protective the girls are of their "brothers."
Episode 03, Ragazzo: This is the Rico episode. Rico's handler is Jean, who clearly views Rico as merely an instrument and a weapon instead of as a person. We see that the conditioning the girls endure removes a lot of their humanity.
Episode 04, Bambola: Episode four is the Triela episode. Triela is one of the most human of the girls. She is clearly the oldest, and the episode implies that she has been with the Social Welfare Agency and teamed up with Hirscher for the past six Christmases.
It becomes clear in the course of episode four that each Fratello pair has its own theme. Henrietta and Giuse are the sister-brother pair, Rico and Jean are the slave-master pair, and Triela and Hirscher make up the daughter-father pair.
Episode 05, Promessa: Episode five is the Claes episode. She apparently joined the Social Welfare Organization at about the same time as Henrietta, but underwent an accelerated training program (with mixed results) while Henrietta spent her time working on her coordination and getting used to her new mechanical limbs—specifically, by playing the violin.
Claes' instructor is Ravalo, a veteran of the military police who agrees to a deal with Jean: By joining a Fratello, Jean will pull some strings to help him re-join the military police.
Claes and Ravalo make up the student-teacher pair.
Episode five demonstrates how powerful each girl's conditioning is, and shows how dangerous their protective instincts can be. It also reveals how damaging the conditioning can be to the girls themselves; their memories and free will can be easily wiped clean.
However, this conditioning is not always 100% effective. Claes makes Ravalo a promise involving eyeglasses that survives further conditioning attempts. Claes also demonstrates behavior learned from Ravalo, even though she does not necessarily remember these early lessons explicitly.
The viewer also learns why Claes has spent the first four episodes reading in bed while the other girls were out tearing shit up.
Although the signs are less obvious, it is also clear that Claes is the most human of the girls—even more so than Triela—despite Claes' sometimes peculiar behavior. These ties to humanity manifest themselves quite powerfully towards the end of the series.
Episode 06, Gelato: Episode six is the Roman Holiday episode with Henrietta and Giuse manuevering against terrorists from the Five Republics. Rico and Triela make brief appearances in the assault. The episode also introduces the Eurotrash pair of mercenaries with ethics—the good bad guys, as it were.
Episode 07, Protezione: Episode seven features Rico and Jean working undercover to protect an informant who provides the Social Welfare Agency with important information regarding a planned kidnapping. Henrietta and Giuse make brief appearances.
Episode 08, Il Principe del Regno della Pasta: Episode eight is the Angelica episode. Angelica was the first of the "Gunslinger Girls." It is unclear how long Angelica has actually been a member, since her age upon joining is indeterminate. The episode explictly says that Angelica is the first of the girls, and the episode focuses heavily on the Agency's growing pains, back in the early days when its members didn't have much to do. However, episode four strongly suggested Triela has been working with Hirscher for the past six Christmases, and she clearly serves as the seasoned veteran confidant of the group. Either Triela receives her teddy bear presents more frequently than once per year, or Angelica was very young when she joined the Agency, or Angelica is older than she looks now, or there's just a simple contradiction in the continuity. Hopefully the manga provides some clarity on this point.
Angelica is paired with Marco, but being the "beta test" version of the mechanical girls, she suffers a debilitating memory-loss problem that severly limits her usefulness. Also, Angelica just kinda sucks.
Episode 09, Lycoris Radiata Herb: Episode nine is the Elsa episode. Elsa does not appear with the other girls in the opening credits, although she has an important role in series. She's an effective fighter, but can be inconsistent for reasons that become evident later.
Elsa is paired with Lauro.
Elsa is the loner of the group. She spends all of her free time alone, sometimes passing the time sitting alone in the dark, polishing a rifle. All of the other girls have roommmates, but Elsa lives alone, in a bare room empty of any warmth or decoration save a lone framed photograph.
Mamiko Noto fans may be amused at hearing her voice a somewhat pathological character.
Also, Elsa is hard core. HARD CORE.
Episode 10, Amare: Episode 10 is the second Elsa episode. It highlights some of the friction between Section One and Section Two of the Social Welfare Corporation.
Episode 11, Febbre Alta: Episode 11 is the conclusion of the events featured in Episode 10. Giuse and Henrietta spend some time in Sicily along with Eleanor and Fermi from Section One.
Episode 12, Simbiosi: Episode 12 features all the girls working together to thwart a kidnapping scheme the Social Welfare Corporation uncovered with the help of the informant from episode seven.
Episode 12 shows how Angelica is kinda useless while Claes is possibly the most capable and dangerous of the girls, despite her bookish appearance.
The decent Eurotrash mercenaries play a key role in this episode.
Episode 12 is one of the best episodes of the series, if not the best. It features lots of action while also directly addressing the difficulties the girls face due to their conditioning. It also reminds us that Claes has retained much of her humanity and individuality—qualities that are almost lost to a heavily conditioned girl like Rico.
Episode 13, Stella Cadente: Episode 13 is the final episode of the Gunslinger Girl anime. It is somewhat anticlimactic. It resolves the Angelica arc, but leaves many questions both unanswered and sometimes unasked. The Gunslinger Girl anime ended approximately while the manga was in its second volume. There are now four or five volumes of the manga, and I believe new chapters still appear monthly, so it will probably be quite some time before the story's final resolution. There is no indication at this time that any future Gunslinger Girl anime will appear.
Final Tally: Claes > Elsa > Triela > Henrietta > Rico > Angelica.
I'd also like to point out that FUNimation's R1 DVDs are very well done. The quality of FUNimation's DVDs in general seem to be quite good for their recent releases, at least as far as I've seen. I'd rank FUNimation right beside Bandai and Geneon in terms of quality right now. (Actually, I've noticed a bunch of careless errors in some recent Geneon discs.)