Title: Gun Sword
Length: 26 episodes (approx 25 mins each) (preview based on eps 1-4)
MPAA Rating: M
My Rating: 3/5
Van, a mysterious sword-toting stranger in posession of a flexible sword and an orbiting robot, wanders into town and saves the good townsfolk from marauding bandits. In the process, he also saves a young teenage girl, Wendy, from certain death at the hands of miscreants while she is searching for the people who kidnapped her brother. In her gratitude, she pledges herself to Van in marriage- a prospect he is none too excited about- and insists on following him as he journeys across the wilds of their world to find the man who murdered his bride…
Gun Sword is a curious blend of originality and familiarity. Set in a world that mixes the wild-west with hi-tech sci-fi, perhaps the best words to describe the opening of the show are ‘off-beat’. The plot is a fairly familiar one. We have a lone, mysterious and monosyllabic hero with all kinds of interesting powers, on a quest for revenge. We have a feisty and somewhat awkward heroine latched onto our hero, on her own quest, providing both a relationship dynamic and a touch of comic relief. We have a context that allows for the cyclical episodic adventures that keep the show moving forward while the underlying plot tension can be slowly resolved. In fact, when you put it like that, it all sounds rather dry.
It probably would be, except that Gun Sword has a touch of originality that really adds some flavour to the show. While the artwork is pretty standard fare for the light adventure genre, it works well- decent scenery, pleasing character artwork, solid animation; nothing that really breaks the mold, but nothing to be disappointed about. But the combination of sci-fi western (which worked so well in the fabulous non-anime Firefly from Buffy creator Joss Whedon), and a zany sense of humour makes this quite an entertaining prospect.
Van himself, as the hero, is undoubtedly the star. On the one hand he epitomises the gun-toting stranger of Western ilk- his past shadowed in secrecy, his reputation proceeding him, his vocabulary-challenged dialogue. But his personality, even in the first few episodes, gives him some extra flair. His dogged moroseness adds comic value, while his culinary habits (splattering food with any and all condiments in reach, then screaming out a single adjective to describe it) are a little odd, but make for a good running gag. Another entertaining aspect are his plethora of nicknames, hinting at his colourful past without ever revealing what he’s been up too. So too his arsenal- the whip-like sword and his space-age mecha- are a creative addition to the show.
The dynamic between Van and Wendy is primarily a comic one, but with some more tender moments which will presumably grow as the show wears on (hopefully in a non-creepy way: see the review on Speed Grapher). Certainly the marriage gag could wear thin after a while. But Wendy makes for a good heroine thus far- a touch on the vulnerable side, but with some spunk and attitude that means she’s not just a total pushover (again, please see Speed Grapher). With her oversized six-shooter, with luck she’ll have some good scenes of her own.
The story itself unfolds in the predictable form of episode-driven plots, with the pair moving from one troubled town to the next, battling bad-guys in anachronistic mecha (manned fighting robots), with cliches aplenty. It’s not the most gripping stuff, but it’s not bad either, and love it or hate it, the quirkiness keeps things a bit interesting. Note the hirsute gentlemen with the animated moustaches for a truly trippy experience…
All up, I reckon Gun Sword has potential. The artwork is pleasant, the setting original, and the characters full of originality and humour. The plotline is nothing to get excited about, but as you get to like the characters there’s enough underlying tension to want to know what’s going to happen, and the relationship between Van and Wendy is goofy enough to be entertaining and not [yet] creepy. A series of running gags elicited genuine laughs from me, and as the extras on the DVD show, this is an amine that doesn’t take itself too seriously. All up Gun Sword probably doesn’t have enough weight to get me to invest in it, but if a free copy happened to fall into my lap, I would certainly watch it through.
(And no, that is not a euphemism for bittorrenting it… I like to support the release of anime into the English language market- ideally subtitled- and so I tend to purchase my shows from legitimate retailers. I strongly urge you to do the same and ensure that for those of us who don’t speak Japanese we can continue to access this great art-form! )
Gun Sword is a pretty unoffensive show. It has a violence, including death, but it’s not graphic, disturbing or offensive. There are mecha battles in every episode so far. The series has a slight ecchi bent, with some distinctly curvy female characters in tight-fitting costumes, and this could be a theme that’s taken on throughout the episodes. So too they do flirt with the underage female thing a little too much- a staple of fanboy-focused anime shows, really, and if this picks up it could bother some people. Nothing here really stuck out as anything that would offend, but it’s probably not a show for young kids due to occasional death and routine dramatic tension and violence. If you’re a seasoned anime veteran, there’s seem to be much here of any substance worth worrying about.