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[R1 DVD art]
AKA: サムライガン
Genre: historical action / drama
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from ADV Films
Content Rating: TV-MA (violence, adult situations)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai Champloo
Notes: Based on the manga by Kumagai Kazuhiro, serialized in Young Jump.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars

Samurai Gun

Synopsis

Nanagomaru Ichimatsu is a down on his luck half-Japanese living near the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, in the mid 1800s. The shogun's government has become increasingly corrupt, and Ichimatsu must rely on his secret identity as Samurai Gun, a helmeted gunfighter of justice, to combat the forces of evil, while protecting the people he loves (and still whining about it the whole time).


Review

I love how ADV Films uses "Shogun" as a plural noun ("The ruling Shogun are wielding their abusive powers") as if there were a junta of Shoguns in a Shogunate, rather than it being a hereditary line of autocrats. Remember, only one Shogun at a time.

Grammatical considerations, unfortunately, are the least of our worries in this unlikely steampunk samurai / gun fu action show, where 19th century historical figures like Kaishu Katsu blaze off in rocket packs, and villains like the blatantly (hilariously) evil Watou Mitsumune brandish Uzis. At least you can't accuse the title of being misleading.

The problems are readily apparent from the get-go. Normally, the best animation in any television series is displayed in the opening sequence, but in the case of Samurai Gun, the opening seems to highlight the worst animation in the series, with appallingly poor, flat shading and very low art quality. Already, that's one strike, and we're not even a minute into the content -- and sadly, the animation never seems to rise above mediocrity. Honestly, Samurai Gun looks terrible, though at least the character designs are generally halfway decent for the "good guys".

What's worse is that in the first five minutes of this show, we're "treated" to footage of nubile, skimpily dressed women being brutally murdered by psychopaths. Sadly, this is one of the core running themes of the show -- put pretty anime chicks in danger, kill several of them (don't hold the red paint), and have Samurai Gun come in and save the survivors. Swell! Of course, this is supposed to highlight the idea that "the ruling Shogun are wielding their abusive powers" and all that. (Agh, ONLY ONE SHOGUN!) I'm more than willing to debate the necessity of skewering women onscreen to illustrate this point, though. Ugh. Yes, the antagonists are Really Bad Men, I got it already, geez!

Honestly, it's not like you can't tell by the hamfisted screenplay and blatant character designs that these are Really Bad Men, seeing as they're almost all ugly, scarred men with maniacal facial expressions.

Having read up to this point, you probably think I utterly hate this show. That isn't quite the truth -- while character development is fairly minimal and extremely unsubtle, there are occasional gleams of a far better show hidden in this one. Ichimatsu's scenes with his love interest, Ohana, are actually interesting, though I'm not sure whether the dub script really has much to do with the original dialogue (the song that Kurenai plays in the bar was dubbed over, but the subtitles reveal a completely, utterly different song). It's so irritating because, while Ichimatsu is constantly complaining about having to kill people "for justice", he could still be an interesting character, but there's just so little to work with here.

Frankly, I think Ichimatsu's relationship with Ohana could have made a far better anime than the overdone, too-serious action show we get.

Oh, yes, the action. In "true anime style", it involves the members of Samurai Gun (yes, there's more than just Ichimatsu) dancing around the screen and dodging bullets while occasionally firing at random, kinda like Drake of the 99 Dragons, except that they naturally hit their targets. The low frame rates and the poor art quality really take a hit during these scenes, and they come off more as laughable than exciting. It really, really doesn't help that the Samurai Gun's outfits seem to be inspired more by Gatchaman than actual practicality -- the antagonists said it best when they said Ichimatsu looked like "a fool in a clown suit".

Musically, Samurai Gun is a mixed bag. With the rap-sounding opening by ZZ and the gentle ending, it kinda almost sounds like some, other, better-animated show featuring anachronistic samurai. Hmm.

So, do you like seeing innocent women being skewered by spears and blown away with shotguns? Do you like seeing lots and lots of blood?

If so, you'll like this show, and hate the rating we're gonna hand it, because that's not what we're into this hobby for. With such classy shows as Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai Champloo to compete with, there's really no excuse for stuff like this.

There are occasionally skilled elements at play here, but there are much better shows to be found in this genre.Carlos Ross

Recommended Audience: Graphic, bloody violence (particularly against women) and implied sexual content render this largely unviewable for anyone under 16.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (3/12)
Samurai Gun © 2004 Kumagai Kazuhiro / Shueisha / AVEX / ADV Films
 
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