A wanderer named Van is looking for the man who killed his fiancee on his wedding day; Wendy Garret is a 13 year-old girl looking for her older brother Michael, who was captured by the same man. (Her only memento of him being his gun.) After Van saves her town Evergreen from an attack from an Armor (what the series calls mecha) with his own Armor Dann, Van finds in Wendy (at first) an unwanted traveling companion, the first of many.
Like a lot of shows, GunxSword is an anime you can't judge on its first episode. I did that a few years ago, brushing it off as "another mecha show". I was wrong to do so; the more you watch the show, the more it sucks you in. Before I knew it, I was done watching the series.
Why did I enjoy GunxSword? Well, chief among them: fleshed-out leads, great animation and art, exciting mecha fights, a variety of locations and sights, and a great blend of humor, comedy, action, and drama. There's even references to older mecha anime with Eldora Soul, an old Armor piloted by old, retired sentai pilots, all voiced in the Japanese version by veteran voice actors. Even the ending theme is pretty nifty - it's similar in style to The Real Folk Blues from Cowboy Bebop in that it's a sad little number that's more fitting as the series goes on.
Although Van is the first person on the DVD covers, the series' true lead is arguably Wendy Garret. I was worried at first that having such a young girl as the heroine would result her in being little more than gun-toting eye candy. Fortunately, Wendy proves she's more than capable of protecting herself and others as the series progresses. She's also brave; even when she watches fights in front of her eyes, she hardly blinks as she moves forward. She can also shoot pretty well with her brother's gun when she needs to. This isn't to say that she doesn't need rescuing at times, but Princess Peach she ain't.
Van is kind of like Spike from Cowboy Bebop - somewhat humorous and easy-going when unprovoked, but kicks ass when he is. One of the series' oddest running gags is that he smothers all his food in condiments. It's never explained why he does this, though the answer might be even more ridiculous than the fact that he does it. (Much like the "noodle incident" gag from Calvin and Hobbes - nobody knows.) He also has a habit of forgetting people's names (even Wendy), often used for comic relief. He also can't hold his liquor - even a tiny bit knocks him out like a light.
Rounding out the main cast is Carmen 99, a woman with 99 gadgets (and a 99 centimeter bust. No bounce, though). The oldest female in the cast, she has a cool-looking vehicle that can travel both on the ground and in the air, and she's quite skilled at doing things for money. She crosses paths with Van and Wendy infrequently early on, but about halfway through the series they're practically traveling partners. A third into the series we meet Joshua, a young blonde boy who follows Van after a confrontation on a mountain with his evil older brother/Van's obligatory rival, Ray. He's loud and energetic, playing the "smart" one of the group when he isn't being the comic relief. Our last heroine is Pricilla, one of the only two female characters in the series who pilots an Armor, though she uses her body to control it like she was playing something on the X-BOX 360's Kinect. She's sporty, fun, and has a thing for Van, much to Wendy's annoyance. (Though not quite as much as the fact that he remembers Pricilla's name easily, when it took him four episodes to remember Wendy's.)
With our cast of quirky, enjoyable leads out of the way, let's talk about the big part of GunxSword - the fights. While you have your typical gun / weapon fights here and there, the bulk majority of the fights involve mecha called Armor. Armor battles are not unlike mecha fights in other anime - they typically come at the end of the episode and wrap up pretty quickly. The Armor fights actually showcase a wide range of terrain for Van and his armor Dann to fight in, including cities, mountains, underwater, and - of course - space, so you're rarely stuck watching the same kind of fights over again. While Van's initial fights are him against various enemies of the week, he does eventually encounter a group of Armor pilots known as the Original 7, led by a familiar man. We will now talk about this.
The antagonist of the series is a man named the Claw. He's very unlike the intimidating villain of the same name from Inspector Gadget; this guy is a frail old man with a giant-ass metal claw for an arm. To be fair, it can kill people, but he still looks someone who would fall if you breathed on him. Fortunately he has help from the Original 7 (though despite its name, it has only six members) The members of this squad include: Van's former friend Gadved, the dead-eyed, creepy female pilot Fasalina, the powerful Wu, child twins Carossa and Melissa, and Wendy's older brother Michael. They aren't above above sacrificing their comrades to make their own ends meet. As you can imagine, this has lots of drawbacks, and only Michael and Fasalina have any real amount of screen time among the Original 7 come series' end. (Wu had one episode pretty much.) Carossa is especially annoying with his shtick of attacking anyone who even looks at his sister other than him. (Not like the crybaby Melissa is any more endearing a character.) This isn't helped by Makiko Oomoto (Kirby, Kirby game series)'s obnoxious performance, by far the worst in the series. Fasalina's rivalry with one of the heroes is also poorly laid out until near the end of the series. As for Michael and his loyalty to the Claw...I'll just leave it to you to see just how blind and devoted a guy can really be to someone.
I now want to note the ending of GunxSword. The first 18 episodes of the series are mostly lighthearted fun, especially episodes 3, 6, and most of 17. And even in its darkest moments, GunxSword's characters manage to keep their chins up in the situations around them. But in the last nine episodes of the series, the fights get real as the stakes gets high: sibling against sibling, fights in space, the Earth being destroyed by natural disasters, and revelations and confessions aplenty. And the series doesn't waste much time building up all of the planning the antagonist has done so far in the series. This makes the series' last, rushed episode all the more jarring. Basically it culminates into a "let's all work together" scenario, including the return of a minor character from episode 10. And then...we cut away to the post-battle victory party. The epilogue is cute, but it doesn't make up for the half-ass ending. I seriously almost dropped a star from the review because of it.
If you think you can stomach a satisfying ending, I recommend GunxSword. It looks good, its leads are fun, and the action can get pretty intense. There's also enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you interested throughout the entire run. Go check it out.
A weak four star series due to a disappointing ending and some annoying character antics. Otherwise, a good series. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: There's some violence (both slapstick and not), occasionally leading to bloodshed. There is also some fan service throughout as well, especially in the swimsuit episode that is episode 17, which was censored in its original broadcast due to "racy" swimsuits and various angles. Still, violence is more of a concern for parents/teenagers than the fan service is.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (26/26)
GunxSword © 2005 AIC - Team DannCaster / Gun Sword Partners
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