Gun X Sword was a series I'd never heard of. Not even a whisper. Nothing. In fact, the only reason I originally took it was because it sounded like an action show, and I was in the mood to watch one. When I saw the cover of the DVD, I was immediately intrigued by the main character's design. He was tall and lanky, and looked like he had an attitude. Just my type. I also saw that the show was directed by Goro Taniguchi, who also worked on Code Geass and S-CRY-ed. I had totally loved Code Geass so already I was expecting great things.
I popped the first disc in and was surprised by how very western this anime seemed to be. Would this play out well or just be another eastern attempt at bringing a stereotyped cowboy mentality into a more modern age? I'm not a big gunslinger kind of fan, so I was initially a little worried that this would have a negative impact on how I viewed the show. Turns out, I was all wrong. Gun X Sword was a mixture of genres I could never have expected, one part western, one part mecha, and one part comedy, all combined to be one of the weirdest and coolest shows I've seen in a long time.
A lot goes into a show really deserving a Japanator Recommends stamp of approval, so read on to see what hooked me while watching Gun X Sword.
Title: Gun X Sword [DVD]
The first thing that always grabs me about an anime is of course the visual style. I loved Gun X Sword for its lanky and slightly stylized character design. The main character, Van, looks like he could have almost stepped out of an episode of Code Geass himself, as he's incredibly tall and gangly. The other characters Van meets along the way like Wendy, Carmen 99, and Josh all have their own style as well, with Wendy's child-like, innocent look, and Carmen's seductive curves. Each character has their own unique look, so you could never possibly confuse any of them. The world is also very bright and colorful, with a very modern look in the animation itself.
Of course, along with character design comes the characters themselves. If a show doesn't have likable characters, it often fails in my mind. Luckily, this was not the case here. Van, the main character, normally has a very lackadaisical attitude. He's lazy and always talks like he just woke up. Van has the nice quirks of never drinking alcohol, and instead always requesting milk. And when Van eats his food, he always requests every condiment available to douse everything in. Other characters, like Wendy, develop a bit more throughout the series, going from an innocent young girl to a more worldly and hardened character. All the major females in the series seem to have a bit of a crush on Van, but not to the point where it becomes annoying or harem-like. The show's main villain, known only as "The Claw," or "Comrade," also has some distinguishing traits, as he speaks in a soft lilting voice, and though plotting a fairly evil plan, spouts out peace and harmony.
As I mentioned before, Gun X Sword was a mixture that I never expected. Van's character has a western feel. He even looks a little like a cowboy, but this is no regular Earth cowboy. Van and everyone he knows lives on the planet called the Endless Illusion. Van wanders from town to town in search of The Claw, a man with a prosthetic claw hand who killed Van's wife. This might seem like a simple revenge plot, but soon Van gets teamed up with Wendy Garrett, a young girl whose brother was kidnapped by The Claw. The two set out on a journey to reach their goals, and I thought that was going to be it. Next thing I know, I found out that Van is an "armor rider," and yes, that means this is a mecha-western. A bit strange, if you ask me.
However, the mechs in this show are a nice mixture of various mech types we've seen before. Most of the ordinary mechs in the series run much like a Gundam out of Gundam Wing where there is a pilot in a normal cockpit who controls the machine using various tools like buttons and joysticks. Later on you find out (without giving too much away) that there are also some unique mechs in the show which seem to be a blend of EVA units and the Gundams from G Gundam as they are controlled by the user's physical movements inside a type of virtual reality core. Van's armor, known as Dann of Thursday, is unique in that in can bleed a fluid that helps to give it power, and is controlled by Van's sword. It was a nice mixture and kept an old anime trope from feeling too overused.
Just as the show jumps from being a western with mechs and a dose of comedy, you also come to realize that the show also has a much grander scale, one that encompasses the entire planet and its fate, which added a new level of heroics for the characters that at first seemed to be self serving.
The comedy in the show is quite great. While Gun X Sword does go all out for the yuks, its certainly has its moments, and often times its a bit of a dirty remark or some innuendo. In fact, the show was surprisingly sexual in a few places, which I didn't expect from what I thought would be a "typical" action anime. Of course, the comedy would be nothing without a wonderful delivery, which leads me to my next bit of praise for the series--the voice acting.
I watched the majority of the show in English, since I usually prefer dubs, and I was not disappointed. Everyone's voice seemed pretty well suited for the character they played. Van's voice was often slow and laid back as it should be, but was equally capable of screaming in rage while trying to tear down his enemies. The girls were also well voiced and appropriately feminine without being annoying. When I checked out the original Japanese voices, those too impressed me. It was nice for once to see a sub and dub that both worked for a series. While I enjoyed 99% of the Japanese voices, I did feel like the Japanese voice for Van was a bit too deep and commanding for someone who is normally quite unaffected by the world, though that isn't to say that the delivery of lines was in any way bad. The subtitles themselves also seemed like a good translation. While they didn't use as much of the casual English slang that the English dub allowed, it still seemed like it was on the mark for what was being communicated.
One of the best points of Gun X Sword, in my opinion, was the twists and turns in the plot throughout the show. While watching, the viewer starts out believing one thing about many characters and ends the show realizing something else entirely. Those who at first seemed like victims might end up being willing participants, and the scope of the The Claw's destructive plans reaches far outside the scope of just killing a few innocent people and kidnapping others. Every time the story took a major turn, I was surprised. However, these turns were well implemented and never really broke my suspension of disbelief in the story. I went right along with it, eager to find out what would happen.
My only complaint with the series is that it is perhaps a bit episodic, and individual episodes can seem a little distant from each other, as the events that unfold don't always happen within a day or two of each other. One minute Van and Wendy are in one town helping out with a certain problem and the next episode they are somewhere else entirely, with an undetermined amount of time passing in between. While this might seem a bit jarring, it doesn't really hinder the overarching plot, so it didn't bother me too much. It just took a little getting used to.
If you're looking a slightly unusual action series that employs your favorite anime themes without getting too boring, then Gun X Sword is definitely for you. There's fighting, fun, and even a bit of mystery to it. The entire series is a nice journey leaves you feeling pretty satisfied at the end, and glad for having watched it. Or at least I was. If you like what you've read so far, I completely recommend picking up Gun X Sword today!
Score: 8.5 --This show may have some minor flaws, but is overall an engaging and enjoyable series.
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