Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Oct 7, 2003 to Mar 30, 2004
25 min. per episode
R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
L represents licensing company
Score: 8.011 (scored by 31445 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
action adventure drama sci-fi
SynopsisAfter a tragic scene with the murder of his friends, Brandon Heat follows his only friend Harry McDowel into Millennion, the largest mafia syndicate. While Harry McDowel is striving for power, Brandon is only staying in Millennion to see the girl he loves whose custody was gained by the leader of Millennion, Big Daddy. But as the years pass and Brandon proves loyal to Millennion, Brandon learns the true purpose and passion of Millennion, and that's when true conflict arises.
Characters & Voice Actors
Director, Episode Director, Storyboard, Key Animation
Episode Director, Storyboard
Episode Director, Storyboard, Assistant Director
Boy, this sure was made by the creator of Trigun. That was one of the first observations I made while watching this anime, and it held true to the end. Many creators have some recurring styles and motifs shared between their works, and comparing it to such a well-known and well-loved classic has the capacity to be both good and bad. It certainly doesn't help that this was also adapted from a video game; game adaptations in general rarely fare well, and from what I've heard the original game itself was mediocre at best (I haven't played it though, so take that with a grain of salt). With such a strange, potentially disastrous production history I honestly didn't know what to expect going into this series. It's still very much its own thing, but its creative background is definitely notable enough to warrant mention. Don't make a drinking game out of the times I say "Trigun" or "video game" in this review, because it will kill you. Just wanted to get that out there.
Madhouse of the early 2000s wasn't as consistently solid a studio as they are now, and Gungrave is definitely a little rough around the edges. Nightow's character designs definitely give the show a distinct flavor, leaning more toward realism than Trigun but still retaining a tendency toward some weird proportions, with scraggly limbs, long faces and broad shoulders. Grave's design in particular looks like the unholy lovechild of Legato Bluesummers and Brilliant Dynamites Neon. It's a rough, harsh-looking series, nary a bishonen to be seen, and I think that's what they were going for. The style takes a little getting used to, and when the budget drops it can be hard to keep those designs appealing, but when the animation hits its stride it looks great. Of particular note is its use of lighting and lens distortions, which add a lot to some already incredibly tense moments. Like Black Lagoon, another famous gunfighting Madhouse series, the action scenes occasionally amount to the characters standing in one place shooting without worrying about getting shot, but thankfully this gets phased out in time for the climactic battles later on. The animation isn't great, but it's good. Let's leave it at that.
This series boasts a strong soundtrack that's largely comprised of vaguely Italian-sounding string and orchestra pieces with a little synth mixed in, generally sticking to the mafia motif while ranging in tone from warm and familial to cold and dangerous. There's some really good music here, but weirdly enough I think Gungrave is at its best when there's no music at all. This series thrives on quiet character moments, and some of its best scenes go by in complete silence. There are some exceptions, but on a whole the music for this series is at its best when it's either gentle and understated, diegetic (from a source that the characters themselves can hear, like a radio) or just not there at all. The soundtrack is still great, though, so you should definitely give it a listen if you ever get the chance.
The cast of this series is 99% populated by gruff old men, which means the Los Angeles pool of voice actors is perfect for the job. All the big boys are here: William Frederick Knight, Michael McConnohie, Beau Billingslea, the list keeps going. The Japanese dub was very good as well, but there's one actor in the dub who steals the show completely, and that is Tony Oliver as Harry. His Japanese seiyuu, Kenji Yamada, plays him as fairly laid-back, in control but unassuming. Tony Oliver, on the other hand, seems to understand the character much better, his voice always carries a twinge of aggression. Harry is a very ambitious character, someone who's always taking the initiative to get ahead, and Oliver captures that ambition with every word he speaks. Kirk Thornton, Steve Blum and a several others play their roles well, and Tom Wyner does a fantastic job as an older version of Harry in the second half of the show. As usual there are some awkward secondary characters here and there, but on a whole it's a laudable dub well worth listening to for Harry alone, though not quite good enough that I'd recommend it to dub haters.
While Trigun was well-known for its creative worldbuilding and grand concepts, the thing that really set it apart from the crowd was its strong beating heart, and the same can be said of Gungrave. Yes, there is technology that can revive the dead and create super-soldiers, not to mention a very well fleshed-out look at mafia operations and the underworld, but the thing that really holds this story together through it all is the concept of loyalty, and what it really means to betray someone. Millenion is held together by a cardinal rule known as the Code of Iron, which declares that all traitors to the organization, regardless of status or standing, receive an equal penalty: death. Such a code is simple in theory but exceedingly complex in practice, and the first half of the series, which follows Brandon and Harry's rise to power, takes full advantage of that ambiguity. Millenion's leader, Big Daddy, carries a lot of understandable guilt and self-doubt after dirtying his hands the way only a mafia boss could over the years, and the Code of Iron that forms the crux of his loyalty to those below him is how he comes to terms with it. The various members of Millenion, as well as several third-party characters, all have their own concept of loyalty, but it never becomes trite or stale the way shonen friendship speeches do.
That's not to say that the show is dour and political all the time, though, it's also very cool. The characters here all have ridiculous, over-the-top, completely badass names: Brandon Heat, Harry MacDowel, Balladbird Lee, Bear Walken, Cannon Vulcan, Laguna Glock, Blood War (no, seriously) and as yet another Trigun comparison there's even a character named Descartes. The mafia exploits are intriguing, the ways they make money and how they're integrated into the community is intricate and closely resembles how a real-life mafia would operate. Aside from the choreography hiccup I mentioned earlier, the battles are intense, imaginative in the different weapons and styles used but still very grounded and often telling us something meaningful about the characters involved without breaking suspension of disbelief... at least in the first half. Even when it gets really talky, Gungrave is never boring. This is a rare balance that keeps the show engaging if you don't want to think about it too hard, but there's still a lot of depth and subtlety to the characters here for those who want something more from their choice of entertainment.
The characterization, though, is definitely the meat of the story, and at the heart of it all are Brandon and Harry. Harry is ambitious to the point of ruthlessness, but his goals aren't without principles. His philosophy is that those with power are free not only to take what they want, but also to give it away, and while he's hardly a paragon of selflessness there's a lot more to his vision than pure egotism. He has a grand plan and believes what he's doing is for the best, which makes him extremely corruptible. Brandon is a much purer individual by contrast, and his goals are much simpler. He's quiet and unassuming (think "video game protagonist") but earnest and genuine. He just wants to live a happy life with his friends and loved ones, and if that means helping Harry climb the ladder then he'll become a mafia sweeper without hesitation, but he's also there to step in if his best friend strays too far off course. But of course, it's never that simple. As Brandon comes to love and respect Millenion's leader, Big Daddy, alongside his continuing relationship with his childhood friend Maria, it becomes clear that staying loyal to one might mean betraying another, and he has to come to terms with this in his own way. Several other side characters bring their own perspectives, but for the sake of brevity I'll not delve too far into them. Suffice it to say that the first half of Gungrave is one of the greatest betrayal stories in all of anime, right up there with Guts and Griffith. Now if only the story had a stronger sense of focus.
Once again following in the footsteps of Trigun, about halfway through Gungrave shifts its tone and focus dramatically and doesn't quite manage to tie up its loose ends. In the first half, a process known as necrolization is introduced that brings back the dead as super-soldiers. Okay, I could go with that, it's both necessary for Brandon to come back as Grave and a good way to fuel Harry's ambitions. In the second half, a new process is introduced that can transform living soldiers into mindless drones called Orgmen, as well as transforming their leaders into sentient monsters known as Superiors, and this is where it gets pretty ridiculous. Aside from a little added perspective to an already-peripheral "have I overstepped the boundaries laid down by god?" subplot, these elements serve next to no purpose and could easily have been written out completely with relative ease. Instead, it turns the show from grounded character drama to over-the-top action spectacle, and the show's video game roots start to rear their head. The Orgmen are video game mooks, and the Superiors are video game bosses, period. These fights are just there to be cool and action-packed, but that was never what Gungrave was really about.
Nightow is a creative man to a fault. He has a lot of grand, wonderful ideas but doesn't always know what to do with them. Maybe with more runtime or tighter writing it could have given meaning to the cacophony, but the world of Gungrave is a cluttered mess. Even in its stronger first half, the seeds of its oncoming problems were present--allusions to an unspecified war, Tomases from Trigun racing in the place of horses and some really outlandish technology make it clear just how little we know about the world of Gungrave, and it stays that way to the very end with disparate elements that really don't feel like they all belong in the same story. None of that, however, was as obnoxious as the inclusion of the Superiors, which took what could have been some of the most emotionally involving confrontations and made them... well, not bad, but they mostly didn't have nearly the impact they should have. It's hit-and-miss. In the last few episodes a rival faction comes pretty much out of nowhere just to make the ending fall into place. Thankfully, that very ending turns out to be the show's saving grace. It brings the story of Brandon and Harry full-circle in a way that's cathartic, completely justified and entirely satisfying.
I'm not sure whether I can truly call Gungrave "great" or not, but there's certainly a lot of greatness in it. The plot goes some weird and unnecessary places, and like Harry himself it becomes something of a victim of its own ambition, but the parts of it that shine through are truly fantastic. The humanity of its cast and the sincerity at its heart--not to mention a damn near perfect ending--are more than enough to blow past its flaws, and I warmly recommend it. read more
Based on the cult PS2 title by SEGA and Red Entertainment, this anime is an alternate retelling of that respective title which I own a copy of, and you can get it for like $5 at Game Stop. The anime tells the origin story of the main character, Brandon Heat, who is later re-named Beyond the Grave, and his best friend, Harry MacDowell. The organization of the presentation of the story feels as if it was perfectly structured as a 3-act play, each with its own unique theme and gimmick. Act 1 you can label as a story about rags to riches in which Harry and Brandon are teenage small timers just trying to survive. Act 2 is about how the duo is trying to establish themselves, and make it to the top of the mafia. And Act 3 is an epic conclusion about betrayal and redemption, which speaks for itself. But throughout the duration of the anime, the idea of family and loyalty will always be a consistent theme.
Even though it’s centered primarily around two characters, I felt a good majority of the characters had their own unique presence and contribution, and really made the themes and messages felt realistic and powerful.
What of course also stands out is Brandon’s characterization that comes across as cliché. In the original game, Brandon never speaks, and the anime is very true to this for the most part. Brandon is still quiet in nature, but with little words he says, it still gives a lot of what goes on inside his mind (of course through narration) and you truly see him start from being an innocent boy, to a contemplative man but yet still maintains his unique surface qualities of being quiet, but yet shows enough emotion to give the audience an idea of what goes on through his mind and find a way to relate to him.
And of course another feature with this whole mafia gig are the weird sci-fi elements. I felt it wasn’t really forced in a way that having sci-fi traits seemed out of place. But the nature of the sci-fi is what makes it bizarre, but yet unique and original. I don’t want to get into the details of that since I would also have to reveal spoilers, but it does add a unique kind of flavor that doesn’t turn you off from the series. The sci-fi part is properly introduced but I felt that the setting such as how far in the future it takes place which will be revealed which will conveniently make sense to make it work. Granted the anime will reveal what year in some parts it takes place in that will make it feel like it makes sense, but I think the anime should have established it from the start, and not 2/3 into it.
What also attracted me to Gungrave was the fact that Nightow Yasuhiro, the creator of Trigun, was the creator of this product as well. Obviously, some elements from Trigun are in this anime as well. Such as the design of Brandon’s guns are quite similar to Vash’s, and Brandon’s coffin gun is of course influenced by Wolfwood’s cross gun. But despite having the same creator, there are some distinguishing differences as well.
In Trigun, Nightow-sensei’s style was more kid friendly and generic, while in Gungrave, his style for the character designs are more edgy and mature which perfectly suits the nature of the story. For the most part, despite the time the anime takes place in, the architecture is quite modern. Though as the series progresses, there are vehicular designs that appropriately reflect the scientific and futuristic elements this anime has. And of course, I like how the anime approaches the aging of the characters throughout the duration of this anime, which I can’t ignore. It does it pretty effectively.
And before I get into the action, I’d like to talk about Brandon’s costume design. I must say it is pretty bizarre, but hey, in his situation by then, what the hell, huh? I think it’s still pretty cool, and really matches his artillery in a complimentary way in that sense, I guess. The action is pretty intense as well. For the most part, it’s just gun violence that does get pretty brutal, and does have some martial arts action as well that isn’t really exaggerated until things start to change into the sci-fi part. If you’ve seen Trigun, then you know what to somewhat expect, but this time, the main character will kill.
Even though I always associate Imahori Tsuneo’s name with his use of guitars, which was prevalent in Hajime no Ippo and Trigun, but hearing the way he composes this anime totally changed my opinion of his talent. The guy knows how to create an appropriate atmosphere with the elements this anime has with a sad blues and jazz kind of feel. Along with the presentation of the animation, I thought his music also brought a noir feature this anime has on all acts in this anime whether in the mafia or sci-fi moments so his presence brought an overall appropriate touch to virtually all scenes that had music.
The voice acting in the Japanese version I thought brought the noir feel to the anime as well, and utilizes most of the voice talent from the original game which was in Japanese. I tried watching the English dub, but it didn’t give me what I was feeling in the Japanese version. Personally, I feel overall the dub isn’t worth watching since there was no dub in the game to begin with to give me some expectation of how it could work. If you’re the kind of person that prefers dubs at whatever levels, I still say it’s good enough for you. But if you’re someone who prefers straight up Japanese no matter how good or bad a dub is, I felt the portrayals in Japanese were best. I felt watching it in English just didn’t have the same level of seriousness that the Japanese had and kind of felt more like a dark comedy, which I feel Gungrave isn’t. I really like how in the Japanese version, which was also done in the English version was how they did Harry’s voice throughout the duration it takes place in. In his younger years, he has a voice where he sound really easy going and sarcastic like Spike from Cowboy Bebop, but when he’s old, he’s as evil as Mori in Flame of Recca. And Brandon was appropriately played by a big favorite of mine as you all know, Seki Tomokazu, who is no stranger to playing quiet and somewhat isolated characters such as Miyata in Hajime no Ippo.
Well, all I can say is if I had to put this anime in a nut shell: try to mix Scarface, The Godfather, Versus, the Yakuza PS2 games, Skullman, Cowboy Bebop and Trigun, then you got this anime. Speaking of Versus, I can actually imagine Kitamura Ryuuhei doing a live action version of this movie, and I could imagine the leading role from that movie playing Brandon. I say anybody who likes those animes, games, or movies individually will certainly enjoy Gungrave and you don’t have to be a fan of all of them just to watch it. Heck, anime fans in general who have no experience with what I described or even the original game despite some significant changes will probably love it. As you can tell from this review, I think it tells an excellent story with characters and themes we can all relate to despite its edgy underworld setting.
Both shows begin in a very similar manner, with teaser first episodes where monsters exist. Then, they jump into lengthy flashback arcs where there aren't monsters and political/gangster intrigue is focused on. Characterisation heavy excellence.
The similarities don't end there: the most obvious similarity between the two is the way two best friends' relationship worsens over the course of the story until the best of friends become the worst of enemies. Protagonists become antagonists.
While not identical (Berserk is set during medieval times, where as Gungrave is about gangsters), the core themes are definitely similar enough for fans of one to like the other. Just don't expect any relationship damage repairing in Berserk: love turns to hate and it ain't turning back anytime soon!
Guts and Griffith share a similar relationship to that of Brandon and Harry.
Both are dealing with friendship and betrayal
Both have friendship and betrayal as their main themes.
Both of them have similar themes, but the only difference between them is the the setting of the story.
They have very similar plots and characters, although Gungrave has a less open ending.
Story-wise these two are quite similar, but have a different setting. Whereas Berserk is set in a medieval world, Gungrave is more of a post-modern sci-fi. And in contrast to Berserk, Gungrave continues it's story where berserk ended it, giving it more closure and makes it a more rewarding watch. It also offers a better soundtrack. In my opinion, though, Berserk is still a better anime due to it's amazing characters, but if you've enjoyed Gungrave, chances are you will enjoy Berserk, as well.
It starts off in a similar matter, with the end of the show starting first. Basically, it has a deep, fulfilling and great story that Anyone can enjoy.
both main characters were betrayed by people or person they called friend/s. being vague to not give to much away.
Both seires have the same feeling starting out normal and then spinning out of control. the plots are remarkably similar with just the difference of mediavla times verses modern times. The main characters are motivated by similar goals and so are the villians. In short, Gungrave is basically like a modern times berserk but with a little less gore and a complete ending.
The main character in both has a very strong bond with another male. Though in each pair the friendship is shared, one of them still feels more important. The supporting character in each also has what seems like impossible dreams. Though the environments share absolutely nothing in common, the story lines follow a similar path, including the way the story is told, with both animes being nearly entirely flashbacks.
In both series, the backgrounds of violence, betrayal, murder, loyalty, and other mature themes are explored. They have a deep plot with two main characters who makes up an interesting story throughout each episode. As such, friendship also plays a prominent role in both series.
It becomes complicated as their royalty and friendship are tested. It flows well and shows how much these two develops over time.
Both series also contains action, drama, and a dark atmosphere.
Similar in the sense that one of the main drives of the both series is the deteriorating friendship of two friends. Both are great in their own way,but in my opinion Gungrave has the better ending.
Story about trust to betrayal and glory to tragedy with fleshed out characters.
The art is similar (from the same creator so what would you expect?), the story concept has some bridges. Above all.... COOL GUNS EVERYWHERE!
The Gungrave game's story, in which the anime'ss story is based, was written by the author of Trigun. They have similar pace and themes.
I think both were developed by the same people and this would make sense because they are very similar in style to each other. Trigun is less gory and violent but still very good. Both have a great storyline, higly developed emotional characters, and action packed gun fights. I higly recomend if you enjoyed gungrave to check out trigun you will like it.
This both are about guns. The different is that GunGrave is more serious. Trigun is more funny.
Both characters are excellent gunsmen and are portrayed as such throughout their animes, both in their former life. Grave is more on a revenge trip than Vash though and definitely won't hesitate to kill... most of the time. I think Gungrave is a little darker then Trigun but give it a try if you enjoyed Trigun.
While Trigun is filled with comedy and action, anyone with a brain can see the serious undertone of the series, especially in the second half. Gungrave lacks the comedy that was found in Trigun, but the emotional ride is just as good, if not better. Not to mention, the final episode of Gungrave is quite possibly one of the best endings of an anime I have ever seen.
similar storylines of redemption, gungrave is a bit darker. both have a similar badass feel where it counts, especially gungrave. if you want the lighter side of things go for trigun
A more serious and darker version of Trigun, and has one of the best story development ever.
First thing when i watch Trigun, it reminded me of Gungrave..
both were made by the same creator and have similar story lines(in a way),
plus they both have lots of fighting and guns
Opening Theme"Family" by Tsuneo Imahori
Ending Theme"Akaneiroga Moerutoki" by Scoobie Do
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