Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Oct 7, 2003 to Mar 30, 2004
Duration: 25 min. per episode
Rating: R - 17+ (violence & profanity)L represents licensing company
Score: 8.041 (scored by 26603 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top anime page.
Popular Tagsaction adventure drama sci-fi
Mar 20, 2013
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
Feb 23, 2009
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.
Nov 8, 2007
While the action in the show is plentiful and exhilarating, the action is not the be all and end all for this show. The story is deep and touching. Love, hate, greed, betrayal, it's all there. You will see the entirety of these men's lives from beginning to end. You watch as they go from nobody street thugs to top dogs. And let me tell you the ending is wonderful. When I say that, I don't mean it's a happy ending, because it isn't. It brings closure. No cliff-hanger. No ending that leaves you with nagging questions of "what just happened?" The ending was so good that I must admit, I did cry a little. Yeah, I know, I'm a guy and I cried.
It's hard to convey the greatness and epic-ness of this anime without telling you too much, so just watch it. You won't be disappointed. read more
Oct 13, 2008
Let me start out by saying this......I'm not into this type of show. I love shoujo anime [and now manga], I also like shounen-ai stuff and I'd say it's pretty much guaranteed that I'll watch just about anything with bishounen. So if someone were to tell me about this show, Gungrave and all I had was his word-of-mouth to go on then I wouldn't have bothered watching it. The only reason I watched it was because they used to play it on Tech TV [now G4] back when they used to be a cool TV station and they played anime on the weekends @ midnight. I remember they used to play Gad Guard and this other show, Gungrave. Frankly, I was mesmerized by this show...simply because this story was that good. It had me hooked and I watched it religiously every weekend but I never got to see the ending so I bought the series and even one of those giant wall scroll posters, I loved the show that much......this coming from a person that's a self professed yaoi fan-freak that mainly watches shounen-ai and all other shoujo-type anime. So if I can like this show, I don't see how anyone else can't. What's not to like?
I liked the art in general, but I had issues with the overall character design. The guys' bodies were too big, they're always too big...so big that it seems disproportionate to their heads. Big arms, big shoulders, big chests, big ripped abs, stick legs and tiny head. And I'm not talking about the orc-men or whatever they were called no, this is Brandon, this is Harry, this is Blood War, Bungee and the rest. This happens all the time, not only within this series Gungrave—no—this is somewhat of a phenomenon occurring with all of shounen anime in general. But speaking of the orc-men mutants, how is it that they can get all big and mutated, bust out of their shirts bust out of their shoes.....but the pants and belts stay in tact, WTF!!! Other than that I had no issues.
The art was definitely shounen with all the bold, heavy lines and bulky silhouettes but even so there was this hint of a more grown-up aesthetic to the art that speaks out....”This ain't no little boys' cartoon.”
This is one of those shows that will always hold an indelible spot in my mind because of the music they used for the OP and ED. The OP theme is a melody aptly named “The Family”. There's no singing, it's just a jazz-like piece on keyboard [I think] but either way it's very cool sounding and mellow. I also liked the OP sequence that went with it; the gritty filmstrip effect used for the flashback to the days when Harry and Brandon were young but you also say elements to their dark side in the OP as well.
The ED I liked strictly for nostalgic reasons. I wouldn't say it's a spectacular song but it suits the show nonetheless and with the ED sequence with Harry and Brandon running towards the sunset......well, that speaks volumes [since nothing anime is coincidental, they have to plan it before they draw it].
The show was watched in English and they did one helluva job!
The only term I can think of for this show is.....badass! But not just badass, It's Tarantino badass. Scorsese badass! It's a little bit Good Fellas, a little bit Reservoir Dogs, a little bit God-Father. Some people may not see it as such because of the zombies and mutants and whatever but that's only if you allow yourself to become distracted by that. I admit it's pretty hard to ignore a bloated 500 pound helicopter mutant zombie-dude firing skull faced torpedoes out of his big belly, but it's just a fight scene....and a fight scene is just a fight scene. Just like when Uma Thurman went ballistic with her sword against Go-Go Yubari, Lucy Liu and the rest of the Krazy 88 gang in Kill Bill, awesome as it was it was just a fight scene.
The real art is in the storytelling and the flow of the narration. Gungrave starts in the middle, rewinds to the start of everything then goes back to the middle of the action and ends at the climax. It's not nearly as confusing as it sounds, Pulp Fiction was more confusing. With Gungrave, the story may have also been out of sequence but it was very easy to follow. One of the main reasons for it being easy to follow was that it was told from mainly one perspective which was that of Brandon Heat—the main character. Mika, another main character that really doesn't show up till the 2nd half, does the introduction as well as the narration for the latter part of the series.
Brandon Heat is supposed to be all cool with his badass big machine guns a blazing and eye-patch and killer cosplay outfit but the truth is you can't help but feel sympathetic towards the guy. It's like you feel protected with him next to you with his cold stare, quick moves and big guns but also you get the sense that he's this really meek and sensitive guy that's really the one that needs protecting. You just want to reach out and hold him and tell him everything is going to be OK.........well, I guess you can't if you're another guy, but you get the idea. Tho I don't think he's the type to care if the guy is Harry or even Big Daddy....ha-ha, that's the crazy fangirl in me coming out. Not that it would require a great stretch of the imagination, mind you, the devotion Brandon has for Harry [and vice-versa] is pretty legendary.
Harry is as beautiful as Brandon is profound. Harry dazzles with high-wattage smiles, designer suits and fast cars. I love his dark hair, piercing blue eyes and square jawline, the man is a shark....a very beautiful and deadly shark. He's no doubt a ladies-man, but say what you will....a piece of his heart belonged to Brandon, and that's why they held so much sway over each other. I call this “The Straight-Guy Crush Syndrome” it's a phenomenon where two dudes, even tho they are not gay, they kind of hold the other guy's balls in their hands due to unforeseeable emotional reasons, making each guy...the other guy's bitch. That's the long and short of it. Harry and Brandon's relationship with each other.
Gungrave also has one helluva supporting cast, take your pick, there's bound to be a favorite for you in there.
Worth it or NOT?
It goes without saying, if you don't already own it....go out and buy it! If you liked Bebop then you'll like this one too and if you didn't like Bebop.....well, I don't wanna know you! read more
May 26, 2008
The story gets more interesting as the show goes on and the storytelling itself becomes better executed as well. The heart of the story here is really about loyalty and friendship and how those ideas actually manifest in real action and real practice in the gritty, dirty lives of people just trying to survive. In a odd way, I feel like you could even make an argument about how this is a microcosm for civilization (but I won't take it that far here -- lucky you! ;D ).
There's an... interesting sci-fi-ish bent to the story that adds something interesting to the story, but at the same time creates all this extra fuss that I don't think was strictly necessary. But it's probably gravy if you like that sort of thing and easily overlooked if you don't.
The art was fine -- not necessarily quite my style, but fine overall. It sort of worked for the nature of the story, I thought. A style that was overly polished or glossy wouldn't have worked with the tone and atmosphere. And I thought the action sequences were pretty well put together.
The music gets a bunch of attention from some people. I thought it was okay: probably just slightly better than average. I liked the way it sounded and I thought it was well used. It just wasn't brilliant. I think if you landed here because you were told that the music here was like Cowboy Bebop's, it's a little disappointing. I also think that if you're not actively comparing them and you're just watching Gungrave on it's own merits, it's good enough.
The characters were definitely interesting. The primary focus being Brandon Heat and his relationship with Harry McDowel. ...It's hard to figure out what to say without giving the storyline away. I will say that I think that there's a surprising simplicity to the characters -- despite the twists and turns of their interactions and their relationships. In a way, I think you can argue that you can boil down a bunch of the major characters into short, concise phrases. And I like that in this context. It seemed convincing in a way, because I kind of think that when you're struggling for everything, you end up focused on a few things and complexity is kind of a luxury that they couldn't really afford.
Overall, I enjoyed the second half considerably more than the first half. I thought that everything after the clear turning point of the story (you'll know what I mean if you've seen it) was a clear step better than anything before it. I particularly enjoyed the end, I thought that was a neat way of conveying what they wanted to convey without getting melodramatic. I do think that if you enjoyed Cowboy Bebop, you'd probably enjoy this too -- despite the differences; they're similar in very broad strokes. read more
Dec 2, 2007
Important note: you MUST watch past the first episode, and if you do, you will be sucked in!!
The story is amazing. It focuses around the themes of betrayal, loyalty, and brotherhood. Minor themes include coming of age, and love. The fights are great. If the synopsis of the anime does not sound appealing, you still have to watch it because the story is SO much more and is impossible to put into a short paragraph. In short: what would you do if your best friend killed you?
The art is quite good. I really like anime art when it goes away from the conventional eyes and chibiness. The art fit the story well, and people were more realistic. The fight scenes were brilliantly animated.
The OST is great for the anime. The style is somewhat jazzy, and fits in with the intensity of the storyline. The OP is special and it has no words, which is rare in today's more recent anime. However, this creates a great mood for the amazing rollercoaster coming up.
This anime is extremely enjoyable, and you will get hooked till the end!!
(just dont be thrown off by the first episode)
enjoy =D for i know i did immensely. read more
Feb 10, 2008
Feb 25, 2008
I agree with the other reviewers. Seriously, what were they thinking with the first episode? They just recap t later on, so you could probably skip it and still be able to follow the story. The rest of the episodes pick it up a notch so much that you wonder if the same people wrote the first episode.
This was an excellent anime dealing with mafia-like syndicates and brotherly friendship. I dont want to spoil it, but it is emotionally moving and really made me cry toward the end. Not many other anime capture the friendship of a best friend as well as Gungrave has done. Despite Brandon's almost excessively quiet character, I still thought he was one of the best characters ever. Do yourself a favor and watch this now. read more
Jul 8, 2008
Story- The words to describe how I feel about the story don't exist yes it was that unbelievable. It is so absolutely perfect there are such few holes in the storyline as to why anything is happening or what caused a certain person to end up a certain way to the point where I was impressed.
Art- Okay the art wasn't perfect but it was pretty dang good considering when this anime was made. The animation was sometimes shoddy but one thing I noticed was that the bullet firing shell drop ratio was perfect (this impresses me so much).
Sound- Sound was good the only bad part was that I couldn't stand it when characters cried (it wasn't in a bad way though I mean it was tear jerking when they cried sometimes) the only real complaint I had about sound was that I sometimes felt a sound wasn't right to the situation.
Character- Character development was flawless in order to understand what I mean watch it and you'll agree.
Enjoyment- I enjoyed this anime because it took me for a lot of twist and turns and heart tugging moments. The overtones of vengeance, trust and friendship were to die for. read more
Jan 25, 2007
Sep 20, 2013
Let me back up and start from episode 2. Gungrave is a gritty crime story about two lovers I mean friends, Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowel, working their way up to the top of the crime syndicate Millennion (the N at the end is how it’s actually spelt, don’t ask). The story mostly follows Harry and his rise to power, making friends and enemies, tracking his tale from the height and back down again. You may have heard from other places that Brandon is the main character, and this is true only in the fact that the camera spends most of its time on Brandon. It’s not actually his story, because it’s hard to have a story about a person who has all the personality and speaking skills of a tub of lard who can shoot people.
It started to get really silly sometimes how utterly stoic Brandon was. It reminded me of silent video game protagonists. Other people would monologue at Brandon about how great he was and how much he must love Harry, then pause for a few seconds waiting for Brandon to respond before going “don’t talk much do you”. It got particularly bizarre when they started ascribing character traits to Brandon that I never saw him portray. All he does is shoot people and stand still. It felt like I was playing Half-Life 2 again where Gordon Freeman somehow becomes bearded Jesus without ever saying anything, except Brandon didn’t jump on tables while people were talking to him.
The story shares a few more similarities with Berserk with the how the burning ambition drives the two characters until things start to get strained (or at least that’s what drove Harry. Brandon was just dragged along like one of those cans on a string tied to a bumper of a Just Married car). I’m going to keep away from spoiling the big twist, although between the first episode and the fact characters keep going “GOSH I SURE HOPE X DOESN’T HAPPEN”, they did a mighty fine job of spoiling it themselves. There’s a fine line between foreshadowing and spoiling and Gungrave passes that line, then sprints away from that line, jumps inside a harrier jet and then flies several continents away from that line.
What’s strange is the thing the show doesn’t spoil is the completely ridiculous introduction of zombies. Out of nowhere, the show turns from gritty realistic crime story to nonsense sci-fi action. They are poorly explained, poorly justified, take up approximately half of the show, could have been removed from the show completely without harming anything, and make the whole thing difficult to take seriously when previously serious characters start sprouting helicopter blades out of their back. The entire arc is a nice 101 lesson in bad writing. What infuriates me the most is there was no effort to explain any of the zombie science. If you’re going to crowbar this nonsense plot thread, at least put some effort into it.
The writing in general is not very good. Between the crowbarred in zombies being terribly explained, characters monologuing at Brandon as though he’ll ever respond, a lots of general other clichés thrown in, it feels like a first draft rather than a finished product. My personal favourite font of bad writing was the scientist dude, whose every line was solid gold. What I loved was nobody seemed to pay any attention during his monologues, with even the chattiest characters turning to Brandon-levels of indifference whenever he started spouting his nonsense about how he must atone for his evil and how he’s going to hell. “I DO NOT DESERVE A NAME, CALL ME N FOR THERE ARE NO NAMES IN HELL”, an instruction I believe nobody ever listened to.
Equally bad but less funny was how the show completely rewrote the history of Big Daddy and Millennion towards the end of the show. Big Daddy was the boss of Millennion (I thought Big Daddy was a title, but even his wife called him that so I eventually figured that his name probably was Big Daddy, son of Mr and Mrs Daddy) and was generally all the things you would imagine the boss of a crime syndicate to be. By the end though he became this mythological figure who created Millennion for Good and Righteousness. Bear in mind that Millennion is a crime syndicate. Bribery, robbery, extortion, assassinations, threats, everything was run by Big Daddy. I started to agree with the character who was calling out that bullshit at the time when we were supposed to be the most against him, which undermined the entire story quite a lot.
At the core of Gungrave there is a fantastic story. At the key moments of Harry and Brandon’s arc…well, OK just Harry’s arc, it does a fantastic job of emphasising their relationship and how Harry got to the position he’s in. The ending in particular is so wonderfully done, far beyond what anything else in the show managed to achieve. A lot of people hold up Gungrave as some sort of beloved classic of the early 00′s, and if it has been over 5 years since you’ve seen it, I can see why you might think that. With enough time all you can remember is the core story of Harry and that ending left nice warm fuzzies. But if those people went back to it today, I can imagine there would be more than a few heartbroken anime fans realising that reality doesn’t live up to their nostalgia. read more
Nov 15, 2011
The one thing I didn't like was how short the series was and how most of the episodes were of how Brandon became Gungrave. Not that I'm complaining but, that combined with the shortness of the series gave the whole thing a feeling of being rushed. The series could have easily made it past thirty episodes with just a bit of effort.
The characters were somewhat original and not cookie-cut like so many other animes. They were more emotional than others without going overboard and left you guessing at some of their motives until the very end.
The sound was one of the things I didn't like at all. The action sounds were very loud but the conversations had to be turned up in order to hear them well at all (leaving you to jump when the guns started firing). While I understand that gunshots are significantly louder than speech, this is an anime and I'm sure the viewers don't want to wet themselves every time the guns started firing unexpectedly.
*MAJOR SPOILER ALERT* The one thing I really didn't was the ending. I'm not sure if it's because the Japanese prefer a different kind of ending to people in the Western Hemisphere or if it's just me but, so-so endings just don't cut it for me. Brandon in the end chose his friend over Millenion and was more than likely turned to dust. What also didn't make much sense was him saying he'd be Mika's guardian and then keeling over like he did. While Mika was obviously going to be taken care of physically, she had lost everyone that was important her. Had at least Brandon survived, she would have had someone. *MAJOR SPOILER ALERT*
When creating an anime, it's important to get the ending just right, the best way to go is of course with a happy ending (sad endings can work as well when done properly); the bad guy is dead or in jail for the rest of his life and the hero gets to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. So-so endings are incredibly difficult to pull off and it's obvious that Gungrave failed it's attempt at a melancholy ending. read more
Nov 7, 2011
Eventually Brandon and Harry join as underlings and the story takes a more mob centered turn that keeps the story very exciting. We see Harry's ambition along with what drives Brandon and how each character evolves throughout the story. Again, no one is truly good or evil here as they all do what they feel is right by themselves and each other.
Now let me get into one disappointing aspect of this anime. The Scifi zombie crap. Seriously, this story did not need it. Sometimes I think animes can go overboard on the story simply because they can draw out the scenes. Why do we need zombie fighters with guns? Why do we need this whole research facility storyline? I just don't get it. here we have this touching gangster's paradise, with outstanding characters with depth, a mob organization, a tale of friendship and betrayal, love, losing love, redemption, struggle for survival then the creators go 'You what else we need? Zombie mutants with guns!"
Now I purposely stated at the beginning of my review that the story begins with Brandon, Harry, and their friends, because too me, that is where Gungrave truly begins. Technically it begins with zombie fighters with guns for a brief episode. But the entire anime is primarily what I focused on in my review. Of course sometime near the middle of the show the writers try to squeeze the zombie science crap back into the story by introducing two worthless characters no one cares about, blood war and Balladbird lee's brother, they try to make us care about them with their little back story but whatever, they were obvious plot devices because the creators thought "Oh crap this great gangster story is taking over the whole show, but we started off with this Scifi idea, so we have to figure out a way to get back to it." geez, how about get rid off the stupid zombie scifi idea instead of trying to merge the two.
When I think about it, they could have gotten rid of the zombie scifi deal and still kept the story pretty much the same, the conflict with Harry and Brandon could have been the same, just done a little differently. Of course the story kept its great and complex development of the characters but the zombie gun fighter, research crap portions of the storyline is what kept it from being a masterpiece. read more
Mar 26, 2011
I still think this anime should be ranked higher than what it is. But never mind about that, let’s continue with the review.
“After 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.” – MAL
I think MAL’s synopsis sums it up and it’s what attracted me to watching the anime. But for those who still want to know more about the anime before you watch, continue reading. I have tried my best to not mention any spoilers.
“There is something you must never do in Millenion and that is to betray.”
Although some aspects of the story can be anticipated, I found myself enjoying it regardless. The genre of the anime is a hybrid of action and sci-fi and themes such as betrayal, friendship, revenge and protecting a loved one are displayed throughout the anime. Even though this seems to be a common element in most anime, Gungrave executed it perfectly. The narrative of the story at the start seems quite slow paced and most of the actual storyline consists of a flashback of when Harry and Brandon were just hooligans. The flashback explains the reasons of why the two joined Millenion and how they came to know Big Daddy, the boss of the organisation. Coming out of the flashback, the audience follows Beyond the Grave, Brandon’s counter-part, attempting to get revenge on the current Millenion while protecting a girl named Mika.
Brandon Heat is a character that breaks the conventions of main protagonists, this is because he possesses strength and skill but is a quiet and reserved person. On the other hand, like main protagonists he protects the people close to him. Harry MacDowel, Brandon’s closest friend, is someone who wants to make it big in the shortest amount of time, his strength is his intelligence and he is the initial character that led Brandon to follow the organisation. Although, they are the two main characters, there are a range of other characters such as Maria Asagi, Brandon’s love and Big Daddy, the leader of the organisation who becomes someone dear and irreplaceable to Brandon that progress the narrative. Bob Pundmax, Balladbird Lee and Kugashira Bunji are characters who are new to the organisation like Brandon and Harry and follow them to make it huge.
Not a lot I can say about the art. The art compliments the narrative and is suitable for what is portrayed in the anime. I would recommend you watch this anime in good quality (it’s quite difficult to find HQ for this anime though)
The opening is an instrumental which resembles the Cowboy Bebop opening, it’s not that long either. The ending is nice and after a while the beginning of the music will remain in your head. There were no problems with dialogues and there wasn’t any unnecessary conversations (so most of it is important, make sure you listen) and finally sound effects only consisted of what is required.
I’ve seen the anime twice and there wasn’t a time where I was bored. The anime is something different to what I have seen and although there are a couple anime which resemble Gungrave such as Berserk, I still thought the concept was brilliant.
A must watch.
Jan 4, 2009
Mar 18, 2008
Jan 4, 2010
Pros: Strongly portrayed emotions
A plethora of developed, unique, and interesting characters.
"Realistic" action compared with other action animes. (aka thousands of rounds are not dodged and there are no 10 minute conversation breaks during fights; the action is sweet and to the point"
Cons: The show seemed to lose its steam and its utter captivation of me towards the ending episodes.
The long flash back and the main storyline are basically completely different styles of anime and may not be everyone's cup of tea.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed Gungrave and recommend it highly. It strays away from other anime I've seen and plays more like a movie than a Japanese imagination fest. read more
Jul 1, 2010
oh come on, 5 years old kid could come up with better names. Shortly this anime is crap and looks like amateur work. Only thing I liked about it, was final episode wich was pretty touching.
Jul 30, 2011
I came to view this anime as “Berserk meets Scarface and The Crow in Racoon City”. You have the plot unraveling by starting in the present, then going for a long flashback showing how two gangsters and best buddies turned to mortal enemies, and then the anime returns to the present to show their final showdown. Oh, and here there be zombies… named orcs. WUT???
Anyways, the show was very good as long as it was about the interaction of the main characters in the past. Harry and Brandon (as in Brandon Li of The Crow?) show the way all gangsters follow, beginning as urchins, then slowly becoming more and more powerful criminals and eventually getting consumed by jealousy and hatred for one another, losing trust and consuming themselves in power struggles. And yes there are women being the cause of most problems as always. Thus the prequel part is an almost realistic gangster film ala Copola style. NOT ala Tarantino as the cover art or the game may have made you think it was. There hardly is exciting action here and all the focus is given to drama and character development, which is of course plain awesome.
Unfortunately the show eventually goes for more action and fantasy and out of nowhere comes a new science that turns the dead to mindless fighters named orcs (well, actually it is orgmen but they could just as well named them zombies). From hereon the show loses a lot of the realism and character focus and becomes a lot more one-of-the-same slugfests we watch while eating pop corn. As soon as the plot returns to the present of the first episode, Brandon turns to an undead superman and swears to avenge Harry even beyond the grave. And Harry has turned to a megalomaniac supermind criminal with his own army of mass produced monsters, sending them after him. BAM BAM DIE MONSTER AAARGHHH!
It could still be highly entertaining if the action scenes had amazing choreography but overall the whole series is rather weak in this regard. Brandon is simply unbeatable and the enemies he is facing are dumb monsters with zero personality who vaporize after being defeated. That is NOT exciting. At the same time it is not exactly boring either as he still goes to confront people he was a friend (or more) while still alive (if you consider he is not alive now, despite kicking ass of hundreds of monsters) and it is both tragic and ironic to see how they all react to seeing him again like this. It still saves face in this regard, although as I said Brandon is still unbeatable no matter what and that takes away a lot of the drama. He wasn’t like that while he was a normal guy in the flashback.
Eventually there is a major showdown in the finale and most of the characters eventually die during the havoc, proving the futility of spending your life in violence just for money and power. Easy come easy go, as they say. The finale is a very powerful one and again manages to win even your final impressions and again you go WOOT I GOTTA INCREASE MY SCORE AGAIN while completely forgetting all those mediocre monster busting episodes mid-way. Boy does this series knows how to mess with you.
Another good thing is how the anime goes for style but not for shallow entertainment. You will definitely not gonna like it for its action and the coolest thing in it is Brandon looking all badass as BEYOND THE GRAVE. It is mostly good as a portrait of the glamour of the life gangsters have, as they start from street punks and eventually become godfathers who control nations. Even the music is quite easy going, some sort of lounge music that aims to keep you calm and perhaps unaware of the tragedy that roams in the future, thus again cleverly maintains your inability to foresee what is coming up.
In all it is a very good show if you keep your disbelief mode open when the sci-fi kicks in. The middle part of the series is definitely the weakest for not focusing much on its characters and just goes for mediocre slugfests. And I could really do without those ridiculous zombie armies. Although I did enjoy it I still didn’t FULLY enjoyed it because of the above. I even felt it mixed more elements than it could handle in the first place. The Crow is definitely more memorable for being more simple, as so is Scarface and Resident Evil. As for Berserk, well, that is a cult and simply put Brandon and Harry pale before the GAR of Guts and Griffith. read more
May 15, 2010