It is a harsh and barren wasteland, where the weak aren't allowed to dream. It is also a sacred land for true men, for there is no place a man can feel more alive. This is the Gun Frontier. Sea Pirate Captain Harlock and the errant samurai, Tochiro arrive in the United States on the Western Frontier. Along with a mysterious woman they meet along the way, the two friends challenge sex rings, bandits, and corrupt sheriff. They are searching for a lost clan of Japanese immigrants, and they will tear Gun Frontier from end to end until they find it.
It’s Open Mic Night at the local Improv club and you’re lucky enough to claim a ticket. From your front-row seat, you’re able to witness an A-list collection of veteran comedians perfecting their craft. With boundless joy, you watch as the masters of the tickled rib take turns revealing raunchy anecdotes of their sex lives, exchanging verbal blows among each other, perform exaggerated impersonations of pop culture figureheads, and playfully poke fun at our society’s downward spiral. After a solid three hours of this, the audience, now finished raucously applauding for a particularly hysterical skit, quietly anticipates the next humorist to appear on-stage, the last
of the night. “Surely,” they collectively think, “this guy’s gonna be the funniest one of them all.” The comedian confidently saunters to the microphone and bellows, “I was going to hang out at my girlfriend’s house yesterday so I walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. There was this sound of a cow mooing coming from the doorbell. Get it? It’s a cowbell! Am I hilarious or what?”
That, my friend, is Gun Frontier in comparison to every other anime series.
It is the Tootsie Roll at the bottom of the Halloween bag.
It is the pair of headphones that only plays audio in one ear.
It is the definition of weak sauce.
By any rating scale or statistical calculation, Gun Frontier comes up short in every category but if there’s one area where the show performs the worst, it has to be in comedy. See, humor is normally derived from an interesting observation of a regular occurrence or it’s doing something that’s completely outside the norm in a bizarre fashion. That said, Gun Frontier doesn’t have a single funny bone in its body. It wouldn’t recognize a joke if it was slapped in the face by one. For irrefutable evidence, I give you Tochiro. With Derek Stephen Prince providing an obnoxious, irritatingly high-pitched whine for the character’s voice, Tochiro, the bespectacled midget with dental problems, is pegged as the show’s “comic relief” in his roles as the sidekick but it wasn’t long before I realized Tochiro was intended to be the protagonist. As Gun Frontier’s story unveils, Tochiro practically screams every line with an overwhelming air of “I’m hilarious and you’re supposed to laugh at what I say”; he spouts such “amusing” lines like these:
Tochiro: “Handsome men die alone. That’s just the way it is.”
Bmoore07: (nervously laughing) Ummmmm…. OK. Any other valuable gems you’d like to share?
Tochiro: “The desire to relieve myself is getting quite pressing!”
As if Gun Frontier’s feeble attempts at humor weren’t already cringe-worthy, the show decides to expose the audience to potty jokes. That’s right; Gun Frontier presents the lowest level of comedy in order to convince people to laugh. Look, if you want to insert a source of comic relief in your work, you don’t pick a petulant, self-centered degenerate for the job, anyone but a whiny manchild that screams, “I wanna! I wanna!” in one of his many displays of immaturity. And that’s before mentioning the scene where Tochiro spots a woman, naked and obviously dead, hanging from a tree, and lusts over her. You can call Gun Frontier whatever you want; just don’t say it’s a comedy.
Thankfully, there are other characters in Gun Frontier besides Tochiro, like Harlock (yeah, THAT Harlock) and Sinunora. Touted by many as “the original Alex Row”, I of course held high hopes for Harlock but instead he followed the badass gunslinger archetype to a tee (Steve Blum, Harlock’s voice actor, performs admirably as he always does in roles like these, using his Spike Spiegel voice to perfection, but you wouldn’t exactly give any awards for this role). As for Sinunora, she’s without question the ultimate fanservice tool (Gurren Lagann’s Yoko Littner is a distant second); you’d be hard-pressed to find an episode where Sinunora isn’t willingly/forcibly undressing herself (Karen Strassman, an actress whom I’ve glowingly praised in multiple reviews, does the voice of Sinunora; she convincingly performs her role as a tortured seductress but you kinda wish Strassman’s efforts were applied in a quality show). Gun Frontier’s background characters aren’t any better. While the women, all sharing Sinunora’s design (tall, slender, big eyelashes), are easily aroused and disturbingly submissive, the men are morally corrupt scumbags (The overarching lesson of the I Spit on Your Grave franchise applies here: every person with a penis is a raging pervert).
For some time now, Idea Factory has been labeled “the worst anime studio ever” and the criticism is most certainly warranted. However, I have a candidate for second place and it’s Echo Studio. Outside of Gun Frontier, they’ve only produced three low-budget hentai OVAs and Echo Studio’s roots are painfully exposed here. Gun Frontier contains the most horrifically cut-rate CGI ever (not even Studio Gonzo comes close) while speed lines, the calling card of crappy animation, appear consistently, especially in early episodes. Explosions aren’t presented in the traditional sense; a still frame of fire materializes on-screen while the camera shakes around a bit. For such a vulgar and violent series like this one, the lack of blood is instantly noticeable. YOu could claim that Gun Frontier didn’t wish to be too objectionable but my verdict is that Echo Studio assumed that animating blood is too Herculean a task for them to handle. It is with no exaggeration that I regard Gun Frontier’s animation as the worst I’ve ever seen.
To be honest, I’m a complete sucker for slow, melancholic songs, and Gun Frontier’s ED, Umeno Yoshizawa’s “Ame to Sanbika”, more than fits the bill. Its ending theme doesn’t impress the visual sense but musically speaking it’s the kind of song that causes you to kick your shoes off, silently lay on your bed, and stare at the ceiling. Simply put, Gun Frontier’s ED really puts you in a mood. It’s one of this show’s only redeemable features, alongside the Massacre of Samurai Creek. Everything about the method in which this event is established, from the tiniest of details to the backstories involving it, is brilliantly written and admittedly a bit touching. I swear, if the rest of Gun Frontier’s story was as complex as the Massacre of Samurai Creek, my rating would be much higher. More than its pacing issues and its appalling predictability, the nadir of Gun Frontier’s plot has to be its lack of dramatic appeal. There are no realistic risks for the heroes; they win practically every fight with ease. They survive encounters with death on multiple occasions for the sake of plot convenience, like bullets grazing their shoulders and whatnot. Then, there’s the forced drama. Basically, a truckload of forgettable side characters, mostly women, appear in an episode (once per episode), burden the audience with their sob story (a little something something to gain sympathy points), and get killed minutes later. It’s right here that Gun Frontier expects you to show them the waterworks, and to be honest the whole setup never fails to crack me up. And that’s not mentioning the white flag that is this show’s finale.
There have quite a few anime series that were created as a direct result of the Cowboy Bebop/Trigun formula, like Black Cat, Coyote Ragtime Show, and Gun X Sword, and Gun Frontier is one of them. However, these other ripoffs have maintained a degree of likability, due to their individuality (limited but still substantial) and the amount of effort applied to these projects (Even Gun X Sword, a series that I’ve mercilessly bashed in a previous review, boasts a few glorious moments). Of course, Gun Frontier possesses no likability. It’s Cowboy Bebop without Yoko Kanno’s musical brilliance. It’s Trigun without Vash the Stampede’s carefree charisma. Gun Frontier, in other words, isn’t special. There is a name for series like Gun Frontier. There is a name for a series in which even the narrator is bored to tears. There is a name for a series that tries to be a social critique and flops miserably (The only moral lesson Gun Frontier has the intellect to deliver: racism is bad). There is a name for a series that is far, far from being considered good yet not terrible enough to earn your hatred. There is a name for a series that doesn’t know how to be itself or how to imitate someone else.
What the hell y'all I have been bamboozled! Swindled! Gypped! If you've seen this show and have read my reviews or ever looked at my profile then you know what I'm about to say....this shit is INCOMPLETE! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls this series stops at thirteen episodes with no resolution, conclusion or closure and you are left with one thought in your head “WTF???”. I'm not going to spoil things for those who might still want to watch this title, but as far as I know there is no sequel, there is no OVA, there's probably a manga but who gives a
fuck? I'm not gonna read it. So yeah 13 episodes, you watch it, it ends....you double check your playlist to see if maybe video-player skipped an episode, it didn't so you feel like you have been [bleep]-teased! Sorry, Leiji Matsumoto or not, it's gonna get low marks from me!
The art and animation, in relation to the time it was created which is about 10 years ago, isn't that bad. It's was actually very interesting. I'd even say kinda novel....kinda. It's not the type of art or animation that draws you in or tries to make the you, the viewer a part of the experience. No, they definitely wanted the viewer to be behind that 4th wall looking in, as if reading a comic book. I would even go as far as to say this series was more like an “animated comic book” than it was just a standard anime. The outlines were HEAVILY inked, everything appeared cartoonish [yes I know an anime by definition is a cartoon] but what I mean is that the art was not drawn with “realism” as an objective, the art appeared a lot more farcical than you average anime. Even when things appeared to have dimension, it only looked like the placed a cardboard cut-out of a [flat] character in front of a painted cardboard [flat] backdrop. It's not totally original, but it's not a totally played out effect either.
I loved the music of the series, both the OP and ED have songs that I would listen to on a causal basis. My gripe about the music is that it totally doesn't fit the series, at all. That OP song belongs in a much more contemporary anime, still shonen, but has some comedy. Maybe something more along the lines of Full Metal Panic perhaps. The ending song was definitely shojo or what's the term for the more mature female viewers? All I can think of is NANA when I hear it. Neither one of these songs have anything to do with a dusty western parody anime with vulgar language and nudity.
I watched the series in English dub, the big draw for me of course was Steven Blum [Spike Spiegel], everyone else was OK too.
However whenever I think of the story aspect of it, I get pissed off because it's effing INCOMPLETE! I hate incomplete shows, cliffhangers, open-enders or whatever you wanna call it. Again, I'm not going to say how it ends, you can see that for yourself and maybe stuff like this doesn't affect everyone but it's definitely one of my pet peeves. Which is a shame because it really wasn't bad storyline; the idea of searching for Japanese people in the old west or for Oriental treasure was a good idea. I loved how this series tried to take on heavy topics like ignorance, racism and sexism....with humor, albeit a very cynical type of humor.
A lot could be said about the character depictions in this show and maybe it can shed some light at to why anime characters look more like Caucasians than Asians. People can disagree as many times as they want, but in this series, Harlock is confirmed to not be Asian. And tho the name Shinunora, implies she might be Asian but it's proven later on that she is not. She's actually European. And everyone is just flabbergasted that Tochiro has such a “good-looking” sister [Who's drawn the same way as Shinunora and all the other white people. So it's pretty easy to conclude that anyone tall and good-looking isn't perceived as Asian at all but if they are, then they generally pass as “White” which in reality, is hardly possible.....So do the Japanese think of themselves as white or is there some identity crisis or self-loathing going on there? That's kinda all I was getting from looking at these characters...that, and perhaps the fact that Shinunora is ALWAYS naked [which I found very funny] and Tochiro is always loud and annoying [which is not common Japanese behavior].
But ultimately, my verdict is no verdict beyond, meh! It's incomplete!
This show reminds me a lot of Trigun. A man on a journey to do something and as he travels, he picks up a bunch of people to be part of his group. Now, unlike Trigun, this is placed on earth and in a time when the west was still young. A man lived with a gun at his side or would end up dead.
The story revolves mainly around Tochiro and Franklin Harlock (the guy that looks like a western version of Captain Harlock… put two and two together) as they travel. At first, all you know of these characters is that they are
somehow connected and are a bit miss matched. When we do find out when they met, it feels a little forced although ties Harlock’s past as a pirate with the sword duel on a ship. (Ok, can I not spell this out enough? They took the Space Pirate and put him in a western show.) I would have loved to know a bit more about each character’s passed; we barely get anything about the background of any of them.
When talking about them separate, it’s just a little hard because they play off each other so well. Tochiro always respectful and talks about finding his people. He is a true samurai of old times and never really faulters in how he acts to women and respectable men both. Harlock always ends up saving Tochiro when a blade didn’t come in handy. He’s rather quiet and is pretty much the silent type who doesn’t really go out of his way to do something for his buddy. The two never let anything come between them including a women which can make them a good candidate for a bunch of fan art…
For Simunora, we never learn very much about her and I felt rather confused when she did what she did. The only thing you learn really about Sinunora is that she is French (really… how original… a French woman trying to get into someone’s pants, thanks stereotypes…) and that she might know something about what happen to Tochiro’s people. She tries to get in the middle of them but most of the time they don’t listen. In fact, the time one of them almost got to sleep with her, she pretty much had only teased them and shot them down. It got so bad that I was thinking ‘Just kill her or force her’ just to get her to stop.
As the story goes on, the only character that really grows is Tochiro and that’s not saying much. The only way he grows is that he seems to get a bit better at the sword (like he wasn’t a expert already?). The ending is rather stupid and a big cliffhanger. You are just crying out to be able to see more but it gives you a big middle finger and points to a manga that I don’t think has been translated yet.
The art style is very vintage even if this show is from the 21st Century. I think it is partly a look to the old show ‘Captian Harlock.’ Though Captain Harlock was set in space, this doesn’t have anything really to do with space and the he was only a sea pirate instead of anything more. This is not for little kids. Many times, Sinunora ends up striping for someone or getting her clothing torn off. They do not show much of her privates but you still see a lot of her and it is implied. Now most of the side characters look like strange morphed creatures including Tochiro sometimes and normally it seems that most men look like pigs while women look so beautiful.
The voices, well, they pretty much are good for a low budget film but none of them really stand out to me. It’s sad really but it does happen. The English is a bit better then the Japanese in this case but there isn’t much difference.
First off I am not into westerns, but this really hooked me right away. A short foreign man who is always getting himself "hung". A cool girl who often gets into situations that she has to strip at gun point. A cowboy who has his friends backs at all costs. The story is really great and it is not your typical anime that you see out there. The art is sub-par, but the goofiness look of some of the characters makes up for this.