Van, a lanky and apathetic swordsman, is on a journey to kill the murderer of his fiancé. The only characteristic he has to go by is that the murderer has a claw for an arm, hence the murderer being referred to as The Claw Man. During his travels, Van happens to pass through the city of Evergreen, which is defending itself from bandits who aim to rob the city of its treasury. It is in this city that Van meets Wendy Garret, a timid young girl who is looking for her kidnapped brother. When the city pleads for Van's assistance to defend it, he refuses, claiming it has nothing to do with him and thus leaves the city on its own to deal with the peril. Soon after, Van comes across the raiding bandits himself and they eventually tick off the swordsman to a degree where he takes action against them for his own personal vendetta. Surprisingly, Van learns that the bandits had ties with The Claw Man, and in kidnapping Wendy's brother for a reason they did not disclose. After the bandits are dealt with easily, Van and, much to his chagrin, Wendy continue the journey in search of The Claw Man. Little do they know, however, that The Claw Man is involved with something more atrocious than either could fathom.
Gun X Sword... There isn't much about this show that hasn't been done before, but then again you can say that to almost every anime made. So what if the plot is rehashed from many other anime. Anime is just like test driving a new car, "It looks real nice, but how does it drive?" As a matter of fact, it drives REALLY nice.
As i said before this plot has been done at least a good dozen times (in anime AND movies). Hard boiled desperado out to seek revenge for what was lost. Along the way he makes friends and enemies. But happens
to hit a few speed bumps along the way. Doesn't sound like much of a story but in all honesty, it was a fun trip the whole way through, from beginning to end. A good way they managed to keep it fresh throughout was that they managed to parody some classic action scenes straight from Hollywood. The ones that stand out the most are Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, and even ROBOT JOX (you might have to IMDb that one). It really made some scenes pretty interesting, especially when you realize how close they actually imitated some scenes from their action movie counterparts.
The art and animation wasn't too spectacular. But as in any mecha anime, you will see all the detail get put in the mechas and the action scenes. They all run so smoothly and blazingly fast. Of course theres the usual cheap action animation but for the most part you'll see the fighters move with accurate fluidity. The character art is very average though, compared to the mechas. Although the art is very average, the settings are varied and vast to say the least. Everything from a barren wasteland, to a lush jungle, to a bustling industrial city are all present here. At first you would think this is a western style anime through and through, but you'll soon realize that is not the case.
Sound (Very Good)
Sound is one thing that is very hard to mess up on and the more sound added to a show the better imo. This show has it in spades. From the environmental sounds, to the flora/fauna/crowds, music and even the voice actors are all there. A wasteland sounds like a wasteland, a large train station sounds like a large train station every environment sounds exactly as it should. The music also sounds like it should, with the exception of the opening theme song. I laughed every time i heard the big band song come on when there was comedy scene. Nothing sounds over used and you'll even hear a few classic movie sounds if you can spot them fast enough.
Now there are a few unique characters in there but for the most part the main/supporting characters are direct ripoffs from other anime either in appearance or personality. Take that as you may but I found it to be a good decision considering how fun this show is to watch. Of course there are a few annoying characters. But overall its a very good cast of characters.
Well once you overcome how insanely plain the plot is and just watch it for what its worth, you'll most likely have a fun viewing experience. Its an audio visual treat!
He appears to be on top of the world. Surrounded by a legion of followers that fervently scream his name and a trio of women that lovingly caress his shoulders, this man seems to be the center of attention, and he’s not only aware of this but he enjoys it as well. This man is Lucky Roulette, the ringleader of a gang known as the “Wild Bunch”. They’re a nasty assortment of thugs, mugging, murdering and inflaming anyone or anything that obstructs their path to riches and renown. The “Wild Bunch” migrate from one town to the next, mercilessly pillaging the inhabitants’ resources before moving
to the next locale. Their acts of destruction are all overseen by Lucky, who views each undertaking as an opportunity to assess how much luck he possesses.
“It’s the one thing in God’s domain. No training to it. No honing of one’s skills. Nothing. That’s why I want to test it. I want to find out just what God thinks of me,” - Lucky
To that end, he endeavors into each heist without abandon, which simultaneously endangers his life and pushes the boundaries of his good fortune. Cackling maniacally, twirling his pair of revolvers, Lucky obliterates everything in his line of sight and, through pure luck, he finishes with nary a scratch on him. Because of this, Lucky feels as though he’s not only fortunate but exceptional as well. He believes that no matter what activity he partakes in, he’s guaranteed to succeed because of his luck. However, it is when Lucky begins terrorizing the small town of Evergreen and encounters a hopeless drifter named Vahn that everything changes for him.
When Lucky learns that Vahn injured a few of his members during one of their raids, he coerces Vahn into playing a simple card game with him as a method of uncovering how talented Vahn is. In the middle of this game, he promises Vahn that no harm will come to him if he wins. Lucky also claims through a lengthy monologue that attacking Vahn would contradict his personal code of honor, stating that he only engages in fair fights. However, when Lucky loses the card game, he reneges on the promise he made. Valuing his good fortune above all else, Lucky believes that, during the card game, Vahn deprived him of what he cherishes most. As a result, he ambushes Vahn in a dark alley and drenches him with steaming hot lead, which not only triggers his ultimate downfall but also tarnishes the moral principles he claimed to protect.
Lucky Roulette’s characterization is a blatant argument against the concept of an honorable criminal. He discourses at great length on righteousness, claiming to support his moral code, but when circumstances demand he prove where his loyalties lie, he abandons his beliefs. Stripped of his noble platitudes, Lucky is your typical bandit, just as petty, self-absorbed and shortsighted as his peers (if not more so). Lucky’s proclamations of honor only serve to emphasize the extents his hypocrisy reach, which makes him all the more fascinating to watch during his brief appearance in Gun x Sword.
In the context of this show and what it aims to accomplish, Lucky Roulette is but a one-off villain, defeated in its very first episode, never seen (nor referred to) again; he is a pawn, unwittingly participating in a scheme far bigger than he could ever fathom. Lucky’s role is minor, yes, but it does carry some level of significance. With each episode, Gun x Sword would burrow further and further into the concept of an honorable criminal, exploring the nuances of this idea through various individuals (each with their own unique moral code), before ultimately confronting it via its main antagonist (who is arguably the most complex “honorable criminal” of them all). However, this thematic exploration all begins with Lucky and his card games. Honestly, the fact that Gun x Sword created such an insignificant character and used him to establish the groundwork for one of its most essential concepts speaks volumes about the level of writing we’re dealing with here.
It’s difficult not to marvel at the scope of this show’s vision. Gun x Sword (GxS) is ambitious, an anime aiming to integrate a myriad of themes and concepts into a narrative that seamlessly transitions from episodic, small-scale events to a far larger plotline (what GxS accomplishes with the idea of an honorable criminal is but one of many feats its storytelling achieves). During this transition, it ceaselessly diversifies the intent of its individual vignettes, each episode (unique in its own right) serving as an experiment for GxS’s overall purpose. While one episode is a Pulp Fiction parody, another is a high-stakes mecha tournament. This is an anime that can dedicate one episode to elaborating on the dangers of childhood nostalgia and an entirely different episode to waxing poetic on bathing suits. It is this wondrously creative writing that highlights the adventures of Gun x Sword’s protagonists Wendy and Vahn.
Established on the Earth-like planet known as the “Endless Illusion”, GxS is an anime that’s partially defined by its scenic backgrounds, by its gorgeous fight scenes, and by its devastating plot twists but what guides all of this forward are the motives of this show’s central characters. Wendy is an insecure yet assertive young girl, an individual whose arc is focused on retrieving her older brother Michael from the clutches of The Claw (GxS’s main antagonist), alongside surviving and maturing in a world that doesn’t favor her small stature. Vahn is the stereotypical anti-hero, a poor man’s Spike Spiegel that’s pursuing The Claw because he murdered his wife at their wedding three years before this show takes place (as a memento, Vahn still wears the tuxedo from that day).
Together, Wendy, Vahn and their motives are the foundation for Gun x Sword, and all that it aspires to do. They are also the nucleus of an anime that prioritizes its ambitions far too often for its own good.
With its wings stretched behind it and its chest puffed out in front of it, Gun x Sword is Icarus, grasping the heavens above but ignoring virtually everything outside of its line of sight. This show propels its narrative (and the multitude of ideas embedded within it) into increasingly innovative directions but, in the process, it mishandles and (at times) neglects more than a few impactful plot elements. Focused on the bigger picture, Gun x Sword doesn’t apply the same attention to the smaller pieces of the puzzle.
This show is one that attempts juggling several concepts at once but, though this pursuit is admirable, it doesn’t always succeed. While it’s understandable that GxS struggles under this workload, the degree to which this show fumbles with some of its ideas is, at times, baffling. For starters, there is a certain subplot involving a watchdog and its two puppies that exudes the stench of a halfhearted effort. Gun x Sword tries positioning these characters as devices for an overarching message on the human condition but it doesn’t dedicate enough time to properly develop this idea and the result is naturally less than ideal. Then, there are the unsettling implications contained within the dynamic between Wendy (who is in her early teens) and Vahn (who is in his mid-twenties) that Gun x Sword never bothers exploring.
I don’t expect this show to present a detailed opinion on underaged relationships but, if you’re going to portray your protagonists with a considerable age difference as a couple (and, dear God, is GxS guilty of this), then a comment or two on how you feel about this topic shouldn’t be too much to ask for. Naturally, there are other concepts that GxS fails to flesh out in one way or another (of particular interest is episode 14’s tragically underdeveloped viewpoint of mass-produced machines) but, in the grand scheme of things, they (and the deficiencies I mentioned earlier) are inessential. When examined individually, that might not appear to be the case. However, in the context of all that Gun x Sword represents and accomplishes, their importance is downsized considerably. What this show forfeits on a conceptual level by botching several of the themes it tackles, it more than compensates by emphasizing its force of personality.
Gun x Sword has quite the theatrical flair. This show doesn’t merely advance its plot lines to thrilling peaks; it revels in those dramatic highs. GxS throws itself wholeheartedly into exploiting each and every twist and turn its story takes for maximum effect. The result is a show whose overdramatic approach is simply irresistible to watch. And for something like this, it requires a soundtrack that’s worthy of its efforts. GxS needs a soundtrack that’s just as gloriously over-the-top as it is, a soundtrack that not only complements the tone of this series but elevates its theatrics to new heights.
Luckily, Kotaro Nakagawa, famed composer of the soundtracks for Code Geass and Planetes (among others), is here to make this possible.
It’s his experience with creating uniquely cinematic scores that allows GxS’s music to flourish. Primarily reliant on a combination of orchestral and jazz, this show’s score is highlighted by the intensity of its sound. Nakagawa’s saxophone riffs awaken with the fervor of a firework display while his violin solos roar with a Hans Zimmer-esque self-importance but GxS’s score really shines in his efforts with Hitomi Kuroishi. A frequent collaborator on Nakagawa’s projects (and a musician I’ve long admired), Kuroishi provides her harp, her drums and (of course) her angelic voice to this show’s soundtrack with her songs “Paradiso” and “La Speranza”.
As awe-inspiring as the songs created by Nakagawa and Kuroishi are, it is Gun x Sword’s opening theme that’s truly the pinnacle of its musical brilliance. Backed by a symphony of trumpets and drums, it is a series of climaxes, energetically transitioning from one to the next. It is also a marriage between flute solos and background vocals. Last but not least, it is an opportunity for Gun x Sword’s supporting cast to be properly introduced.
In the opening theme, they are nothing more than silhouettes. However, in the viewpoint of first impressions, they seem to be nothing more than plot devices; they appear to be mouthpieces masquerading as characters (and not very talented mouthpieces, at that). Every message GxS conveys through its supporting cast makes for an unappetizing watch. Shallow at its best and heavy-handed at its worst, this show’s social commentary is one that not only offers nothing new to the issues it discusses but it also pushes to the forefront a rather limited perspective. When its characters state their opinions on topics like ageism, classism, and sexism, their efforts betray a lack of knowledge on the subject matter.
As more exposure is provided to the supporting cast, these individuals are allowed opportunities to deviate from their mouthpiece roles and to distinguish themselves. While this show falters in communicating social themes through its supporting cast, it shines in developing their personalities. With the benefit of a different approach in place, it’s apparent that these characters are more than tools for GxS to employ however it desires; they are people striving to preserve their beliefs and fulfill their ambitions. Enhanced by these intensely personal characteristics, the supporting cast is rendered human, which ultimately makes investing in their individual journeys far easier. Not only does this cause the supporting cast to be all the more enjoyable but it also adds a layer of nuance to this show’s overall theme of revenge.
A hero falls victim to devastating circumstances, resulting in the deprivation of everything he/she ever cherished. However, instead of succumbing to sorrow, the hero uses their most vulnerable moment as the driving force to settle the score with the cause of their despair. Revenge is a concept that’s both exceptionally alluring... and exceptionally narrow.
In comparison to ideas such as love, power, and prosperity (which are broad and abstract concepts that can be defined however you wish), revenge is specific and concrete, which severely limits the extent to which you can explore it. To its credit, Gun x Sword provides a valiant effort. Through Ray Lundgren and Vahn, this show not only dissects the idea of revenge but how it consumes individuals, alongside those around them and (in the end) it questions the benefit that results from revenge. However, where GxS ultimately falters isn’t in its thematic exploration but in the conclusion it reaches after its analysis.
(A useful aside: It’s impossible to overstate how important revenge is to Gun x Sword as a whole. It isn’t merely among the many themes this show builds upon. Revenge is THE theme of GxS, the concept that everything else revolves around. Vahn’s pursuit of revenge allows him to encounter Lucky Roulette (and Wendy) in the town of Evergreen, which causes this series to move forward. Without the idea of revenge, none of what GxS accomplishes (and wants to accomplish) would be possible)
Revenge for its own sake is not unique, nor is it entertaining. There must be a deeper meaning to the motive if you really want people to be invested in your character. For Ray, a man whose wife was murdered because she remained loyal to her principles, revenge is only part of what he desires. In pursuing his wife’s killer, Ray wants to uncover whether or not the choice she made was correct. For Vahn, however, it’s different. You see, after all of the time Gun x Sword devotes to questioning the purpose behind Vahn’s pursuit, the answer it reaches is the equivalent of a shoulder shrug.
By not providing any depth for Vahn’s motive, this show’s development of the idea of revenge is a half-finished effort. If this flawed thematic exploration were an isolated incident, it would be quite difficult (but not impossible) to properly appreciate everything else GxS has to offer. However, factoring in the other underdeveloped concepts that are scattered throughout this show, the various pieces of the puzzle that (by themselves) seem insignificant, results in something too devastating to overlook. Gun x Sword leans far more towards style than it does substance; this is an anime that amazes with the outlandish ideas it raises but underwhelms with how little it’s willing to develop them. It promotes itself as something of a thinking man’s shonen/mecha but its efforts in justifying this title are inconsistent, to say the least.
I admire Gun x Sword. No; it would be more accurate to say that I admire what Gun x Sword could’ve been. With its joyously overdramatic approach, its experimental narrative, and the overwhelming ambitions it aimed to fulfill, who can’t appreciate the heights this show wanted to reach? When it involves potential, few can compare to GxS. However, when it involves realizing and maximizing that same potential, this show ultimately falls short.
My expectations were high, looming in orbit alongside the main character's personal mech. However, they soon plummeted to the surface just as quick as a giant robot can fall from the sky--which is to say, rapidly. What I discovered in Gun x Sword was a unique mix of unoriginal ideas with inconsistent tone and pacing, and a seemingly budget production.
The premise looked like it could cater to my very specific mech sensibilities, and I heard its praises from a trusted friend. Early on the show introduced several internal tropes which I eagerly anticipated seeing in each episode. However, after building up my formulaic expectations, it
betrayed them in the most despicable manner possible. I was led to believe that in every episode I would be treated to:
- Vahn summoning his robot from the sky to battle
- Vahn spinning his hat 180° when things get serious, a la Ash Ketchum
- Vahn receiving a new "Vahn of the ____" nickname
- Vahn using all of the condiments (Okay maybe not every episode, but every time he eats)
This falls apart rather quickly, as we're very soon subjected to episodes--get this--with no robots. None. If I had to single out the show's single greatest flaw, this would be it. I can forgive a great many mediocrities in the presence of robots, but the ratio of robot fights to episodes exhibited here is appalling at best.
Watching on Funimation's website, I only had access to the... challenging, shall we say, English dub. Nearly all of the dialogue was awkward and clunky, and while this may be attributed to the script adaptation, I get the feeling that it was bad to begin with. The characters lack subtlety in both their speech and designs. Motivations are either flimsy or absurdly rigid, and I often found myself asking why many of the characters were even present to begin with.
Speaking of characters, I hope you're ready to meet a lot of people that are never important again! Roughly half of the series follows an episodic format, which is not inherently a bad thing, but a disproportionate amount of time is spent developing these one-off characters in an attempt to build tension in each episode. To make matters worse, only a handful of them ever show up again, and when they do it comes seemingly out of nowhere. This misplaced focus left me feeling unattached to the main cast, and when they did take time to develop them, it was done in the most dreary scenarios imaginable (Again, I could stomach all of this if more robots were present).
A solid plot finally begins to emerge somewhere past the half way point, and with it comes some a huge net gain in robots per episode. Additionally, we learn more about the antagonists' plans and motivations in the last quarter of the series. The revelations are genuinely interesting and enhanced the conflict, which leaves me wondering: Where was all of this information early on? If we hadn't spent 13 episodes diddling around with a new person in every town, a truly compelling narrative might have unfolded, with rich characters to be invested in. Hell, if we had that I might even be okay with the exhibited fight to episode ratio.
The music is not all that exciting. In fact, I didn't even notice it most of the time. I had high hopes with Yasuo Uragami as sound director, but it failed to captivate. Admittedly, the opening is energetic and exciting, but I can't say the same for the ending theme. Japanese Tom Petty lackadaisically vocalizing over a horrifically bland instrumental just cemented how bad of a show I was watching at the end of every episode. Sadly, I even found myself agitated by some of the sound design. In an attempt to be either scientifically accurate or frugal, many of the scenes in space contained no sound effects. Even though I prefer space SFX I can appreciate a tilt towards scientific accuracy, but when later episodes fail to display the realistic effects of tidal forces it strikes me as a mismatch. Then again, we're dealing with a mecha series, and I won't even try to science that.
I also found Gun x Sword to be a bit of a challenge visually. A bulk of each episode is spent looking at largely static scenes of dialogue, sometimes rotating the frame, sometimes panning, and sometimes with a digital effect trying to lend some sense of motion, but we're still being shown what feel like colored storyboards. I get that animation money can be tight and sometimes corners must be cut, so I can look past sub-par people animation as long as the robots are good looking. Unfortunately, even a majority of the mech battles just look goofy, with sloppy line art and rigid motion.
What I think would fix all of these problems for me is a hefty dose of merchandising. For the amount that it attempts to deviate from standard mech fare, injecting a bit more product placement (And robots that actually lend themselves to toy production), as well as formulaic fulfillment would not feel out of place.
Unsatisfied with knowing what we're presented with and how I feel about it, I have to take a stab at why this show turned out the way it did. First and foremost, the concept is at least partially--if not wholly--derivative from other popular sci fi anime. It really wants to be one of the great space westerns like Trigun or Bebop, while also appealing to a wide base of mecha otaku and depraved waifu fanatics (Although the line between those two is sometimes hard to draw).
One of the first flags that alerted me to the game they were playing was the inconsistency in cockpit styles present in the series. We're shown everything from traditional seated, to motion capture, Sentai squad control room, and immobile-character-sits-in-front-of-digital-effect-mapping. Between that and the incohesive mech design, it became apparent to me that they were aiming to pay homage to all different styles of mechs throughout history.
This makes much more sense when considering it shares a director with Code Geass in Goro Taniguchi. Both series were an exercise in mecha fantasies and attempted to draw on many disparate anime demographics. Obviously he would be far more successful with Geass, possibly due to the enhanced feminine appeal. While the direction never seemed to bother me in Geass, here the "camera" work often felt flat, and cuts between shots left me disoriented and disconnected from the action. Perhaps I could only hyper focus on the production due to the lack of compelling characters, who knows?
I'm not sure what to make of the writing, because I've never seen anything else scripted by Kurata Hideyuki. Beyond the George Lucas level dialogue (read: awkward, terrible dialogue), I frequently wondered if the show was unaware of how absurd it was or if it was attempting to be cheeky and self aware. The situational comedy was often very contrived, and so my optimistic side hopes it was all done knowingly, but, this guy also wrote OreImo, so make of that what you will.
Part of me would like to chalk up the animation quality to this being a relatively early digital production, but I honestly think most of it was just lackluster line work done when visual assets were created. I also had to wonder exactly who their target demographic was. Obviously male, but what age range? Well given that the time slot was supposedly late at night, it's safe to say this was for the older fellas, which kind of adds insult to injury that they thought developed, adult people would just take this at face value.
So who should watch Gun x Sword? If you're expecting a baseline of robo satisfaction throughout like myself, you will be sorely disappointed. If you're feigning for another space western, are satisfied with intermittent robotics, like revenge stories, or just want something colorful to shut your brain off to, Gun x Sword might be for you.
Gun x Sword is an anime that is rather different from many of its contemporaries, although it has two obvious comparison points: Trigun and Cowboy Bebop, although I feel the Trigun comparison is somewhat misguided, mostly in that their similiairites are something many anime of its style have anyway, like colorful one shots.
Getting into the show itself, the main character is the tall, dark and lanky Van, who travels the world with a single purpose in mind: To kill the mysterious clawed man who took his wife, Elena, from him on his wedding day. Van isn't exactly your average protagonist, as he is quite apathetic,
snarky and not the most sane, with him perfectly willing to let the starter village from the first episode burn since it doesn't concern him at the start. Most of his heroics come from other characters baiting him, being on the job for money or the fact that he DOES have a code of ethics which he adheres to to an extent: Slipping out of that, of course, is when he's at his worst. Van is also rather interesting in that the show doesn't take a generic "vengeance is bad" route and shows it in a far more fascinating manner, and Van's contrast between his normal self and when anything regarding The Claw is near are a highlight of the show.
He is primarily joined by Wendy, the gun to Van's sword, a girl from said village who travels with Van in pursuit of her brother, who has been kidnapped by the very same clawed man. Compared to Van, she is much more optimistic and enthusiastic, but she isn't an overeager kid archetype either and is still rather serious. The two are joined by various characters throughout their journey, but going too far into it would be somewhat spoilers, and many of them do not stay for as long until closer to the end, but they end up for the most part good.
The Claw, naturally, is the main villain of the piece and he is a pretty amazing piece of work: In some ways, he feels like a bit of a deconstruction or different look at the idea of a "sympathetic" antagonist, as many of his actions + his personality are somewhat incongruous and his personality is so far removed from the reality of the situation that he comes across as far more insane than most "crazy" villains you will see in media. It also makes him rather hilarious in many ways and the reveal of who he is has to be seen to be believed. He ends up with a fun and crazy cast of minions and underlings as well, but I will say one of the minor issues with this is that his minions don't all get the development they could use, although the ones that do are pretty great, but there is clear missed potential there.
Although the story starts off with a good deal of one shots, most of them are actually quite good, and the show actually goes on to make almost all of them relevant in some manner, some small and some large, leaving the show with shockingly little filler to its name, and the one shots are almost all enjoyable anyway, many of which with some pretty out there concepts. The show especially picks up after Episode 5, which introduces the rival character Ray Lundgren, who is...a rather hilarious rival archetype really, as his primary rivalry with Van is who will get the last hit on The Claw, as Ray ALSO desires vengeance on The Claw.
Artistically, the show reminds me of old school anime in a lot of respects, and it does have some really good shots at points, but the art can sometimes get a bit underdetailed and I feel like the mecha fights while usually good aren't always the best or most well done. The art is at its best when doing stuff like Van's expressions or the cockpits of the mecha. Musically, though, it is a lot better, with the opening being pretty epic and the ending especially being memorable. The music that plays when Van summons his mecha, Dann, is very nice and it has a smooth and noticeable take throughout.
Overall, Gun x Sword is a pretty good anime with some fascinating takes on the concept of vengeance, especially refreshing in that we don't get a generic "vengeance is bad" aesop, a pretty great hero and villain, plenty of good comedy with a good deal of nice action and a solid if sometimes issued story, and a lot of memorable characters. If you're not convinced yet, I'll leave you all with just three words: Mexican Power Rangers.