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!
What happens when you combine Cowboy Bebop and Trigun together but forget everything that made those two special?
The result is Gun X Sword.
Let’s see: it begins with a doomed love story and this story is centered on characters confronting their past (like Cowboy Bebop). It has the main characters aiding people on their journey and the entire series is set on an Earth-like planet with a Wild West feel to it (like Trigun). In essence, Gun X Sword is unoriginal but in this day and age practically every anime title has some aspects that have been employed before. With Gun X Sword, a quality storyline
could’ve materialized with the aforementioned foundation but injecting a mecha element into the mix seriously tampers with an already-fragile framework. With this series directed by Goro Taniguchi, the mastermind lording over the famous Code Geass, it is almost a guarantee that robots would be smashed into this show. Despite the obvious disaster that a Wild West mecha title would be, Gun X Sword might’ve redeemed itself if it had a different protagonist.
You see, the protagonist in an anime series exercises much more power than commanding a legion of action figures and/or body pillows from his or her likeness. A protagonist can single-handedly elevate an otherwise mediocre title into a memorable and worthwhile investment (like in Great Teacher Onizuka). A protagonist, a really well-written one, can transform a quality series into a transcendent title (like in Monster). However, Gun X Sword, seeking the “perfect” poster boy for their series, unfortunately chose Von. He is a complete replica of Spike Spiegel, from his long, lanky frame down to his nonchalant demeanor (Even Von’s actor David Vincent desperately attempts sounding like Steve Blum). It would be acceptable if Von was just another generic, overly cool loner but his entire personality revolves around Gun X Sword’s driving plot (finding a man with a claw for a right hand because he killed Von’s fiancée) and has no other purpose outside of that. Throughout his journey, our frustratingly passive-aggressive protagonist is labeled with a gamut of useless, unessential nicknames from those he encounters (“Garbage Dump Von”, “Pretty Boy Von”, “Nice Guy Von”, “Von of the Dawn”, etc.) that ultimately does little to conceal the fact that Von is but a two-dimensional character. There’s nothing to him besides dousing his food with every condiment imaginable, taking lengthy naps, fighting people with his Armor (That’s what people label “mecha” in this series), and getting pissed at the mention of The Claw. Again, unoriginality isn’t horrible but, if shallow Gary Stus like Von are the result, then I want nothing to do with it.
Even if a series contains a disappointing protagonist, it is usually redeemed thanks to an unforgettable supporting cast (like in Last Exile). That isn’t the case with Gun X Sword. Wendy is arguably the series’ most likable character but even she has her unbearably irritating moments. Wendy has more practical intelligence that virtually everyone else in Gun X Sword but she also has jarring moments of stupidity. Wendy’s character development improves immensely throughout the 26-episode duration of this series but she is often spotted emptily hoping for Von to save the day. Wendy, Gun X Sword’s primary hero, is a character of contradictions. Carmen 99, the Faye to Von’s Spike, is an even less-developed character than Wendy, a fan-service tool with microscopic levels of depth trapped in a forced rivalry with a femme fatale of the worst kind (Carmen’s rival is Fasalina, voiced by Karen Strassman, whose superb acting chops could’ve been better employed than for a role as a shallow ex-prostitute). Despite Gun X Sword’s overwhelming portrayal flaws, they are greatly redeemed through a memorable collection of one-shot characters (from the enigmatic Joe Lutz and the hyperobsessive Driver Twins to the menacing Lucky and even the ever-stylish Kaiji), The Claw (who’s among anime’s most interesting and complex villains), and my favorite character Ray Lundgren (passionately played with a show-stealing performance by the great Liam O’Brien). He serves as an intriguing antihero as well as Von’s antithesis. Ray, this sullen, socially inept loner with poignant flashes of rage, has the most stunning Armor design in the series as well as the show’s most complete character arc. Ultimately, what I don’t understand about Gun X Sword is how it contains a masterpiece like Ray Lundgren and a ditzy one-dimensional nobody like Priscilla (whose lack of attributes I won’t delve into for the sake of your time) in the same cast.
Consistency, or its appalling lack of it, is an issue in Gun X Sword that permeates through every aspect of the show. Most anime titles have a knack for convincingly shifting between light-hearted comedy and ultra-serious drama but, when Gun X Sword attempts to pull this off, it comes across as poorly-planned and awkward. Virtually every episode begins with Jamieson Price’s famously low-toned voice as the Narrator, eloquently establishing the episode’s setting with an overwhelming amount of dry bleakness. Yet, every episode of Gun X Sword, especially the early ones, is littered with tiresome antics and unbearable “witty” one-liners. It’s as if Gun X Sword can’t decide whether to be hilarious or dramatic and this results in the series screwing with its potential. For example, after the magnificently moving episode 16 (literally the only one in the series that I consider flawless), Gun X Sword decides to follow that with the fanservice flop that was episode 17; it was the most pointlessly raunchy spectacle that I’ve ever witnessed. Gun X Sword’s soundtrack sadly does little to elevate this series from mediocricy, as the OST here is serviceable yet forgettable; there’s some jazz here and some folk blues there but the music fails to inspire (excluding hitomi’s relaxing yet emotionally stirring “Paradiso” and Yukino Satsuki’s energetic and climatic “Niji no Kanata”). Oh, and the theme song is simply fantastic; it’s what convinced me to check out Gun X Sword in the first place.
Gun X Sword has evident ties to the shonen genre, with its generic trash-talking and stilted fight scenes betraying itself, but practically every quality shonen knows how to inject depth and dimensions underneath. In Gun X Sword, what’s beneath the surface is a reasonably worthy plot that contains more holes than a tennis racket. In a climatic outer space showdown between Von and Wendy’s brother, there are no sound effects for the Armors’ laser beams. In the series’ third to last episode, Ray reveals that his Armor is the prototype that the Original 7 (a once-great organization created to protect the Earth long ago) based their Armor designs from but that is impossible unless Ray’s fiancée, the one who built his Armor, was secretly an elderly woman. Above all else, Gun X Sword never, ever gave a solid explanation, explicitly or implicitly, for why The Claw murdered the fiancées of Von and Ray. I mean, you can’t conclude a story without addressing why it started, right? Right?
What’s worse about Gun X Sword is that, although it concluded nicely and amusingly, it’s possible for the series finale to have been better executed and the series overall left me to wonder what could’ve been. In the last episode, our heroes converge together and, in the overused situation of a dying planet, they strengthen their resolve through the always-cheesy “power of fwendship”. The show then abruptly cuts to the heroes’ post-victory celebration (Ummm…. what?). When the credits rolled, I started to wonder what Gun X Sword could’ve been if it had a more enjoyable protagonist, if it bothered to explain everything, and if it had more scenes like the one at the end of episode 19 (It was the ultimate tearjerker moment, the most heartbreaking and gutwrenching character death that I’ll ever lay eyes on. That scene is how you make a grown man cry). I know I’ve bashing Gun X Sword for its many faults but what I absolutely cannot deny about this anime is its parody mini-series (only available on DVD). Known as Gun X Sword san, this is an utterly enjoyable experience wrapped in 13 episodes, with four minutes per episode. Gun X Sword san obliterates the fourth wall over and over and over (Its mantra: “This is a kid’s show!”). It pokes fun at otakus, the anime industry, America, and even the governor of Tokyo. Each and every episode discusses or is about something different (There’s even a really off-the-wall whodunit). However, what matters more than the basis of Gun X Sword san is its interesting interpretations of characters from the original series. It is here where the good-natured Wendy is portrayed s a delusional and domineering tyrant with a ridiculous violent streak, where Von, “the coolest guy ever”, is reduced to the show’s primary source of verbal abuse, the butt of everyone’s jokes. Overall, I’d say Gun X Sword san is more entertaining, more enjoyable, more memorable, and is simply all-around greater than the original series. When somebody states that your spinoff series is better by leaps and bounds than the one you’re more invested in, you know you screwed up somewhere. That’s the thing about Gun X Sword; it’s impossible to find a factor in this show that it didn’t completely botch. No wonder barely anyone watches this show.
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.
*This is an archive from my Anime-Planet account*
Critic's Log - Earthdate: December 17, 2012. Review #26: Gun x Sword
Revenge is a double-edged sword. It often leads justice to either one's self or for others. It can also lead to ruin to one's self after the quest for revenge is complete. It is never a happy tale and the path to revenge may even lead to bloodshed. Revenge is a dish that should never be consumed. With that said, let's activate the review for Gun x Sword.
Equipped with a metal sash that straightens into a sword, the lanky swordsman Van is
traveling through the hot desert, searching for the mysterious clawed man who killed his bride. Along the way he picks up a fellow traveler: Wendy, a young girl whose town he saves from bandits by summoning a giant mech with his sword. These giant mechs are referred to as "Armors". Wendy is searching for her missing older brother, whose engraved gun she carries on her back. In their mutual quest they run into more bandits and villains, a mysterious woman named Carmen99, and more Armor battles along the way.
To be technical, this is a AIC A.S.T.A production and they don't do many well-known animes but they are a decent studio that actually made this show look pretty good for the most part. The animation looks good for the most part but some action scenes could have looked better but it wouldn't distract the viewer all too much. Also, the "X" in the title is not part of the pronouncination. It is pronounced "Gun Sword"
The music by Kotaro Nakagawa is decent in Gun x Sword. The opening theme is nice to hear and I actually like how the anime changes from time to time to show new characters and to show if the character is still alive or dead. The closing themes are alright too. I should note that Kotaro Nakagawa composed the music for Planetes, an anime I keep hearing is very good. At the time I am reviewing this, I have never seen Planetes but I plan on watching it and reviewing it someday. Nakagawa-san also composed both seasons of Code Geass which the soundtrack to that show is pretty epic for his career. I don't have much to say about the music in Gun x Sword, I thought it was okay but not something to write home about.
When it comes to voice acting, The japanese cast is a solid listen but the English dub is casted well in Gun x Sword. Before I get to that, here are some worthy roles in the subbed version. Kikuko Inoue is pretty good as Carmen99. Saeko Chiba is also good as Priscilla. Takahiro Sakurai is also nice to hear as Ray. Masaya Onosaka even plays Kaiji and he was pretty good in that one. Houko Kuwashima is also good as Wendy. I didn't watch the whole thing subtitled but partially watched it in that version. Van's the only character I kind of didn't like his Japanese voice to, I'm not saying Takanori Hoshino is a bad seiyu. I just think his English voice fit the role spot-on. This is why I stuck with the dub on this one because it is performed surprisingly well. David Vincent is terrific as Van. Stephanie Sheh plays a really good role as Wendy. Liam O'Brien plays the rogue Ray quite nicely. Michelle Ruff brings the sexy charm to Carmen99 which fits. Carrie Savage plays Priscilla nicely. Michael on the other hand is voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch and I find this to be one of his more under-appreciated roles because he played his role quite believably. Karen Strassman deserves some credit for playing her role without sounding off at times. There were some good roles she played that sounded off a couple times and I usually get worried when her name gets brought up in a new dub, this is a role that doesn't have that problem. She was good as the flirtatious Fasalina. Yuri Lowenthal is okay as Joshua but it could've been a bit better. Kirk Thornton does deserve some ample praise for nailing the villian role spot-on. Kirk Thorton is terrific as The Claw (no, not the same "Claw" from Inspector Gadget). Liam O' Brien was the one behind the voice directing for the dub and he did pretty good at casting these characters, it's no wonder I like the dub on this anime.
When it comes to characters, the characters are mostly fine except I find the character development to be quite lacking in some areas. Wendy develops nicely throughout the whole show. Carmen99 also develops nicely to some degree. Ray is like Van except with a personality difference. Michael was interesting as the show progressed. Priscilla is alright, Joshua is alright. The two characters that I had a problem with are Van and The Claw. Don't get me wrong with Van. I actually like the character to some degree. What bugs me a bit about Van at times is that he has two things that you'll see throughout the show. First is that when he's hungry, he'll ask for whatever food he wants with all the condiments that the resturant has. To be honest, I don't think that would taste very good. Speaking about condiments, I have some friendly advice for you.
PRACTICE SAFE EATING, USE CONDIMENTS!
Secondly, he gets easily angered once he hears about the Claw, or fighting someone that is part of The Claw's group, or even The Claw himself. The whole eating habit is unique to Van but the anger thing is just a trope that's been used before. What I keep hearing about Van is that people compare this guy with either Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop or Vash The Stampede. Spike Spiegel sure... if you look at his head that is, but Spike was a bit more sophisticated than Van. Thinking back on Vash the Stampede, he did lose someone he cared about but this person wasn't his bride so the whole comparison thing can be a bit misunderstood. Van develops to some degree but his character development is a bit shallow compared to others which kind of is a slight letdown for me. Besides that, the other character I had a problem with is The Claw and I have a bigger beef with this character more than Van. The Claw really had potential on being a great villian but he is not as well developed as I had hoped. That's one problem I had with the show.
Another problem I had with Gun x Sword is the story at times. I did not like Episode 6 all that much. The first episode tends to get mixed reactions at times and I don't blame those that didn't like the first episode of Gun x Sword. I thought the first episode could've been better, but this is a kind of anime that you shouldn't judge from the first episode because it does pick up a bit after. I will say that the show was a bit boring throughout the first 6 or 7 episodes. When the Claw does get introduced, that's when the series does pick up. This anime does require a bit of patience throughout the series. The story is pretty average but the animation is above average fof this anime. If the story's slow pace and some shallow character development wasn't enough, I will say the biggest gripe I have with this anime is how the show wraps up everything. Michael was a pretty interesting character but Michael's send-off is anti-climatic The biggest problem I had with the final episode is how it ends. I did not like the ending that much and I felt the final episode as well as the ending was a bit half-assed. But to be honest, this is a pretty average show for the most part and it's not mostly terrible. There are a few surprises in the show as well. If you get far in the show. There's an episode that I would usually refer to as a "Fanservice" episode, because the majority of this one episode does show the female characters wearing bikinis. The episode ends in such a ridiciously over-the-top fashion that I will not mention because you really have to see it for yourself. There is another surprise moment that I think you won't see coming and I'll let you see for yourself when you get there. Anyway, this is an anime that has its flaws and it found an audience to some degree. I just think comparing this anime with Cowboy Bebop or Trigun is a bit of an over-statement.
Gun x Sword used to be available through Geneon, they went under a while back but this anime was rescued and re-licensed. This anime is available from Funimation. An omake series called "Gun x Sword-san" was released alongside the volumes of the show back then and it's all in one disc in the Funimation release. I can't highly recommend the omake compared with the show. It's worth a try but I have no interest in it which is why I'm not recommending it too highly.
With all that said, Gun x Sword is your typical average anime that may be worth checking out but don't get your expectations too high. It does have a slow start but picks up eventually. It has decent action scenes, some funny humor, some interesting characters, a decent soundtrack, and nice looking animation. This may not be everyone's cup of tea due to its slow start but if you're willing to go further until half of it goes by, there's a chance you'll might like it. If the first 5 or 6 episodes got you to the point that you stopped watching it, you're not really missing out on too much I guess. Gun x Sword-san is a little unnecessary but the Proposal Video by David Vincent that he made for his "at the time Girlfriend" was really classy and a nice extra feature. I enjoyed Gun x Sword for what it is but the flaws in the show do stick out like a sore thumb. All I can say is that some people might like it, some people won't.
I give Gun x Sword a 7.2 out of 10, It is GOOD!
Feel free to leave a comment and practice safe eating!