Rally Vincent works by day in her Chicago gun store, GunSmith Cats. But at the drop of the hat, she hangs up the "Gone Fishing" sign, straps on her guns and takes to the road in her muscle car to fulfill her other role—as one of Chicago's toughest, most respected bounty hunters. Her expert sharpshooting and driving skills are augmented by her partner Minnie-May's abilities with explosives of all kinds. And she'll need every bit of her skills, and those of her friends, because only she can bring in the highest bounties and the most determined, powerful criminals from Chicago's mob, characters who hold a grudge for life and have the wits and the firepower to outwit whatever the law throws at them.
Featuring some of the most authentically detailed firearms and automobiles ever drawn, author and artist Kenichi Sonoda has created a complex and supremely exciting story in the vein of Hollywood action films, but with all the detail and dynamism of manga in this classic series.
The Blues Brothers is an influence on Gunsmith Cats. The author says so in the preface to volume 1 published by Dark Horse. The author is also a gun-nut, fully recreating in the manga the details of pistols, revolvers, shotguns, machine-guns, grenades and any kind of bullet-proof clothing you can think of.
Gunsmith Cats begins by dropping us straight into a gunfight unceremoniously. Observe a cop getting shot, bodies rushing past, gun-hand POV, shooters sliding across floors, windows shattering and then it’s over as soon as it began. We get a close-up of the manga's first weapon, an S&W M-19, and even
the ammo it takes, in this case .38 +P Black Talons. Yeah, you're going to get schooled on guns from a Japanese dude who lives in a country with hardly any guns around. This in a way ensures what we'll get in the manga will no doubt be heavily researched by a real enthusiast.
Rally Vincent is a beauty. Raven hair, dark skin, glasses, guncrazy and drives a 1967 model Shelby Mustang Cobra GT500. Her infectious passion for all things metallic and phallic is a joy to behold. Guns and cars turn her on, her knowledge is nerdy and her gun-hand’s sturdy. She's a ditz, a whiz, a gun-slinging bounty hunter one minute and a squabbling gun store clerk the next. She's cute and sexy as hell, her reckless spirit keeps the manga ridiculously great fun to read. Watching her bounce off other characters with quips, jokes and punch-lines is addictive. "Gun oil and gunpowder. My favourite fragrances," says Rally which sums her up.
Rally's car, the Cobra, is sleek like a bullet, just as effective, sexy, stylish, and it gets trashed so many times during the story you have to wince every time. There are a vast array of stylish 70's cars peppered throughout Gunsmith Cats: Beetles, Minis, Corvettes, Vipers, the list goes on. The car chases are pure Hollywood, think Bullitt and French Connection, and strap in for some thrills decorated with bullet casings and destruction of public property.
Rally's partner in stopping crime is 18 year old assistant though business-partner-wannabe Minnie-May the sex-slut firecracker. Yeah that’s a mouthful, just like her in a whore-house on an average day. Not a character as likeable as Rally, she's useful if you're out of ammo but you wouldn’t want to hang out with her too long for fear of catching a venereal disease.
The third wheel is bespectacled money-hungry Becky who you go to for a tip on a case, though expect to twist her arm for any help, and make sure your wallet's safe. Like Minnie though, she's got a heart of gold and comes through for you in the end. (Seriously, make sure your wallet's safe)
Then there's Bean Bandit. Jet black hair, strong chin, black jacket, Rambo bandana, popping up here and there as the anti-hero getaway driver who quite literally gets away with everything, while maintaining a tantalisingly out-of-reach relationship with Rally. He walks the line between noble and criminal; a walking talking mountain of manliness, an instant crowd-pleaser
And there's friendly cop Roy who's always around to give a helping hand to our gunsmith cats, not just a useless expositional tool with no personality, but another welcome addition to the cast of this movie written by Elmore Leonard and directed by Steven Soderbergh that doesn’t yet exist.
The art is this cute yet violent mix with the western backdrop of Chicago grounding everything in the realm of the familiar for western readers. Not that manga set in Japan are beyond comprehension, but a Chicago-set tale with an international cast will no doubt resonate more. Even the violence, as imaginative as it is with Rally's brilliant gun techniques to get out of any sticky situation, is never against the laws of physics. A random highlight is Rally at gunpoint, aiming her own gun in such a position as to blind her assailant with flying bullet casings being expelled as she fires away.
The Blue Brothers is an influence on Gunsmith Cats. Not the latter half of the movie with the hilarious SWAT guys and the car falling thousands of feet from the air, but the earlier stuff with Carrie Fisher carrying a bazooka around and causing sneaky destruction in Chicago.
If you're down with that, you're down with the gunsmith cats.