America, 19th century. Viu Bannes, a young and determined boy gets to know the legend of Gun Blaze West—a perfect place, where only the best gunmen can get. With his friend, the wanderer Marcus Homer, they began training to be able to overcome the difficulties during the planned journey to Gun Blaze West. But soon they have to face the first enemies, and the gang of robbers are just the first step during the long-long journey...
The problem with Shonen Jump at the time was the cancellation of some series due to not selling enough content and Gun Blaze West was one of those works. The series was canceled against the very will of Nobuhiro Watsuki, the man behind Buso Renkin and the best-known seinen manga ever, Rurouni Kenshin ("Samurai X" in Europe).
The series had everything to be successful but due to the lack of sales was eventually forgotten in the memory of the people who supported the series. I have to admit that I didn't know the series at all, but out of curiosity
I decided to see Watsuki's works - I had bought a volume of Kenshin that day - and I realized that Watsuki is one of the few mangaka's who "touched" new ground, outside the Japanese cliché. When I use these last words (Japanese cliché), I am talking about what is now a nightmare in the trends of selling manga and that even so manages to go unpunished. Gun Blaze West is the only western manga that I know of and the only one VIZ has edited over the years in the industry. Watsuki is, therefore, an underrated author with the series he invested as most people identify him as the author of Kenshin and not as the author of masterpieces that at the time (these works came out) had huge success.
Gun Blaze West invests in something that once, no manga gets: cowboys. Although in the synopsis of the story, the narrator speaks of gunslingers (gunfighters in the VIZ edition), the story is about a boy named Viu Bannes who wants to know a mystical place called "Gun Blaze West", a place where only the strongest can reach in the West (which is a reference where it is located). The story is told inside the United States where our hero lives in Illinois, in a village called Winston Town, in the year of 1875. From here the story is based on actions that Viu makes happen and that is gaining little by little but always with much effort. The manga generally shows a narrative very similar to One Piece, where the naive hero begins a mission to go to a completely unknown land/place to find a great treasure (but as in One Piece, the treasure remains a secret). Viu eventually meets Marcus Homer, a species of Portgas D.Ace in One Piece; an older brother), but the character ends up giving his life to the protagonist, which for me is a reference where Oda was inspired to implement in his story, because Gun Blaze West was a much older and much more inspiring manga from the emotional point of view, at the time).
The protagonist, Viu Bannes, is always a character very attached to his friends and manages to always find some way to defeat the enemy (such as the cliché manga following that has been published, One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Hitman Reborn, Fairy Tail and so on).
Let's be honest here: Viu Bannes is nothing more than a typical Shonen Jump character who looks like it was taken from a catalog of cliché heroes and everything but Viu, unlike many main characters, fits perfectly into the hero role because the play Is shonen and because the environment of the story helps the character to grow and mature as both a man and a gunman. In addition, the character is made on purpose, and so I quote the words of Watsuki: "- Viu came about from my strong wish to do a shonen-type main character".
In the second volume of the manga, there is a lot of new characters, Watsuki did very well in creating new characters from scratch and not using characters from other works of theirs (re-use old characters) and he explains each one at the end of each chapter. The manga concludes the events of the first volume, where Target Kevin burns a house where Viu and his new friends (Will Jonhson and his sister, Carol Jonhson) are for a while. After everyone saved, Viu plans to confront Target Kevin and the major of the city invites him to play a game called "Deadly Target" where he basically has to fire his weapon as quickly as possible (always before the enemy) to the point where the target is marked. After addressing this issue, Viu and Will Jonhson meet the new characters in the series: Colice Satou, the new recruit for Viu's group; Robert Rodriguez, a man who teaches Viu on how to use his gun; Uno and Dos, twin sons of Guallaripa who are determined to help their father on his journey and Guallaripa, former partner of Robert Rodriguez and father of Uno and Dos. They are characters that are implemented in the story with the purpose of remaining for some time but as the manga was canceled, the characters lost a lot of characterization and were incomplete, in addition, the fights are very fast and objective but regardless of that, the art is still amazing.
In the third and final volume of the manga, there are three new characters: JJ, a convinced armed man who travels to Gun Blaze West with his band (Watsuki describes him as being a "colder version of Marcus Homer"), Armor Baron , the first messenger of Gun Blaze West (a sort of judge) and Sarge Thunderarm, as a soldier of the United States Cavalry Army (he believed to have been killed after he took a cannonball but was rebuilt as a Cyborg in the service of the US government in order to find Gun Blaze West). In the end, Gun Blaze West is just the promise that Viu Bannes made at the beginning of the story and even with some spoilers and some repetition in the lines, the manga ends up in the best possible way.
It's a shame this manga has been canceled but even so, the end of the story has a gigantic plot twist and only demonstrates Watsuki's imagination to accomplish an end with so little time. This is one of my favorites mangas of shorted manga along with "Barrage" by Kohei Horikoshi, which is my favorite manga ever.
I can not give a score other than 9/10 to the manga, it was extremely unfortunate to have been canceled and even with repetition of the same idea of the place (which is the Gun Blaze West), I think it is worth it, and the reader can have some differentiation between manga genres while having a unique story that is almost impossible to have in Japanese comics.
Gun Blaze West is a manga that had potential to become something special, but because of its cancellation, it never got a chance to take off, thus making it difficult to judge the manga. It's fun while it lasts, but it's definitely a manga that won't leave you satisfied. If you've ever read Zombie Powder by Tite Kubo, you know what I'm talking about. Gun Blaze West to Nobuhiro Watsuki is more or less what Zombie Powder is to Tite Kubo.
The story isn't exactly original. Its plot is akin to popular shounen manga such as One Piece and Naruto. It's the "I'm gonna be the
best" plot we've all seen a billion times before. For a lot of long-running shounen manga, this isn't necessarily a bad thing because subplots will make up for a lack of intriguing plot. However, in this manga's case, there aren't enough chapters to properly get into any interesting subplots. I will, however, give this manga credit for its unique setting. It utilizes a Wild West theme, and it really helps this manga stand out a little.
The artwork was good, but I can't say I liked the particular style that Watsuki went with for this manga. I personally liked his artwork in Rurouni Kenshin much more. That said, it's still a decent-looking manga. Its style didn't really click with me, but there's no denying that the artwork was done well. The action scenes and backgrounds look good, and the character designs are alright.
It's difficult to judge the characters because they never really had a chance to be fleshed out completely. Viu Bannes is a likable protagonist, but he's also a walking cliche. He's determined to be the best and he's partially motivated by a childhood tragedy. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Mr. Bannes isn't all that different from characters such as Monkey D. Luffy and Naruto Uzumaki. The other characters aren't terribly interesting, but they, too, are likable, even if we don't get a chance to see the characters develop.
I can't deny this manga was enjoyable. The Wild West theme makes for some very entertaining action scenes. The story may not have a chance to go anywhere interesting, but the potential it sets up is what makes this manga so enjoyable to read. Overall, I'm not sure if I'd recommend it to everyone, but if you're a fan of Nobuhiro Watsuki and enjoy shounen manga, then go for it. If not, then steer clear. It's a fun read, but its untapped potential makes it hard to recommend.
It was a nice concept that they used with the West rather than go with your generic Japanese setting. A goal is enough to power someone's life. The very same can be said about this story. Gun Blaze West focuses on only one true path. It may have been a short series with a disappointing discontinued ending but Gun Blaze West forever takes us to the place we've always dreamt of going to. And it gives us a strong realization to embrace our goals. One that is as strong as that of the main character's, Viu Bannes.