Agrento Soma (Arujento Sōma)

After a slow start that wasn’t actually slow – I was transfixed.

Agrento Soma (Arujento Sōma) 2000

Argento Soma feels like a bit of a rare story for me, where the pay-off definitely matched the mystery and tension that had built across the previous episodes. And in an industry littered by the cast-off bodies of so many unfinished shows only given a single season, it’s nice to come across a story with a conclusion.

In regard to the pacing, what was ‘slow’ for me was warming to most of the cast.

Without Commander Ines and Sue or Michael (and to a lesser extent Hattie), I wasn’t invested in anyone’s outcome precisely. At first. Actually, unless you were to count how much I came to want Ryu to fail, to receive his just desserts.

Instead, it was the central mystery of why the aliens attacked earth, why they continued to seek the mysterious Pilgrimage Point, that kept me going until I warmed to the cast.

Right off the bat I knew Ryu was a jealous loser, and even when he became tolerable later on – usually at the cost of the emotional well-being of others – I don’t think I actually wanted him to succeed. He was a fantastic character in that respect. Not quite anti-hero, not quite antagonist, and amusingly absolutely utterly unaware that he was not the hero of the story*.

*Trying to paraphrase something iniksbane brought to my attention with that last sentence – and also, thanks heaps for the recommendation 😀

So, now that I’ve got all that out of the way – what’s the anime actually about? Well, it’s about people trying to defend the earth from aliens. And:

[From MAL] In the year 2059, the earth has been plagued by aliens for several years. In an effort to learn more about these aliens, Dr. Noguchi and his assistants Maki Agata and Takuto Kaneshiro try to revive the professor’s experiment, a large Bio-Mechanical alien named Frank. During this process the alien comes to ‘life’ and the lab is subsequently destroyed, leaving Takuto the only survivor and the alien disappearing into the wilderness.

And further, there’s mecha, mystery, science-fiction and drama aspects all neatly woven together as events expand from the premise above – even a bit of mind-games, especially when it comes to Ryu and Mr X, whose scenes together often have interesting staging and lighting, really selling the duplicity.  

If you like to compare things (as I do), there are clear classic science-fiction themes, something of a War of the Worlds feel here, and for some fans no doubt you’ll find that Neon Genesis comes to mind also, especially with the escalation of alien attacks used for some of the anime’s structure, but Argento Soma still stands quite apart from the two texts I mentioned.

Some of what differentiates the show for me is because Argento Soma feels a lot like a character study before anything else, a vehicle for Ryu to become a better person – and it’s a long redemption arc too (if you’d want to go that far). And while most events and other characters often serve that purpose, Argento Soma shows a wider cast that is notable in its own right. (A shame that Sue’s past only sneaks into the OVA, however).

Another thing that I think separates Argento Soma from any cries of ‘Eva-clone’ might be the classic, big science-fiction ideas most commonly seen in 20 Century science-fiction cinema… but I won’t spoil them here.

I will say that the somewhat nose-less designs (courtesy of one of my fav directors, Shukou Murase) took me a little while to acclimatise to, but it’s definitely memorable. And also in regard to design, I definitely felt that Frank’s look was top notch. It had a less organic but more human feel compared to the other aliens, to my eye.

Bob Newhart cameo!

In addition to the above quibble, I will note that Ryu spends most of the show as a terrible person – not just ‘flawed’ but really, a bad dude. This means he abuses everyone around him, especially women, both before and after the tragedy that inspires his childish (but not surprising) drive for revenge.

But as I said before, he does (for the most part), have a redemption arc, and in the context of the whole series, his shitty behaviour is not front-and-centre. For instance, you’re not going to be confronted with an endless parade of graphic psychical or verbal abuse, but just be aware that he’s no hero.

(Also, Hattie can be a bit shrilly repetitive).

But finally, is this anime for you?

In short, if you want a twentysomething-year-old mecha show focused on adults, on revenge, with a great cast and a lead character that is far from ‘clean-cut’, then this could be for you.

It also has a deeply satisfying conclusion to its central mystery – another reason to give it a shot if you can find it.

4 Stars

Finally! My first review in over a month 🙂

Devil May Cry: The Animated Series (Debiru Mei Kurai)

Devil May Cry is another anime based on a classic game franchise, but I can’t judge this one in terms of its merits as an adaptation, since I’ve not played any of the games.

And so I’ll focus on the anime itself.

Devil May Cry: The Animated Series (Debiru Mei Kurai) 2007

In terms of plot, our hero Dante runs a demon-hunting business, ‘Devil May Cry’, while struggling to get out of debt in order to afford more strawberry sundaes 🙂

I enjoyed Devil May Cry without being thrilled by every moment; there was some great action and memorable creature designs, especially in the first two eps, along with a few stories that stood out above the others.

One thing that I found perhaps more interesting looking back, was the way that the villain works to link together what appears to be ‘only’ an episodic format. And while he might be typical for his archetype, he’s probably not so typical as the Big Bad. (I guess that’s a little vague but I wanted to make an attempt to avoid spoilers).

To continue on with things I enjoyed, Dante stands out in part due to his character contractions, rather than only due to the very satisfying high-contrast colours he’s given. Lady and J.D were other favourites from a cast that has nice mix of recurring and new characters.

In terms of favourite episodes, ‘Rock Queen’ heavily features music and even record-collecting as plot points, so that was pretty ace. Some of the characters even got a happy ending too! I also really enjoyed the ‘Death Poker’ episode, as it was a little different to the more typical hack-and-slash of many from other plots.

Speaking of which, there’s plenty of demon-fodder in Devil May Cry, blood too, and some gore, though most (but not all) of it is focused on the monsters. Still, pretty obviously not the kinda anime for the young ones.

To quickly finish on something that bugged me, while Patty started off in brat-mode, she became far more tolerable as the series went on, but it’s a shame that in the end, Dante seemed to value her most as a bloody cleaner.

3 Stars

Darker than Black (Dākā Zan Burakku ー Kuro no Keiyakusha)

Shadowy syndicates, superheros and melancholy characters – tick, tick and tick!

Darker than Black (Dākā Zan Burakku Kuro no Keiyakusha) 2007

I feel like Darker Than Black walks a line between drama for characters who are under-powered and drama for characters who are over-powered.

And of course, while I use the word ‘superhero’ I don’t mean it in the Marvel sense. This is quieter stuff, but powers and the impact on both the people who use them and the overall storyline are definitely still the main focus.

Having said that, I was perhaps most compelled by the slow-drip of back-story for Hei/Li. That and the central mystery in terms of the gate disaster, especially since the setting and its implications really unified the episodic mysteries, in addition to fuelling that back-story.

It was also fun to see a structure of connected episodes that weren’t always finished in one 20-minute span. Not a whole lot felt rushed until maybe the ending of the series, though that’s perhaps debatable.

Now, it feels cruel to say that I have some fav episodes, since the others aren’t bad ones at all, but here they are anyway!

The Fallen Star of a Contract
The Scent of Gardenias Lingers in the Summer Rain

The White Dress, Stained with the Girl’s Dreams and Blood
A Heart Unswaying on the Water’s Surface
A Love Song Sung from a Trash Heap

I know I mentioned ‘melancholy characters’ earlier but the tone of the show is hardly morose. Elsewhere, for instance, Gai and his sidekick Kiko offered some lighter moments for contrast.

And while Amber perhaps ended up being a bit underdeveloped for me, I see why she had to remain at least somewhat mysterious. Hei was a great lead character – he was also quite the actor when it comes to faking shyness to fool those around him, and Yin has an interesting, slowly developing mini arc that was probably my fav aspect overall.

Classic stuff from Bones and folks behind shows such as Wolf’s Rain or Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex among others, and including a distinctive Yoko Kanno OST.

Despite not enjoying the ending as much as rest of the series, I finished Darker Than Black without any desire to see the second season, which tells me that I obviously felt there was enough of a satisfying resolution to season one.

4 Stars

Occult Academy (Seikimatsu Okaruto Gakuin)

Occult Academy* charges out of the boxes with its first episode – really throwing punches everywhere and culminating in uber-tsundere Maya standing on her father’s coffin, interrupting the funeral (taking place in in a school auditorium) and shouting about everything being ‘staged’.

Sound over the top?

It definitely is.

But the anime is well-aware of that fact too, and so if you watch episode one it’s possible at least to contextualise what I’ve just mentioned. And if you’re like me, after you’ve seen the ep you’ll probably be 100% hooked on the premise and characters.

Occult Academy (Seikimatsu Okaruto Gakuin) 2010

So, on to the plot! Simply put, Maya and Fumiaki investigate occult occurrences, searching for a way to prevent the end of the world. To add a bit of complication, they’re uneasy allies and he’s a time-traveller while she’s a sceptic, somehow filling in as principal of the school she attends. From there, the show grows increasingly off-the-wall, while holding things together with the central threat of a terrible future that must be avoided.

I thought both Maya and Fumiaki were great lead characters, as their own issues complicate their present day lives nicely. Some of the supporting cast are good enough to be scene stealers too – I’m thinking Smile and JK, and Ami, though I wanted to see a touch more from Junichirou also, especially as we might have a somewhat unreliable narrator with Maya.

Throughout the series, I found myself surprised here and there by a few twists. I also enjoyed the occasional moments of straight-up drama, a great contrast with all the supernatural and humour elements. As much as anything, I really enjoyed the distinctive, varied character design too. Once again, I feel like I’m hammering modern anime a bit… but with certain genres, the character design is a bit same-same, and that’s not the case with Occult Academy.

Ready for the fan-service paragraph? Aside from the typical costume stuff, I was surprised to see some that was vital to plot and character. But I guess if I say too much more, I’ll inadvertently drift into spoiler territory and for some reason, I think this anime is a bit forgotten now? IS that even true? I don’t see the physical edition up with many retailers and can’t remember if it’s available to stream in many places? (And 12 years is a long time in anime).

In any event, Occult Academy surprised me with its mix of humour, heart and the supernatural and I’d recommend it to folks who enjoyed… well, actually, I don’t think I have a handle on shows that include this mix of genres or tone. Maybe if you like a bit of time-travel mixed in with your supernatural, science-fiction, suspense, action comedy?

5 Stars

*Part of A1 Pictures ‘Anime no Chikara’ which featured 3 shows that were originals (Night Raid and Sound of the Sky also), and which inspired me to seek out the other two, which I hope to review soon-ish.

Kino’s Journey —the Beautiful World— (Kino no Tabi)

I hope that Kino’s Journey is considered a classic beyond my limited sphere, since I reckon it’s a wholly compelling series from beginning to end.

Ideally, I’d launch into my reasons for saying why I enjoyed it so much – but I want to instead start with some of my quibbles. And since they include spoilers, I’ll just place a pic or two here first.

Kino’s Journey —the Beautiful World— (Kino no Tabi) 2003

The series is really sparing with details about Kino herself.

I suspect I know at least a few reasons why that would be so, but I still wished there had been time to learn more. Even the episode that introduced Kino’s namesake could have offered us a little more – perhaps a double episode? That would have been great.

Oh well.

(My issue here is obviously something that would have been mitigated by a longer series.)

Secondly, I’m not sure how much I enjoyed the text cards throughout – I liked their function as prompts but I don’t know how effective they were.

Of course, that’s not a bad ratio – two complaints only, right?

So, onto the stuff I loved.

For one, the world building is great – each destination is enthralling and usually pretty distinct, and having Kino’s three-day rule is a perfect way to keep things episodic, which is in turn, the perfect structure for a traveller.

In fact, I wanted another season, another set of surprises and moments that had me pause to think, moments that caused me to question what I thought I understood about any given situation presented in the stories etc.

I guess it wouldn’t be inaccurate to call Kino… a pretty cerebral anime, but it wasn’t a static talk-fest by any stretch.

There’s enough action, movement and lovely visuals to probably keep even casual viewers engaged too – and not just the Colosseum episodes, which came to mind for me first.

One issue I have seen mentioned here and there is Kino herself.

She has a somewhat restrained or even emotionally detached personality (and voice – a delivery that suits her well), though she doesn’t lack compassion at all, I can see times where I wanted her to grow more involved.

It’s also a useful way to give the audience room to insert themselves into the ethical dilemmas, to potentially avoid being swayed by the main character’s choices or beliefs.

I liked the choice and I now find myself wondering about it – was it something unique to the anime, or is Kino similar in the source material?

And perhaps above all, her personality really makes the impact of that last episode a lot stronger, to actually see something really hit home for Kino – where previously she’d been in far greater control of her emotions, she’d been perhaps a little too sure in her role as observer of all that ‘beauty’?

It does seem a bit like a shield for her, and considering her past, it makes sense that she’d be pretty guarded.

Okay, I think that’s about it from me – time to end this review with a few dot-points that I probably could have fit elsewhere, but didn’t:

  • I really enjoyed the muted palette and the occasional use of sepia
  • ‘Persuader’ is an equally striking and troubling name for guns
  • Loved the Florence-like setting in the Land of Prophecies episode
  • Kino’s sense of self is strong, also being quite uninterested in labelling herself – simply claiming to be ‘Kino’ when asked at one point, which is an interesting contrast to her more impartial personality traits
  • Some other fav episodes were the opener and the finale, along with the Land of Wizards and also when we see the nod to Fahrenheit 451

I feel semi-confident recommending this to any anime fan. (Well, any one save for those few out there who only tend to watch a single, narrow sub-category of the medium, I guess.)

Maybe I ought to qualify that claim a bit more with a summary and a few extra bits… and so I think it’s time to bust out a non-essential table 😀 And so below there’s some reasons why I think Kino’s Journey is worth a shot, presented in a hard-to-read table format, lol

I know there was a remake/re-telling/another version of Kino’s Journey released in 2017 but I haven’t seen it. I’m curious… but maybe not enough to actually give it a shot in a hurry as I finished this iteration pretty happy, really.

Anyway, to finally actually wrap up this review, Kino’s Journey is another obvious contender for an update to my Top Ten list.

5 Stars

009-1 (TV)

009-1 (2006) TV

I’m a little annoyed that I’d never come across 009-1 before last year.

Written by Shotaro Ishinomori as a way to tackle stories beyond the shonen demographic familiar with Cyborg 009 etc, it’s an interesting premise where the cold war had continued well into the future. It gave me some Spy v Spy vibes (but with a bigger cast) and a more serious tone, as the futility of the war is very much front and centre across the series.

Right off the bat I’ll say that I was probably pre-disposed to enjoying this anime.

Not just because Ishinomori was behind the pen, but the 1960s-aesthetic (from OST to costume to architecture and weaponry), I loved it. Even things like the echoes of the space-race that appear across the episodes, right down to having (not only) Mylene’s pupils often shaped like little rockets.

Patterns upon patterns here, loved it

Backgrounds and composition were two other highlights for me – it rarely seemed like a single episode passed where I didn’t enjoy some textured view of land or cityscape, or the choice of shot or framing. (Director Naoyuki Konno probably had some great manga panels to reference but I don’t know how close the series is to the source material).

I was also surprised a few times by the twists and turns here, and between plenty of action-based episodes there were some sad tales and stories that take-on big questions too, like perhaps Holy Night and POP or Exodus.

If you’re more well-versed with spy films and TV than I am, I think some of the moments that caught me off guard will be easier to spot.

Lots of fan-service too, mostly focused on beautiful girls and a lot of it fairly exaggerated, though sex and power (and to a lesser extent agency) are actually themes in 009-1.

But above everything else in this category, I cannot finish the review without mentioning the fembot ‘guns in their jubblies’ stuff, because in a pre Austin Powers world I can see it being a great twist but it ended up being comical to me, having seen Austin Powers before 009-1.

I will say that the opening episode does establish a bit of a false sense that the team of Agents will work together across the series, but the anime is mostly focused on 009-1 herself, and so if you’re expecting an ensemble show, this won’t do the trick.

Otherwise, one of my new favs and maybe a contender for the Top Ten. Maybe. Well, Top Twenty, certainly.

5 Stars

Hard not to spoil this joke, but I guess I have now – at least, if you have never seen 009-1 you’ll be anticipating it. And if you never plan to watch 009-1, then there’s no problems, lol

The Book of Bantorra (Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra)

Book of Bantorra is definitely more than its fan service – though if you need some, then the costumes for Noloty and Chesty La Rue Hamyuts Meseta will have you ‘covered’.

And even, to a far lesser extent, Matt or Enlike.

The Book of Bantorra (Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra) 2009

But beyond the window-dressing, there’s a high concept fantasy/action story split into fairly strongly connected, non-linear narratives, full of mysteries and hidden motives.

And it has a stellar opening theme song:

So, what’s the plot?

In a world where dead people turn into books and are stored in the Bantorra Library (where anyone who reads a book can learn their past), Armed Librarians who wield psychic powers defend the Library from their enemy: a religious society known as Sindeki Kyoudan. (Adapted from MAL).

In summary, it sounds a little silly, but I came to accept the premise of the world soon enough.

And there is a neat and clear reason for all of what seems so bizarre on the surface of the world too, but the series does a nice job of keeping the truth if not hidden, at least obscured for a good long while, and then explaining a lot of the mysteries too.

With the unique premise and fascinating world in place, and mysteries abound, the strength of Book of Bantorra I thought still rested with the range of characters. For the most part, they all get time to have some back story and depth in the present, with small arcs or important roles to play, and occasional quirks too.

In fact, the story of Shiron and her trials with the Shindeki Church could have been an entire season for me – and I actually thought, early on, they were going to dominate the series but as I mentioned above, there are a lot of connected plot lines from up to a dozen viewpoints, so be prepared for many threads coming together by the end.

(Having said the above, I could see that if you weren’t hooked on the characters or world-building pretty quickly, then this anime could very well feel frustrating and muddled).

In terms of aspects I personally didn’t enjoy as much, I felt that the soliloquising and/or grandstanding from some of the antagonists was pretty tedious – one of my pet peeves, perhaps.

The ultimate villain was a little underwhelming too, and while Hamyuts’ bra-size seems like obvious pandering, she did have an actual arc and voice actress Romi Park was pretty convincing re: creating the sense of Hamyuts as untrustworthy.  

I’m glad Book of Bantorra was from an era where it wasn’t unusual for an anime to run for 25+ episodes, as this story needed to be that long in order to wrap things up.

In terms of a recommendation, well I think if you like action, fantasy and as I mentioned/warned early in the post, if you like multiple, interconnected narratives too, then there’s a chance you’ll enjoy this anime.

I’m glad I stumbled across it, as I’ve rarely seen it mentioned.

4 Stars

Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl – The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch

Another quick review today – feeling less than stellar after some dental work!

Jubei has so much going on re: the levels of parody and satire, and even a fairly constant stream of sight gags and absurdist stuff too – I recognised some but basically couldn’t keep up at all, and I’m sure I missed dozens and dozens of cultural allusions.

Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl – The Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch (1999)

But the comedy aspect almost always still worked for me!

The series holds the overarching, action-based storyline within the fairly sophisticated comedy framework nicely, it was usually pretty funny and on top of which, featured some great action sequences throughout its 13 episodes – with some of the more intense ones happening during the closing eps.

Here’s the premise, adapted from Wikipedia:

Jubei-chan follows Jiyu Nanohana, a modern junior high school girl and unwilling heir to the Yagyu Jubei school of swordsmanship as she deals with a mystical artefact, the Lovely Eyepatch, and all the enemies who seek her power.

Now, rather than dissect the plot, I’ll leap in to some dot-point highlights before finishing up the review:

  • The kanji changes on Bantarou’s t-shirt were a fun extra layer to his scenes
  • (And his song was pretty funny too)
  • Sai, Jubei’s ghostwriter father, was an interesting character… for positive and negative reasons
  • Visually, there were plenty of ratio changes or dramatic close-ups of objects like candles etc, that really helped to sell the parody of Chanbara
  • The tropes of the Shounen anime also get a bit of good-natured ribbing too
  • I also enjoyed seeing certain characters (without spoilers) cycle through good/evil roles
  • Poor old Koinosuke
  • Visually there’s a great range of styles within the show as well
  • The charming and resolute innocence of Jubei is a great counter to the action + comedy, even as it works on its own comedic level
  • Bonus points for a cool transformation sequence!

Having mentioned all of the above, I did grow weary of everyone’s obsession with Jubei’s breast-size.

And also, can anyone explain to me what the hell Jubei’s father is supposed to be doing when saving Jubei from the fever? Anyone?

And finally, there’s a sequel series available but I haven’t checked it out just yet, might do so one day, not sure.

For fans of comedy, satire and samurai stories.

3 Stars (4 without the creepy shit).

As a quick, closing example to show a touch of the humour – there’s these two shots one after the other during a dialogue scene, which I really enjoyed.

Casshan: Robot Hunter (OVA)

Compared to the 2008 series (Casshern Sins), in some aspects the Robot Hunter OVA feels like more of a somewhat faithful remake of the 1973 original than a full re-imagining, even with the narrative re-ordering here. (However, that’s not to claim that this version makes zero updates or alterations either).

Casshan: Robot Hunter (Robotto Hantā Kyashān) 1993

In other ways it’s very different.

I won’t do heaps of comparative notes here, as I plan to save that for a future post, but the tone of this OVA had an interesting balance between mournful, hopeful and dystopian, whereas I think of Casshern Sins as almost despairing in a way.

As is often the case with stories people write about the future, technology is a bitterly duel-edged sword, appearing as both a tool of violence, of oppression and liberation.

It’s a fairly dystopian society shown in the OVA but as I mentioned, the resistance plot does offer hope and progress toward the eventual showdown between Casshan and Braiking Boss / Black King.

Elsewhere, the music* stood out for me, at times being more symphonic than I was expecting from a 1990s OVA. (Maybe that’s a little dismissive of me, and I mean to note that I enjoyed it as much as the perhaps more to-be-expected rock).

And on the note of OVAs, this is anime, and so it will of course feature an obligatory shower scene featuring Luna – not unlike a typical film from just about any other medium, for that matter. 

Anyway, one thing I appreciated was that this OVA does tell a full story – just be sure to steer clear of the Harmony Gold, cut-down film-length version. The proper Robot Hunter is four short OVAs and is roughly 20 mins longer all told.

Ideally, I’d spend a bit more time on the differences, but basically if you’ve not heard of Harmony Gold, they’re known for making cuts, changing scripts and generally aiming to change anime to be more kid-friendly.

Getting back to Casshan, if you’ve seen any iteration of these characters and were hoping that the classic acrobatic attacks are still here – they are, and they usually look fairy good, everything does generally speaking, but some of the fire effects do seem a bit old-fashioned.

But hey, this is around 30 years ago now.

I will quickly mention two more comparative things, such as the direct visual quotes that I recognised from the first episode of the 1973 series, (see further below) and the way that Braiking Boss’ name was changed in the subs which was interesting.

But again, I’d like to save more of that for the comparison post!

So, is this OVA worth seeking out?

Maybe for Casshern-completionists or for fans of the era (say, where the OVA schedule offered a bit more time to add extra detail to the frames etc), or if maybe you like the classics. Or at least, updates on classics 🙂

4 Stars

*Michiru Ōshima, also known for (among many other things) FMA.

And here we go – an example of one of the shots that references the original 🙂

Gungrave (Gangureivu) TV

It’s probable that I’ve said this before but I find mafia-style stories a hard sell.

And yet, I’ll usually at least try them out.

Gungrave (Gangureivu) TV 2003

Part of what led me to give Gungrave a look was the connection to Yasuhiro Nightow and the promise of the supernatural that was lain out so convincingly during episode one (though not fulfilled until post episode 17 for me).

And while there are a few echoes of Trigun (Wolfwood’s Punisher etc) this is obviously quite different, not just setting-wise, either.

One example is the themes.

Thematically, the price of loyalty and betrayal are key in the anime – this is as much crime-family drama as anything else, remember? – but I was probably most drawn to the science-fiction elements in the end, and the sort of revenge plot that was eventually abdicated in favour of… well, I won’t spoil the ending, even in my ‘spoiler section’.

I also really enjoyed the designs, there’s a great range of characters here, but above all I probably liked Brandon/Beyond’s costume and the way that even his weapons are linked to the overall aesthetic (which holds a few hints of things common to the Western genre).

Narrative-wise, there are a few time jumps across the series – and since this is somewhat of a prequel to the game of the same name, learning about the key players’ pasts feels like a logical move. Having said that, I’ve never played the PS2 game so I’m not sure how well everything fits together.

In a big cast there were a fair few memorable characters and voices (Bunji!), though for one, I did think that Lee became a bit shrill in later episodes. Another issue I had was that Maria was not given much agency, which was annoying, but at least the story afforded her some more functionality toward the end.

[Spoiler below]

For me, a lot of the mafia stuff dragged.

It became a bit of a slog despite singular stand out episodes here and there or the great direction in them – and so I was most invested after Brandon’s ‘death’, though above all, I still liked the series.

Mika was cruelly under-utilised as a character and while bookies Widge and Gary (and Bear Walken and Dr. Tokioka) were other stand outs I haven’t mentioned yet, once I did start to crave vengeance on behalf of Brandon I think everything seemed to come together for me; themes, mafia and science-fiction aspects too.

The ending was really interesting but part of me also found it fairly unsatisfying – in terms of bloodlust, at least.

To keep harping on a bit about things I didn’t enjoy so much, making Brandon almost mute during his ‘grave’ era was also a disservice.

He was never much of a talker in the previous arcs, but denying him much in the way of speech really diminishes the potential to add extra depth to a lot of his scenes. Obviously, the visuals do plenty of talking but there could have been more facets to his final arc.

Having grumbled about all of the above, I have to say that I still enjoyed Gungrave a lot – and as a quick final, final thought, it was nice to see a bit of time (though not enough) spent critiquing the deep hypocrisy of crime families.

4 Stars