Tag Archives: space western

Gun x Sword

Type: On the verge of greatness

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Synopsis: Gun x Sword is about a guy with a sword. Well, it’s not really a “sword” sword. It’s more of a remote control for his Mecha suit. There is a guy with a gun as well, but he only shows up here and there. The anime really should have been called “Gun x Claw” since the protagonist is hunting a man with a metal claw for a hand, like in The Fugitive. Wait–the other protagonist Wendy carries a gun. Is she the “gun” in “Gun x Sword?” That actually makes way more sense. Holy crap, I can’t believe I just figured that out…

Pros: This anime is a very good anime. Yes, that’s the phrase. “Very good.” The premise is simple enough, it’s about a guy named Van hunting down a man with a claw who killed his bride to be. In the first episode, Van meets a girl named Wendy, whose brother was kidnapped by the same man with the claw. For a third of the series, the two set out in some pretty great episodic adventures and eventually tie together at the end, where everyone they meet come together to help Van and Wendy defeat the man with the claw and his crazy schemes. The anime does a good job of hiding “The Claw,” for a good while, and I really liked his depiction. The Claw presented himself as a soft spoken man, but never took the “I’m actually really evil” turn that a lot of villains do, especially when their plans are thwarted. He’s crazy, sure, but he developed a cult of personality around his crazy. The anime is filled with interesting characters, from the con woman Carmen 99, to the El Dorado Five, the SICKEST heroes this side of the Power Rangers. The anime has interesting and fun stories, great characters, and an overall swell plot. It has all the elements of a great series.

Cons: But, Gun x Sword never quiet reaches that apex of greatness. It’s hard to describe why. It doesn’t have that “It” factor. It’s strange, because it has everyone most fans and cranky critics would love. It has episodic, stand alone episodes. A lot of them are parodies, which I loved. It has a connecting narrative that doesn’t overpower the present story being told. It has fun and memorable characters. And it has villains that, that-oh, that’s the problem. It has weak villains. Outside of “The Claw,” the villainous New Original 7 (it makes sense in the anime) aren’t that interesting. You have two little kids who are annoying, especially the boy. You have a rich dude, I guess, who does nothing and dies later. And you have Wendy’s Brother, who got brainwashed way too easily. Van’s friend, who turned out betrayed him to the Claw, was somewhat interesting, but he could only really die given the story. That leaves Fasalina, the Claw’s right hand woman, whose interesting in her devotion to the plan. But honestly, a large part of her appeal is her unique fighting styles, which mixes stripper moves and sticky substances. I’ve never seen that. The main protagonists aren’t that strong either. Wendy can get away from being bland since she’s the audience surrogate, but Van doesn’t have an excuse. Van doesn’t really have an arc outside of “making friends.” He acts the same in episode 1 as he does in episode 25. His lazy gimmick was interesting, as was his violent outburst when The Claw was involved, but I never felt that I go to know him. I would have liked an episode dedicated to just his life as “Van the Drifter” (and no, the flashbacks don’t count). The show’s real strengths are it’s stand alone episodes, which area littered with great supporting characters. The last chunck, which is all plot related, is great because it brings all the characters together, but the villains bring it a bit down. If I was going to compare my feelings for this anime to anything, I think it’d be to Planetes. Both are anime that are of solid quality, but it just doesn’t reach the levels of other shows of a similar nature.

Watch it: Again, it’s a good show. I liked it. (4/5)

MVP: El Dorodo Five

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Adios Amigo!

Best Episode: Ep.3 “Heroes One More Time” (most of the episodes are good, but this one has five robots turn into a bigger robot!)

 

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Outlaw Star

Type: Poor Man’s Cowboy Bebop

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Synopsis: Group of wayward travelers end up traveling together, trying to makes ends meets on space jobs. Along the way, they each try to help keep their ship up and not starve. This crew of misfits comprises of a red-haired lady’s man, a bio organism, an 11 year old, some sort of beast master, and a samurai.

Pros: As stated above, this does remind me a lot of Cowboy Bebop. Funny enough, this actually premiered a few months before Bebop, though Bebop’s original manga predates Outlaw Star’s manga by a year. So basically, I’m not sure who stole from who. But we all know who the clear winner is….the audience, cause we got two cool space westerns! I love the later 90’s/early 2000’s future setting, as the animation at the time made everything look lived-in and used. Today’s HD just can’t project that same level of grime, ya know? The crew of the Outlaw Star is fun, though they don’t officially form until halfway through the show. The show does a good job mixing serious story arcs with more stand alone light-hearted tales. Sometimes it doesn’t work, like the time Gene spirals into meloncholy after learning that an assassin is after him was followed with an episode about searching for Pirate Treasure. But overall, the universe the show builds of Pirate, Outlaws, and Military serves to create some very interesting and varied stories. I also liked the general focus on the crew doing odd jobs, as a space crew doing missions is always fun to watch.

Cons: The story pacing if a little off. Their are six main plots lines in the show: Why Melfina was created,  who killed Gene’s father, the fights with the MacDougall Brothers, the Anten Seven, and the quest for the Galactic Leyline. The Melfina and Galactine Layline was the best executed, because they intertwine and are introduced at the very beginning. Gene’s father is more of a subplot, and you honestly forget about it after a while. The MacDougall Brother’s are interesting antagonists, though trying to portray Harry MacDougall as anything other than a crazy stalker felt hollow. Seriously, stop trying to make Predators sympathetic. It doesn’t work. They also don’t who up that much until the later half of the show. Ditto with the Anten Seven, who are described as super bad asses, but don’t do anything significant until the last 2 episodes. Character wise, I felt that Gene and Melfina’s relationship felt artificial, sorta like it was just the thing to do, and Aisha could come off as annoying at times.

Watch it: Space Westerns are the best (4/5)

MVP: Gene Starwind

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They never did explain his star tatoo

Best Episode: Ep. 13 “Advance Guard from Another World” (future hijinks!)

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Trigun

Type: A lot funnier then the artwork suggests

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Synopsis: Set in the distant world of not Cowboy Bebop you guys! A gunman with a broom for a head and red licorice for a body wanders the waste in search of love and peace. Sadly, he’s haunted by his reputation as Vash the Stampede, the humanoid typhoon, despite the fact that he dresses exactly like the description on his bounty. Along for the ride are two female insurance agents, a preacher, and later on his psychotic brother from his plant based species from space.

Pros: I found Trigun to be somewhere between Cowboy Bebop and Rurouni Kenshin. It’s a space western starring around a seemingly goofy protagonist with an infamous past. Though I don’t think Kenshin was quite the lothario Vash was. It even shares a few voice actors with the latter, most notably Dorothy Elias-Fhan, who play Meryl and Miss Kauru in Kenishin. The first half-ish of the story revolves around Vash saving people despite his harsh reputation, and the second revolves around Vash’s inner turmoil over his life and fight with his brother’s henchmen. Vash actually proves to be a pretty complex guy, if a little too quick to tears. Most of the series have stand alone stories, with plots ranging from greedy land owners to fighting would be assassins. A great show through and through.

Cons: I feel that the second half of the show falters. Learning about Vash’s backstory makes things needlessly complicated, and his ultimate showdown with his brother knives, the supposed antagonist of the series, doesn’t feel earned. The thing is, as the show gets closer to the end, the stories become increasingly dark. A lot of characters around Vash die, and we learn that this is all a ploy by Knives to make Vash suffer. The problem is, we only get about two episodes with Knives, so we don’t get enough time to get to know him as a villain. If Knives had been given more screen time, the differences between Vash and Knives would have been more pronounced and their conflict would have been better executed. As it stands, however, it makes the ending feel a bit anticlimactic.

Watch it?: Does a Trigun have three barrels? (No really, I want to know) (4/5)

MVP: Vash the Stampede

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The man with a hundred nickname.

Best Episode: Ep. 18 “Goodbye for Now” (now this is a cowboy story)

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Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

Type: More Cowboy Bebop

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Synopsis: The crew of the SS. Bebop ride again on an adventure involving hacking, terrorism, and that one scene were Faye’s shirt gets popped open. There’s also that great fight at the end and, and…huh.

Pros: Fans of Cowboy Bebop will really like this movie because it’s basically two more hours of the now classic show. The only real difference is that some of the animation gets an upgrade, and most of the music has lyrics in it. Despite the three year gap, the English voice actors (which is the version I saw) didn’t miss a beat.

Cons: This is a great movie based on a TV show in the sense that Serenity was a great movie based on Firefly. Original fans will love it, but newer viewers won’t understand what’s going on, and question why this deserves the moniker “movie.” While it was nice that the movie felt like it fit right into the original TV show, it felt too much like a TV show instead of an independent film.

Watch it?: Mostly for Bebop fans.

MVP: Vincent

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Better than Vicious

Best Moment: The Spike-Vincent Fight

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Cowboy Bebop

Type: The one everyone loves

Synopsis: Group of wayward travelers end up traveling together, trying to makes ends meets on space bounties. Along the way, they each try to resolve issues from their past. This crew of misfits comprises of an uptight ex-cop, a slacker hit-man, a pretty con artist, a hyperactive hacker, and a computer dog.

Pros: Let’s all be upfront about it. If you ask anyone with some anime experience about Cowboy Bebop, they’ll tell you its the best thing since sliced bread. Cowboy Bebop is one of those shows that manages to successfully mix different types of genres effectively, while also throwing in some homages. Other shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Community do the same with similar critical acclaim. Bebop mixes Western and Noir motifs, and sets it behind a sci-fi backdrop. One of the more original elements of Bebop is that each episode is mostly a stand alone story. Their isn’t an over aching story, but each character’s individual story is addressed at some point.

Cons: I was’t able to get blown away by it. Maybe it was all the hype surrounding it. I wasn’t a big fan of each of the character’s individual back stories either. The thing is, each character is very individualistic, so much so, that I never bought them as a cohesive group. The were just four people that were together for a while, not a team. Maybe that’s what the show was going for, who knows?

Watch it?: At least to see what all the fuss is about (5/5)

MVP: Faye Valentine

Do I even need to explain why?

Best Episode: Ep. 24 “Hard Luck Woman” (Spike gets owned so hard)

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