Big Crazy Anime: GUNxSWORD
“MUSTACHE BRIGADE, ATTACK!”
So, remember how I was all bummed out that I couldn’t find any awesome anime series anymore? You guys were all really helpful, and I’ve got every available series on my Netflix queue.
Except it turned out Netflix already had one waiting for me in the instant queue: GUNSWORD.
The title pretty much tells you what you’re getting into. And if it didn’t, that first line up at the top? ACTUAL LINE OF DIALOGUE.
But here it is, the Big Crazy explanation of the premise:
“A drifter in a tuxedo he wore when he was widowed on his wedding day searches for Doctor Claw* with the help of a little girl, a memory-metal sword, and a giant suit of armor he can call down from a satellite.”
THAT’S what I was looking for!**
Now, you might complain that this series isn’t much more than a mash-up of all the other shows I liked: the “roaming ronin and spirited girl sidekick” aspect of Samurai Champloo, the “laconic man of action and his busty accomplice” bits of Cowboy Bebop, the “mysteriously powerful mecha” parts of Gundam Wing (and also Space Knight Tekkaman Blade), the “dangerously competent idiot” motif of Trigun….
I have no problem with any of this, because I was looking for EXACTLY something that threw together my favorite elements of those series into a hearty stew. Gunsword*** is that hearty stew.
It is also a show that’s more than willing to screw around with its central quest premise, early and often, if it finds a story it is more interested in telling. For instance, the third episode basically puts its lead characters on the backburner to play around with the idea, “Wonder what it’d be like if the Voltron pilots lived to be surly, drunken old men telling tall tales of their past glory in a town where nobody cares about them anymore.”
Seriously – you could remove Vann and Wendy from the episode and it would pretty much tell the same story.
Episode 4? “Vann’s got a fever, and Wendy goes to get medicine in town.” That’s it – that’s the entire plot.
I appreciate a show that’s flexible enough to spin some unlikely stories within its framework, but to do so THAT early in the run is pretty impressive.
Comparing all these series and looking for common threads, I realized that what I was really looking for was a great anime Spaghetti Western: Dangerous men of few words with murky pasts, wandering through treacherous territory, fairly oblivious to anything unrelated to their own personal missions. Violence and occasionally comedy ensues. But also with swords and giant battle-robots.
If the only thing I ever watched from now on fit this description, I think I’d still be pretty happy. (To put it another way: “Sorry, The Wrestler – come back to me when Mickey Rourke beats up New Jersey in a big tattooed mecha.”****)
Does this make me a shallow and incurious audience? Totally.
But on the other hand, I have a full plate of sci-fi samurai westerns, in a medium that didn’t even notice Firefly was here or gone because they do that genre mash-up shit all the time.
*Yes, seriously, the unseen bad guy is straight-up Doctor Claw (and BTW: dig that incredibly detailed Wikipedia entry!) from Inspector Gadget. Odd coincidence (or IS it…?), considering the production company also apparently provided animation assistance on that show; meanwhile, the director did some work on Code Geiss (recommended by Sandy), and the writer spent time with Hellsing, another one I kinda wanted to check out.
**Braak and I have been working on our latest Super-Secret Project, and this recent search for anime that suits my mental pleasure centers has reminded me that for all the “character moments” and “emotionally resonant plots” I’d been pushing for, I may have been skimping too much on “batshit awesome craziness.” See? These shows can be a teaching tool, as well.
***My one complaint: the original Japanese title translates as Gun Vs. Sword, which is not only just as cool as the needlessly streamlined GunSword, it explains the general attitude of the show a lot better, much like when you watch a show called “Cowboy Bebop,” you instinctively know what kind of style you’re in for.
****Which, now that I realize it, almost describes the last act of Iron Man 2.