Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rewind: Gungrave

My family and I are busy right now, but stress, thankfully, seems low at the moment. I was able to take a few minutes away for my third weekly Rewind post. I picked one that I knew I had screenshots for, in an attempt to cut down time.

On Anime-Planet, I have two custom anime lists that I keep up to date. One includes all the anime I've completed more than once. There are thirteen titles on that list. The other, entitled "Anime I Continue to Rave About (all time faves)," has only two titles.

Gungrave is on both of those lists. I've seen it three times, and I recommend it to my friends. My mom has often heard me rave about it. Maybe I haven't blogged about it because I talk about it all the time anyway. I've even mentioned it in my journal. Yet it seems incredibly unfair that so many other anime have been featured in posts, and Gungrave, one of only two anime to be named an all time favorite, doesn't even have a tag on my blog yet.

It doesn't matter. I only have a little time left. Let's get to the important part: what makes Gungrave so great.

I could just tell you that it's an action drama about the mafia. I could also refer you to the Anime-Planet description and sothis's review. But none of that would tell you what I love about this show.

Harry and Brandon are the two on the right in this
picture of their gang. 
Sure, the action is great. I like the guns and the fights. And, of course, anything involving the mafia ought to be intriguing.

Still, the guns, the mafia, and the setting, prominent as they are, don't make the anime. The characters and relationships capture my heart and drive the plot. The main character, Brandon Heat, is especially dear to me. For a street rat turned mafia enforcer turned... something else.... he has a heart of gold, and the values to match.

Brandon and his best friend, Harry MacDowel, met in the orphanage when they were young kids. The orphanage was hard, and life after they left wasn't much easier. They grew up in a neighborhood where bullet holes were a more common decoration than flowers. Yet it was their home.

After the first episode, which flashes ahead in the story, we meet Brandon and Harry at the beginning of adulthood. I'd put them around 18 years old. They've formed a family of sorts with three other kids, and they live simple lives of small crime, fights, and friendship. We follow Brandon and Harry for the next couple decades of their lives, watching them grow. Their deep friendship encounters twists and turns, and seems to fail at a certain time, yet the heart connection remains.

Of the two men, Brandon is the one who holds most selflessly to the friendship. He is fiercely loyal to those he counts as friends, especially Harry. He's like a shadow next to his friend, especially at first, but he's also the last one you'd want to fight. He's quiet, but not timid. He's not expressive with his emotions, but he feels deeply. His love, for friend and sweetheart alike, is selfless and true. The ones whom he loves tear his heart apart, yet he does not resent them. Nor does he harden his heart, nor abandon them to save himself from further hurt.

It's not blind love, nor even enabling love. When his friends go the wrong way, Brandon takes it upon himself to make thing right, even if it kills him... even after it kills him.
Brandon in episode 24, still sweet as ever, but with
a much bigger burden than he had in that other picture.

I'm running out of time, but let me say this: there is a lot of action. Fistfights, gunfights, amazingly fitting science fiction action, chases, duels, assassination... the list goes on. It's all exciting and well executed. Most importantly, to me anyway, the action scenes are expressions of who the characters are, and building blocks for who the characters become.

I spent a little bit of time on Brandon in this post, and I still didn't cover everything that makes him so awesome. He's not alone; almost all the characters are wonderfully developed. It's amazing to watch their mental, emotional, and physical development. For example, one of the secondary characters slowly grows from a friendly, skinny young man to a very fat, upset, dangerous man. We know why he's fat, too; we've watched him consume fried chicken almost constantly. His physical changes exemplify the changes we watch in other characters. There's an important one who becomes twisted and villainous. Yet I still love him, because I know who he was, and who he could be if he made different choices.

Agh! I must stop now. I should have known it was a bad idea to write Gungrave when I don't have a lot of time on my hands. I could make this post twice as long and still have more good to say. There is one character, maybe two, that annoyed me, but even she had her place in the story. The show is at least 98% awesome, so I can overlook her negative traits.


  1. Man, I remember when Gun Grave had aired on TV many years it does not mean that I'm old =p your thoughts make want to check it out again some time...maybe even write about it if I have time...

    1. Old is relative... but 2004 was a while ago. I'm so used to watching Gungrave online, it's hard to imagine watching it as it was released on TV.

    2. I have teh DVD actually. Crunchyroll I believe was selling it, and I remember liking it (and it was a good price) so of course I'd take it. So you stick to your online, I'll stick to my glorious TV xD

  2. I have always felt the same exact way towards gungrave and you took the words right out of my mouth with this review. When i think back to my first time stumbling across gungrave on adult swim i can still remember thinking how amazing and different (in an awesome way) that show was compared to the anime the aired on toonami during the day. Dont get me wrong i loved the anime on toonami but gungrave was just in a class of its own. After seeing that episode i searched everywhere for the box set and i finally found it at a store called sun coast. I have never bought any anime dvd/bluray before or since then, but i willingly paid the over inflated 120$ for the box set and finished the series in a few days (i wanted to watch it all at once but i held off to make it last XD)

    Ever since seeing that show, through all these years i took my personality that was already very similar to Brandon's and made sure i stuck to who i was and i can say i am proud of who i am now partially because of modeling myself after Brandon. Anyway that may all sound way too dramatic but its just how i feel, no fictional character/show has ever had an impact like Brandon Heat and Gungrave has for me.

    1. Thanks for commenting! Brandon Heat is quite the impactful character, so I don't think what you're saying is too dramatic. You're in good company here. :) Brandon does make some unfortunate choices, and my admiration of him requires some suspension of disbelief (he's not exactly living in line with the law), but I still do admire him, and identify with him to some degree. I hope to get another post about him and Harry up soon.


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