Anime Review: “Gungrave”: Setting Standards Surprisingly High

Written by Alex Bowman October 06, 2012

“Gungrave” was an anime that really seemed to grab my attention throughout its entirety. However, my interest was not piqued by the psychological evolution of the two leading roles or the well crafted story that touched on the concept of revenge being justified while still brilliantly blending science-fiction into a crime drama; what caught my eye instead was the fact that this anime was adapted from a video game. In 2002, “Gungrave” was released for the Playstation 2 by Sega and not even a year later it was adapted into an anime that ran for 26 episodes. This is an anime that I recommend you check out immediately because of how it is able to make an adaptation successful while sticking true to the cinematic rule of showing as opposed to telling.

Beyond the Plot

The story for “Gungrave” takes place in the fictional city of Billion where the Millennion crime syndicate rules with an iron fist. We are immediately introduced to Beyond the Grave, a silent amnesiac that has been resurrected thanks to the power of SCIENCE! The first half of the series deals with Grave’s past when he used to be Brandon Heat and how he and his best friend, Harry MacDowell, rose from a life of poverty and gang violence to being top enforcers for Millennion. The second half of the story deals with Grave coming to grips with his past, present and future whilst seeking revenge against his murderer.

A Tale of Two Brothers

Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowell are the biggest scene stealers in this show; both characters act as foils for one another’s actions and motivations. Brandon is portrayed as being the silent introvert that prefers to let his actions speak for him, while Harry is the fast talking manipulator that seems loyal at first but usually tends to blindside others in his quest for power. The dichotomy between these two characters really sets the stage for the psychological metamorphosis that both men go through in the second half of the series. Brandon’s resurrection causes him to constantly question his personal conceptions of loyalty while Harry, being the new leader of Millennion, suffers from manic delusions of grandeur which makes him quick tempered against nay-sayers that question his authority. Every single character is introduced in order to shape the actions of both Brandon and Harry because when it all boils down to it, this anime is meant to showcase the connection between these two supposed friends. The final episode will really tug at your heart strings as all of the actions that both men have made against each other come to a very surprising resolution.

Ebbs and Flows

The writing for this show is phenomenally well-executed especially given the limited amount of source material the writer had to deal with. The flash backs tend to feel a little stretched out at times but complimentary action scenes help to spice up the pace of the show without riddling the atmosphere with bullet holes. The revenge concept is handled very well in regards to the pathological mythos reminiscent of a crime noir. The science fiction elements are quite silly at times but it helps to add a little originality to the concept of the show. Some viewers may feel that Brandon’s character is squandered by being reduced to the silent protagonist cliché that has been resurrected from the grave countless times before. However, the reasons for his silence are necessary in regards to the cinematic rule of showing instead of telling and this is where the writing really stands out. This anime is also very rich with pathos; you will feel very involved in the life of Brandon as you come to grips with the actions he makes both in his first and second life. Brandon is also portrayed as having multiple layers attached to his characterization. He is portrayed as being a best friend, a brother, a son, and a lover all in the same episode, which really helps to flush out the dichotomy he has with Harry who has the exact same layers as Brandon but uses them in different ways. The theme of loyalty is also handled very maturely throughout the series, with the concept of betraying the ones you love acting as a driving force for much of the plot that can really keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait for the final resolution to play out.

 At the End of it All

I recommend this anime series whole-heartedly regardless of its original source material. Despite having a lead role that some viewers may find downright flat at times, the story is very well executed and is the standard for what crime dramas and revenge plots need to be. The main protagonists are the perfect yin and yang for this series and provide many pathological and psychological analyses for the show. In summary, check this series out and let it take you beyond your senses.

My Rating: 7/10

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