This is anime review 10 and is part of The 12 Days of Christmas
Gun X Sword is the best Action/Adventure/Revenge/End-of-the-world/Slice of life/Sci-fi/Space/Villain-of-the-week/Philosophic/Coming-of-age/Romance/Comedy/Mech/Spaghetti western I’ve ever seen. In all seriousness though, Gun X Sword is a big boiling pot of popular tropes and elements of popular anime of the 90’s and early 2000’s that manages to be somewhat unique in it’s lack of originality.
The cast is fairly large, so I’m only going to focus most of my commentary on the two lead characters: Van and Wendy. As for the supporting cast, they are all over the place in terms of how interesting they are and how much screen time they get.
Van is an interesting character. Let’s get the elephant-in-the-room out of the way first though. On the surface Van is literally Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) mixed with Vash (Trigun) to form some sort of super protagonist with a tragic backstory that we are all supposed to like and think is cool.
Some people are going to take one look at him though and go, “Nope, nothing to see here” and turn the show off. This is a real shame since director, Gorou Taniguchi, really seemed to be making more of a show about (sometimes not so) subtlety riffing on things that were popular in the 90’s and early 200’s while still being a serious work. More on that later though.
Aside from the obvious inspiration of Van’s character design, he also shares a similar backstory. His fiancé was murdered right before they were about to get married by a man called “The Claw” and Van has since that day decided he would kill The Claw in order to avenge her death.
Van did differ from his supposed counterparts, in that, he is given this strange quirk of drowning everything he eats in condiments, which is pretty funny. This reminded me of the protagonist in Darker Than Black that wasn’t made until 2 years after Gun X Sword. Additionally, he has a mech, which seems totally random at first, but is later explained.
Being totally honest though, Van is a generic protagonist, but still a likable one that you want to root for. He did behave in a way that felt realistic, which was a nice touch that I appreciated.
Wendy is the most fleshed out and developed character in the entire series. story is entirely told from her point of view, though that may not be immediately obvious to some viewers. She begins the story as a pretty naïve kid who is mostly “along for the ride” with Van to find her brother, Michael. As the story advances, her character develops quite a bit.
In addition to providing perspective for the story, she acts as a foil for Van’s character. Strangely enough, the way this is portrayed is through Wendy wanting to marry Van. This makes for some interesting back-and-forth between the characters and their opposing ideals.
To briefly mention the supporting cast, there’s a bounty hunter type women, a Voltron like group, a skilled female pilot, and a pair of brothers (one with the same goal as Van). They were all different and interesting, though some could get kind of annoying after awhile.
The villain is pretty sinister as he’s left in the shadows until about the half-way point. At that time you get to meet him, and to avoid spoiling things, he wasn’t exactly what I expected. This was an interesting development though as it had me further curious as to where the show would ultimately go.
Just like the cast of good guys, the villain also boasts a group that calls themselves “The original seven” (although there are only 6 of them) which were each interesting in there own way. Only two of them really stood out to me, there was one guy who was absolutely deranged and way too into his mother. The other character that stood out for me was a women who piloted her mech by pole dancing, which I thought was a pretty unique concept.
Gun X Sword follows Van, who is soon accompanied by Wendy, on their 26 episode journey to find The Claw. Van’s objective is to kill The Claw and avenge the death of his fiancé. Wendy is traveling with Van in order to recue her brother, Michael, from The Claw.
The first act of the series focuses primarily on comedy and action to drive the plot. It’s fairly light-hearted and is meant to allow the viewer to get to know the characters better. This portion of the story creates a good hook that had me interested.
As the plot advances, the story becomes progressively darker while raising the stakes for the characters. Generally, this was a good move for the show up until the last few episodes. At this point, the series began to drag on a bit, but at that point the stakes had gotten so high that it would have been worse to try and wrap it up in less episodes than it did.
Speaking of the ending, though I was pretty sure how the series would conclude, I wasn’t 100% sure. Since the story had so many borrowed elements, I was unsure if they would have the ending that would be expected, or throw a curveball. I found the anime’s ending to be satisfying, but not perfect.
Throughout the story of Gun X Sword there are several references and jabs at various shows, themes, and plotlines that were popular in the 90’s and early 2000’s. This causes Gun X Sword to come off as pretty unoriginal, giving the impression that it’s simply stealing from what was popular. However, I got the impression that this was done for comedic purposes and as a sort of commentary on the state of the anime industry at the time. Naturally, I could be wrong about that, but it wouldn’t have changed my personal enjoyment either way.
My overall opinion of Gun X Sword‘s story is that while it wasn’t original, it was presented in an entertaining format that managed to feel somewhat unique in it’s lack of originality. I know that sounds weird, but that’s honestly how I felt by the end of it.
Visuals & Sound
Gun X Sword wasn’t really anything special in the visuals department. The animation was average for a majority of the show, only becoming slightly better during the fight scenes. For what the show was, the animation wasn’t distracting and did it’s job.
I would like to note that the mechs in the show had unique designs and didn’t feel like they were just carbon copies of each other. It was nice to see that level of effort when it came to these designs and variety.
Similarly, the music wasn’t anything too great either. The opening was pretty bland, and the ending was only ok. There were a few times, where they did mix up the ending and those times were often fun. While the opening was pretty boring sound wise, it did something interesting with its visuals.
The first time that the opening is seen, there are several elements that are just silhouettes. As the show progressed, these silhouettes were filled in by various characters as they were introduced to the story. This kept things a “surprise” in some regards and was a nice touch.
Some of the background music was nice, particularly during the more emotionally charged scenes, but nothing really struck me as exceptional in this department either. The music as a whole wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.
The voice acting was what one would expect from a Funimation dub. The characters were cast relatively well and nobody was overly annoying. There were a few characters that could have been much worse, but those cases were mitigated by the fact that they didn’t speak much, or were only in the story briefly.
David Vincent as Van, and both of The Claw’s voice actors (Kirk Thornton and Wait Russel) were particularly well cast. These were easily the standout performances and made the show that much better for me.
Score & Where To Buy
Gun X Sword is a difficult show to score well. For me, I got a lot of enjoyment from the series and interpreted it differently than others have. For me, the series is pretty solid and I found it to be enjoyable. I really want to give this anime an 8/10 with the recommendation to try it, but at the same time I don’t.
From a critical standpoint, the show doesn’t really do anything extraordinarily different and borrows much of its ideas from other sources. Therefore, I ultimately give Gun X Sword a score of 6/10 with the recommendation to give it a pass. It’s not that the show is bad, but for a lot of people they’d be better off just watching Cowboy Bebop or Trigun.
Gun X Sword is available at Rightstuf for $20.24.