Posted by psgels on 19 November 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



Wow, what a ride. The underworld is a popular setting for anime, and this genre has already produced quite a few wonderful gems, such as Kaze no Youjimbo, Michiko e Hatchin, Baccano and many more. Gungrave, without a doubt, also belongs in this list.

This series tells about the lives of two thugs called Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowell, and chronicles their lives. And boy, it really takes the extra mile to develop these two! The majority of this series is just one huge flashback, which takes a look at the many, many events in their lives that made them into the characters that they are at the beginning of the story. Throughout the series, we get to see the two of them, and the people around them, during all kinds of different ages, ranging from when the two are about 10 years old, until they’re in the middle of their forties. Now that’s some awesome character-development right there!

On top of being a character-study, this also is an action-show. Quite a few of the fights are beautifully animated (courtesy of Madhouse) despite the rather sloppy drawings at times. The fights are varied, ranging from simple duels to huge shoot-outs, although during the second half, I do admit that they turn in this series’ weakness. Especially the fights against the big overpowered monsters are a bit dull, because these monsters have no personality nor free will at all. It’d be just like fighting your way out of a bunch of paper bags. I also didn’t quite like the concept of the so-called “Superior”-monsters: to me, they seemed a bit of a convenient excuse to give the important characters some cheap superpowers.

Nevertheless, this series ends with a very strong finale. All of the important characters get enough of a chance to close off their stories (and considering the development they’ve gotten, this really is a great thing) and that makes the entire finale just bittersweet. This series explores themes like trust and betrayal, family and loyalty, and it does this so well. This definitely is a series to look out for, with its deep characters and in-depth look at large mafia-organizations. Despite the few humps in the middle I really give my thumbs up for this one.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10

10 Responses

  1. egress63 says:

    Yeah, excellent show. This brings back the memories of my college days when I used to watch a 26 episode series in 2 days flat. Anyhoo, the only thing which ticked me of in Gungrave was the gangster (forgot his name) who kept following Brandon throughout the series…

  2. Zaric says:

    What’s great about Gungrave is that it has two story-lines. Discovering just how things got so screwed up is a joy of watching the series.

  3. Canne says:

    Gungrave’s action is decent in terms of production quality but I rather love the drama portion of the show. It’s really a tragedy. I think the zombie/superior things is added to please the sci-fi fans. It might be a bit out of place but I was okay with it. Definitely a great show, nevertheless.

  4. tea says:

    It is the best show ever produced out of the beond crapy source matirial,some shooting game with excuse of a plot from what I heard. Most of the over the top sf comes from the game while the whole character study is anime creators going their own way, talk about reversal of the usual situation with game adaptations.

  5. AKI says:

    Ah.. GunGrave. I’m surprised that you haven’t seen this one yet. Anyway, GunGrave’s selling point is its two main characters and their differences made them the best of enemies. Brandon was the family guy, Harry was overly ambitious. The last episode was a gem in terms of art because everything looked superb.

  6. Copern says:

    I remember watching this about over a year ago and being turned off by the first episode. Some months later I decided to give it another shot and started with the second episode. The first thing that came to mind was “Did I really watch the first episode before? There’s no way this is the same show.” From the second episode and for over half the series, Gungrave was quite awesome.

    The second half (last third perhaps?) while still decent was not as good as the first half, that is until the ending. The last episode definitely more than made up for the lacking second half.

    Personally, I would recommmend that those who have never watched it start from episode 2. Episode 1 is shown again later in the series in a better way and with more background info.

  7. PhuzyBuny says:

    OMG…I had just recently downloaded the episodes and am on the last couple of episodes! I wouldn’t think to see a review since this series is already finished! What a coincidence!

  8. Smurfy says:

    Hmm brings back memories….
    Millennium!!!!!!!!!!
    closing Ending = Brandon (thumbs Up)

  9. Sanity says:

    Gungrave is pretty awesome. Brandon’s life was just tragic… Harry Macdowell at least got to enjoy quite a bit. I also felt that the monster-a-week part was one of the weakest point of the show, but I let it go since it’s adapted from a game.

    SPOILER ALERT**
    Brandon’s love life makes me feel anguished. I could never really understand why even though he felt that he had sinned greatly, he pushed Maria towards someone who technically is the “mastermind” of killings and extortions… only that guy doesn’t have to do the dirty jobs himself, while Brandon does.
    This part was great as a plot, but bad for my heart hah.

  10. gandalf8 says:

    Just finished watching the last episode. And what an ending too. The tears just kept on flowing near the end, the ending is really one of the best endings to a series I’ve ever watched in my short life till now.

    The main draw of Gungrave for me was really Brandon and Harry, watching these two best of friends make their way to the top of Milennion. The whole story is basically about these two guys life that we all know will end in tragedy. Although the best of friends, they both chose a different way of life; Brandon, who lives and fights to protect those he loves; Harry, who seeks power to also protect but gets lost in his ambition. I really have to applaud the producers for being able to portray these essentially “evil” people as just human. Although they are the mafia, and they have done all manner of heinous crimes against their enemies and each other, yet they also are human, who have people they love, and trust and need to protect. One of the most powerful moments I remember was when Widge, Brandon’s first boss, took it upon himself to pull the trigger when they were ordered to kill some people, and Gary told Brandon of how it was his own way of responsibility, in the way he opted to pull the trigger instead of letting his subordinates do it.

    Overall, I am very glad that I had the privilege to know the story of these two best friends, Harry McDowel and Brandon Heat.

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  • Emma
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 05:18 AM)
    Oh, awesome, dark horse is releasing volume 10 of black lagoon in April, its been nearly five years since the last complete volume…
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 03:56 AM)
    @Aidan: I think theres something seriously wrong when theres the actually possibility of there being a good PA works anime but we all have our opinions =P
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 03:13 AM)
    @Raggers, I will go into detail when I review it. But I think something is seriously wrong when I get a far more satisfying ending out of shirobako than Death parade.
    Looking forward to writing a review of shirobako too.
  • Raggers
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 02:56 AM)
    @Aidan: it wasn’t bad though. I think it suffered from too high expectations and lack of focus (or overreaching).
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 02:29 AM)
    Well. Death parades ending was quite underwhelming.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 11:21 PM)
    Waiting between releases for this will be a good thing, its the sort of manga you pick up and put down, then go back to with breaks in between.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 11:13 PM)
    13 volumes into dorohedero, I’ve found it good enough to buy now that I’ve caught up with the official English releases. While the plot meaders and is kind of messy, isn’t up to much, I love how crazy the gory action is, the gritty artstyle/world and the black comedy more than well make up for it. It works best when focused on those masked gangster magician guys and also the main character, the others are only alright.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 02:19 AM)
    @Aidan: true, but I don’t think the level is anywhere close to a true shounen. And once the basic rules are established it’s strategising and straight out fighting.
    I’d be more inclined to call it seinen with shounen elements than actually shounen.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 27. 2015 09:59 PM)
    Good all action finale to cap off Garo there, went out with a bang, though thing is I have no idea where their going to go with this when the movie, second season comes along, this seems like a pretty good point to finish.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 27. 2015 05:35 PM)
    I think that just about all the manga serialized in ultra jump feel less seinen than those serialized in other seinen magazines.

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