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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  • Ebod
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 08:22 PM)
    V for Vendetta for me has always been a more “literary” work than Watchmen, but Watchmen is spectacular because it’s a story that can only be told in full scope in the comic format. While I feel like many major themes and events from V for Vendetta could easily be adapted into, say, novel format, the same could not be said of Watchmen. Also, the racist whitewashing Hollywood does of Asian characters really has to stop.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:30 AM)
    Watchmen was deemed ‘unadaptable’ for about thirty years, so just getting what Snyder got out of the material is a huge success; it is said that what he did was to write a book version of Ingmar’s Holy Mountain. Watchmen is the only graphic novel to ever win a Hugo award and is easily the most intricate and multilayered Alan Moore comic, so it’s no surprise that it continues to top ‘best comics of all time’ charts to this day.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:20 AM)
    I beg to differ. Doctor Manhatten is the most intriguing character of Watchmen and the comic is a giant in ,not only in the comic world, but the history of literature itself. It is a deconstruction of superheros and Dr. M shows how afraid the world would really be when faced with a ‘superman’ and how a creature in such a higher realm of time and perception would show apathy toward humans and their foolish struggles.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:15 AM)
    GitS just won’t work. Maybe in a world before the Matrix, but not now with so many elements of it borrowed liberally by so many franchises in various mediums. Scarlet Johansson is decent in roles that fit her. She was enjoyable in Lost In Translation, but race aside she has nothing in common with Kusanagi. This is a travesty and the franchise is dear to me so it especially burns my ass.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:10 AM)
    While I am no fan of man of steel, Nolan and Snyder, just about anyone would have a hard time taking a difficult character like superman and making him work on screen.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:08 AM)
    Apart from Veidt and Rorshach I could never get into the characters all that much in watchmen. I also found the film overly long and mediocre acted for the larger part. But to each there own. For Alan moores works I always preferred his Miracleman, swamp thing, V for Vendetta stories.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:06 AM)
    Nolan can produce the action plus personal and dark story that Alita would need, and he also brings talent such as composer Hans Zimmer and Cinematographer Sally Pfister to the table. Him and Snyder have too much combined integrity to make a mockery out of Alita like Spielberg did with the GitS license.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 06:03 AM)
    Well Snyder has respect for his source materials and that is key in anime-to-film adaptations. Hell I’m a big Watchmen fan and I thought his version was (almost painfully) close to the comic. You’re not going to get that anywhere else in Hollywood. Also the combination of Nolan/Snyder is quite different than them individually.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:34 AM)
    And directed it as a co-production with America, using a Japanese cast.
    Yeah…this is impossible…
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, Mar 3. 2015 05:32 AM)
    The only way a live action ghost in the shell film would work is if Mamoru oshii directed it.

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