Gungrave by Phate

Genre: Action/Drama
Format: 26 Episodes
Allegiance: Studio MadHouse
Director: Toshiyuki Tsuru
Vintage: 2003 – 2004
Intelligence Agency Report by: Orax
Brandon Heat and Harry McDowell have always been the best of friends. Although they and their gang cause nothing but trouble, that’s their lifestyle and they couldn’t be happier. However, one of their gang wars eventually attracted the attention of the large mafia syndicate Millenion. Wanting the ability to protect his family, friends, and loved ones, Brandon decides to accompany Harry and join Millenion. As they rise in rank and become esteemed members of the syndicate, they witness the meaning of “trust.”

Field Agent Report by: Phate 
Overall 9.25

Ever since I first saw the film The Godfather, a particular subject in storytelling that fascinates me is crime organizations and syndicates. There is something about the gritty, seedy underworld facet to them that draws me in; Gungrave follows a premise along these lines. However, like The GodfatherGungrave transcends the typical Mafia story, being an excellent anime in its own right.

A big strength in Gungrave’s story is that it never tries too hard to be engrossing and ending up convoluted and confusing. On the contrary, throughout Gungrave’s 26 episodes, the plot stays rather straight-forward and easy to follow. Despite what a viewer might expect, this does not make it any less gripping, as the creators used something much more effective to keep the viewer’s attention: good storytelling combined with excellent characters. Not one episode is filler, and everything is meant to further advance the plot. Likewise for the characters; even though the cast is sizeable, each one adds something to the show and none are left unexplained or meaningless.

However, to get to the meat of Gungrave, the viewer is going to have to get past a couple of noticeable detriments. First of all, for anyone that isn’t an action junkie, the pilot episode does a terrible job of giving a compelling reason to continue watching. It throws the viewer into the midst of events that take place later in the series and only succeeds in being flashy and confusing. Also, there is a very noticeable contrast between the first half and the second half of the show. The addition of several science-fiction elements at the beginning of the second half may be a turn off for some viewers, especially as the show progresses and it continues to play a bigger role. Also, the fact that Gungrave was based on a videogame becomes more apparent.

For an anime to come fresh off the grill based on a less-than-stellar video game, only the bottom tier in quality is to be expected. By now you can tell that this is most definitely not the case for Gungrave. Go and watch it, as you will not be disappointed.