by Mike Crandol,

Gunsmith Cats: Misty's Run


Gunsmith Cats Misty's Run (manga)
The Gunsmith Cats' latest case finds the girls in pursuit of counterfeiter Jim Macks, who has hired Rally's sometimes-ally Bean Bandit to deliver the ink and paper lifted from the mint to his underworld print shop. Misty decides to "break the rules of the game", so to speak, and steals Bean's car, along with the keys to the goods. But there are other, less-noble individuals after the instant fortune, and Misty soon finds herself and Jim Macks captured by a ruthless mob family. Rally must once again team up with getaway-driver extraordinaire Bean Bandit if she wants to get Misty back alive. As usual, heavy gunplay and high-speed chases are the surefire result.

Following the conclusion of Kenichi Sonoda's final Gunsmith Cats story arc is a short one-shot comic in which Rally winds up protecting one of her bounties from the crooked D.A.'s office. And finally, in the last printed appearance of the Gunsmith Cats to date, Rally and Minnie-May give their readers a quick 6-page lesson on customizing handguns.....something every otaku should know how to do...
"Gunsmith Cats: Misty's Run" brings to a close the adventures of Rally Vincent, the hottest bounty hunter Chicago has ever known and one of manga's most popular heroines in recent memory. Creator/Artist Kenichi Sonoda's eye for rendering fast cars and sleek firearms with remarkable detail remains as sharp as ever, but "Misty's Run" is an underwhelming finale to an excellent and long-running manga. Fans gunning (pun intended) for the ultimate Gunsmith Cats story to close out the series are instead treated to a run-of-the-mill caper in which Rally's opponents are a mere second-rate counterfeiting family. The previous "Cats" book, "Mister V", would have been a better place to end things; it's final showdown with arch-nemesis Goldie and Rally's reunion with her missing father are the stuff Final Acts are made of. With "Misty's Run" it feels like Sonoda is running on empty, and the story is little more than an excuse to bring underworld "delivery boy" Bean Bandit back one last time. While Bean is definitely Gunsmith Cats' most entertaining character, it is after all Rally's book, and her tale ended some time ago.

At the time of Gunsmith Cats' inception Sonoda had intended his new manga series to star Bean Bandit, the character he had created for the 1989 OVA cult favorite "Riding Bean". But due to a question of licensing rights Bean was off-limits to his creator, and instead Sonoda developed the all-new characters of Rally Vincent and Minnie-May Hopkins ("Rally Vincent" was in fact the name of Bean's sidekick in Riding Bean but they are two separate characters). Shortly into Gunsmith Cats' run the licensing dispute was settled, but the gun-toting heroines had proven extremely popular with readers, and rather than dump his promising new leading ladies Sonoda incorporated Bean into their world. But the nigh-invulnerable getaway driver is obviously the character closest to Sonoda's heart, and as the series progressed Bean Bandit's role in the stories grew until his part was almost equal to that of Rally's. He previously shared the lead role with Miss Vincent in the self-titled "Bean Bandit" story arc, and it was almost a certainty Sonoda would again place him center stage for the final installment of Gunsmith Cats.

"Misty's Run" represents the culmination of the relationship between Rally and Bean. While Rally had previously earned his respect first as an opponent and later as an ally, Bean had never acknowledged the bounty huntress as an equal, believing himself to be a cut above everyone else on both sides of the law. The climax of "Misty's Run" (and in effect the entire Gunsmith Cats series) finds Bean paying Rally the ultimate compliment by suggesting she become his professional partner. Just by the mere prospect of the two working together, Gunsmith Cats turns full-circle with Riding Bean, for in the earlier anime Bean did have a sharpshooting partner by the name of Rally Vincent.

The other recurring Gunsmith Cats character to take on a major role in "Misty's Run" is, of course, Misty herself. In the latter half of the series' run ex-burglar Misty Brown usurped Minnie-May's position as Rally's chief sidekick, a decision of questionable value on Sonoda's part. The volatile, impulsive May was the perfect foil for Rally's more even-tempered manner. Misty, on the other hand, has never really developed any kind of personality at all beyond her standard damsel-in-distress role, which she again plays in "Misty's Run". Her only talent appears to be losing her clothes; Gunsmith Cats is a series that has always been peppered with occasional nudity but here it becomes unnecessarily gratuitous as Misty's captors strip her to obstensively "discourage her from running away." Previous "Cats" installments have featured more explicit sexual situations, but they were always fleeting and usually served a more plausible role in the story. In places "Misty's Run" feels like little more than an exercise in drawing breasts.

If one turns their attention away from all the speech bubbles they may notice that the artwork is a little below standard for Gunsmith Cats. Particularly in the early "Cats" books Sonoda's background in animation was very apparent; the characters were often posed in a way that emphasized their movement, lending them a greater sense of life, and the panels were arranged in a cinematic style not unlike animation storyboards. Sonoda hit his artistic apex about midway through the series with "Bad Trip", in which he combined his animator's mentality with a more refined draftsmanship that gave the characters a more angular, pleasing design. Later books, and especially "Misty's Run" perhaps exhibit a waning interest in his project. Characters are increasingly drawn in static, uninteresting poses, and the occasional poorly-drawn hand or object creeps into the panel. Sonoda continues to draw all the vehicles and firearms with an amazing accuracy, though the climatic car chase fails to capture the incredible sense of motion he achieved in "The Return of Gray".

All this is not to say that "Misty's Run" is without it's strong points. As can be expected from Gunsmith Cats the story is smartly executed and action-packed. Rally and Bean have an immensely entertaining chemistry, and their verbal tennis matches continue to be a series highlight. The Story Proper is concluded in a nostalgic look back at Rally's many adventures through the years as she evaluates the meaning of her life as a bounty hunter. The brief story that follows it, originally published after the end of the monthly serial run, assures us that all is still as it should be in the Gunsmith Cats world. The concluding dissertation on the advantages of customizing your Browning HP proves that Sonoda really knows his stuff when it comes to handguns, and I suspect the comic could be used as an instruction manual for a real-life gunsmith.

With "Misty's Run" Kenichi Sonoda says goodbye to Rally Vincent and the Gunsmith Cats. The preceding "Mister V" may have been the true climax to the series but it's easy to understand the creator's reluctance to give up such a wonderful manga. Though a bit a of a let-down from "Mister V's" epic events, "Misty's Run" still manages to entertain in that way only Rally Vincent can do. She will be missed.
Production Info:
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Art : B

+ Gunsmith Cats' typically beautiful rendering of cars and weaponry, great character interplay between Rally and Bean
pedestrian story; an unfitting conclusion to the series, character artwork not up to it's usual high standards

Story & Art: Kenichi Sonoda

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