Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jun 1st 2006
DVD 1: DVD 1
On the planet Endless Illusion, a mysterious man named Van wanders the wasteland searching for the man who murdered his bride. Armed with a magical sword that can change itself into a sash and a robot he can summon from the heavens, Van is joined by Wendy, a plucky little girl with nothing to live for who follows him on his adventures.
It's no mystery that many of the series being produced in Japan these days are funded by American dollars and designed to appeal to American tastes without alienating the Japanese audience. It's a blessing and a curse, really; while the majority of new shows are clearly aimed at a much broader audience and therefore vastly more accessible, occasionally we get something like GUNxSWORD (pronounced “Gun Sword”, apparently the “x” is silent), a hilariously misguided and silly show that never manages to be more than the sum of its mismatched parts.
Right off the bat, it's very obvious that GUNxSWORD was designed with Americans in mind; it's as though the Japanese creators sat down and examined the last 5 or 6 anime series to hit big in America and tossed them all into a blender. What we get as a result is almost pure nonsense. Basically, Vash – er, sorry, Van, badass dude with a black trenchcoat, a dark past, a quest for vengeance and a magic cloth-sword-thing that allows him to summon an Evangelion-looking robot at the end of every episode to deliver the coup-de-grace, travels the globe looking for the guy who killed his bride. Along for the ride is Wendy, the Matilda to Van's Leon (for those of you who are fans of Luc Besson's Leon: The Professional), a little girl with ridiculous pigtails who follows Van for her own personal reasons. Together they fight ridiculous villains in exotic locations on the planet of Endless Illusion, which sounds like what Bon Jovi would name a planet if they were given the chance. Silly enough for you yet? No? Well, the second episode involves Van and Wendy fighting off a team of guys with superpowered moustaches. Still not strange enough for you? Well, the hero can also summon a robot (which is, to be honest, the most out-of-place and confusing element in this series)! While it might sound like it's a parody, it isn't, and that's part of the problem; in spite of how silly the proceedings are and how impossible it is to take any of this seriously, the show plays it straight and doesn't let on at all that the writers in on the joke. There are enough “serious moments” where it's clear that this is in no way intended to be satire.
Ultimately, though, the real problem with this series is the lead character, Van. Van (pronounced Vaughn) is a direct lift of Vash the Stampede from Trigun, complete with wicked weapon, amazing talent, easygoing demeanor, and bizarre eating habits. He's wearing black instead of red and his head resembles Spike from Cowboy Bebop moreso than Vash, but he's the exact same character. If you've seen Trigun before – and I'm hard pressed to think of an anime fan who hasn't – then you're going to pick up on this immediately, and everything else in the show that's a blatant lift of an element from another successful anime will suddenly become very clear to you. It's derivative and unoriginal to distraction and odds are you're going to spend most of your time figuring out where they stole their concepts from rather than actually enjoying the show.
Still, GUNxSWORD isn't all bad; the animation quality is surprisingly good; it's very fluid, and the combat scenes are lovingly rendered (if a bit unimaginative). The storylines are very, very silly, which might be good for a laugh if you're in to that sort of thing; few things are as enjoyable as sitting around the TV ruthlessly mocking something with good friends, after all. Special mention must go to the dub, which New Generation Pictures knocked out of the park. We're used to very good work from this studio, and this show is no exception; Van's American voice actor channels a very convincing and very appropriate Christian Bale; even Wendy, who had the most potential to have a seriously terrible English voice, is performed with just the right tone. Some of the cursory characters – Lucky, the villain in the first episode in particular – could use some work, but it's difficult not to blame the questionable dialogue rather than the actors themselves. I mean, how easy can it be to deliver the line “You stole my luck!” convincingly? Given what they had to work with, the dub for this title is a diamond in the rough.
While the show is mostly harmless, what GUNxSWORD stands for is rather frightening; the show is obviously pandering to an American audience, directly stealing concepts from other shows that the States managed to make successful. If we're going to see more and more shows like this, series that directly try and appeal to American tastes, then it would be for the best if we saw less shows like GUNxSWORD, which are simply trying too hard to pander to their intended audience and fall very, very short. Original productions with an international audience in mind are great, but something like this – that simply tosses in everything they know works with an American audience with little regard for the story or the execution – is best left on the shelf. Aside from a terrific dub that transcends the source material, you might be better off skipping GUNxSWORD and not encouraging the Japanese to churn out more shows like it.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : D
Story : D
Animation : A
Art : C
Music : C
+ Great dub, solid animation, unintentionally hilarious storylines might make for a good laugh.
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