ANIME MINOR JEWELS SERIES
Full list of the review series can be found on this page, 3rd post from bottom:
Gungrave is animated by the king of anime tv series, studio Madhouse. As usual they did a wonderful job so here is a bonus in scores just for that. It is also very good as long as you let it fool with your expectations. Seeing how it is based on an action/shooting game with little to no plot and watching the first episode you will be made to think it will nothing more than a shallow slugfest with macho guys shooting generic monsters for little to no reason at all. Something like Hellsing or Devil May Cry. And then you watch the second episode and WHAM; hey this is far more mature than a brain dead shooting show; BANZAI let me double my score for it for turning out better than I expected. So yeah the show is great at trolling you to expect one thing and getting another, thus winning your first impressions.
I came to view this anime as “Berserk meets Scarface and The Crow in Racoon City”. You have the plot unraveling by starting in the present, then going for a long flashback showing how two gangsters and best buddies turned to mortal enemies, and then the anime returns to the present to show their final showdown. Oh, and here there be zombies… named orcs. WUT???
Anyways, the show was very good as long as it was about the interaction of the main characters in the past. Harry and Brandon (as in Brandon Li of The Crow?) show the way all gangsters follow, beginning as urchins, then slowly becoming more and more powerful criminals and eventually getting consumed by jealousy and hatred for one another, losing trust and consuming themselves in power struggles. And yes there are women being the cause of most problems as always. Thus the prequel part is an almost realistic gangster film ala Copola style. NOT ala Tarantino as the cover art or the game may have made you think it was. There hardly is exciting action here and all the focus is given to drama and character development, which is of course plain awesome.
Unfortunately the show eventually goes for more action and fantasy and out of nowhere comes a new science that turns the dead to mindless fighters named orcs (well, actually it is orgmen but they could just as well named them zombies). From hereon it loses a lot of the realism and character focus and becomes a lot more one-of-the-same slugfests we watch while eating pop corn. As soon as the plot returns to the present of the first episode, Brandon turns to an undead superman and swears to avenge Harry even beyond the grave. And Harry has turned to a megalomaniac supermind criminal with his own army of mass produced monsters, sending them after him. BAM BAM DIE MONSTER AAARGHHH!
It could still be highly entertaining if the action scenes had amazing choreography but overall the whole series is rather weak in this regard. Brandon is simply unbeatable and the enemies he is facing are dumb monsters with zero personality who vaporize after being defeated. That is NOT exciting. At the same time it is not exactly boring either as he still goes to confront people he was a friend with (or more) while still alive (if you consider he is not alive now, despite kicking ass of hundreds of monsters) and it is both tragic and ironic to see how they all react to seeing him again like this. It still saves face in this regard, although as I said Brandon is still unbeatable no matter what and that takes away a lot of the drama. He wasn’t like that while he was a normal guy in the flashback.
Eventually there is a major showdown in the finale and most of the characters die during the havoc, proving the futility of spending your life in violence just for money and power. Easy come easy go, as they say. The finale is a very powerful one and again manages to win even your final impressions and again you go WOOT I GOTTA INCREASE MY SCORE AGAIN while completely forgetting all those mediocre monster busting episodes mid-way. Boy does this series know how to mess with you.
Another good thing is how the anime goes for style but not for shallow entertainment. You will definitely not gonna like it for its action and the coolest thing in it is Brandon looking all badass as BEYOND THE GRAVE. It is mostly good as a portrait of the glamour of the life gangsters have, as they start from street punks and eventually become godfathers who control nations. Even the music is quite easy going, some sort of lounge music that aims to keep you calm and perhaps unaware of the tragedy that roams in the future, thus again cleverly maintains your inability to foresee what is coming up.
In all it is a very good show if you keep your disbelief mode open when the sci-fi kicks in. The middle part of the series is definitely the weakest for not focusing much on its characters and just goes for mediocre slugfests. And I could really do without those ridiculous zombie armies. Although I did enjoy it I still didn’t FULLY enjoyed it because of the above. I even felt it mixed more elements than it could handle in the first place. The Crow is definitely more memorable for being simpler, as so is Scarface and Resident Evil. As for Berserk, well, that is a cult and simply put Brandon and Harry pale before the GAR of Guts and Griffith.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (well-made)
Character Figures 2/2 (cool-looking)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 8/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (mature)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 7/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 1/2 (the emotional development is great but those orcs are ruining it a bit)
Conclusion 2/2 (solid)
CHARACTER SECTION: 10/10
Presence 2/2 (strong)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 2/2 (detailed, since most of the plot is about their past)
Development 2/2 (lots of it)
Catharsis 2/2 (definite)
VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Historical Value 3/3 (all-known)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because there is little to gain from a secong watch)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely well-done to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10
If it didn’t have all those stupid supernatural elements, it would be a blast all the way.