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Samurai Gun Vol 1
Anime about samurai are certainly no rarity and the genre is full of shows taking place in feudal Japan and swordplay. A recent sub-genre of the samurai-type incorporates guns into the hands of the warriors and plays off of tidbits of a historical time period. The most recent show to do this is Samurai Gun and quite honestly, if you can't tell from the name this one's a straight shooter.
This is one of those shows that doesn't beat around the bush and is in your face with loads of over the top violence, adult themes and tons of action. Prostitution and senseless murder is a prevalent theme in Samurai Gun and it has a very seedy atmosphere for the time period its set in. All of these things put together sets this show apart from the rest of the anime crowd and it is definitely aimed towards an older audience.
The focus of the show centers on a one-eyed man named Ichimatsu and follows his exploits as a member of the Samurai Gun. They are an elite special force commanded by something called the council, which basically acts like a black ops government agency. Ichimatsu doesn't go at alone though and he teams up with his friends Daimon and Kurenai to carry out the Samurai Gun missions.
The first volume of the series carries four episodes and doesn't waste any time getting into the action. In the first episode we see three brothers that are holding women hostage and hunting them for sport. Ichimatsu is eventually approached by Daimon and takes on the job even though he swears off anymore killing. You know what they say though. Old habits are hard to break.
The subsequent episode features a prototype steam engine that is being operated by a group of sadistic guys that have a penchant for torturing people. This episode also introduces the Anti-Samurai unit, which is basically the Shogun Preservation Bureau's attempt at eliminating Samurai Gun. There's plenty of action and we learn a little bit about Kurenai's past in the midst of all the shooting and blood.
Samurai Gun also has to take down a psychopath that is murdering prostitutes in cold blood. It turns out that the murderer is a ghost from Ichimatsu's past and the murders hit close to home because he frequents the local brothel. Of course Samurai Gun's mission is to eradicate evil, so it's time for them to load up on bullets and practice their aim. The last episode involves some prisoners at the Kabuto Mountain prison and introduces a man sent by the southern council named Inazuma.
The show gets off to a fast start with a lot of action, gunfights and spraying blood, but the grand tale that encompasses these skits seems to be moving rather slowly. There are a few points of intrigue and the setting for the show provides a lot of creative possibilities. My only real complaint is that the characters are never really developed to a point that you can identify with them or even care about them. Yeah, I get that they are secret agents and they are supposed to be mysterious and all, but some more insight to their personalities and history would be appreciated. As it stands we are only toyed with a few snippets here and there of development.
If you get your jollies with samurai, guns, whores and loads of action, then Samurai Gun will be right up your alley. I've always been a fan of stuff like Ninja Scroll and this show carries a similar attitude with it. I look forward to learning more about the characters and the world that they live in, but for now what we are presented with will have to do. Those of you that don't like gratuitous violence in your anime will want to definitely steer clear though, since that is one thing that Samurai Gun has an abundance of.
Samurai Gun is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and looks pretty good on DVD. The image is very crisp and colorful with a great use of some animation techniques to spruce things up. My only real complaints are that there is some grain that appears in some scenes as well as some pixilation in the darker ones. In a couple parts I noticed some aliasing, but it wasn't anything too glaring or blatantly obvious. This show would have benefited from a widescreen presentation, but even so the transfer looks pretty good.
There are two ways to watch this show as is the anime standard now-a-days. For all you dubbing fans out there you will definitely enjoy the 5.1 Dolby English set up since it features a decent channel mix. Most things come from the front channels though, but it's a step up in terms of quality from the Japanese 2.0 track. While I don't mind listening to the English tracks, I tend to enjoy my experience more with subtitles and the original language going. The audio is very good and clear, but it didn't blow my socks off either.
Samurai Gun Volume 1 actually features a lot of bonus material worth mentioning. Obviously there are the clean opening and closing animations that find their way onto every anime release these days. A couple of art features are present and include character artwork and backgrounds set to some of the music found in the show. I always like seeing sketches of characters and seeing the steps of the production art is pretty interesting as well. Aside from some ADV previews the last feature on the disc is called "Fun with Audio" and is basically outtakes done by the English voiceover cast. A lot of the jokes are at the expense of Ichimatsu's one eye but there are some true gems here. I wish more anime had extras like this one because it shows a lot of personality and that the crew had fun reworking the show.
Samurai Gun is just one of those shows that is going to be very polarizing among anime fans. The harsh and gratuitous violence will not be for everyone and there are several adult situations, although there is no nudity (how odd). At this point it's kind of hard to tell where the show is going to go and we don't learn an awful lot about the characters on this first volume. Even so I had a lot of fun watching it and even though the action is over the top the show carries a relatively serious tone. Recommended