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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
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06/24/2006 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Gun X Sword, Vol. 1 (DVD)"

Gun X Sword, Vol. 1 (DVD)

Review by Tom Good

"He's not wearing a tuxedo!" That is what I kept wanting to yell at the screen as I watched Gun X Sword. Van, the main character, is oddly proportioned -- tall and spindly with thighs that look barely larger than his wrists. He wears an unusual outfit that stands out in the Western-style environment of the show, and other characters keep commenting on his "tuxedo." In fact, episode 1 is even titled Tuxedo Blowing in the Wind. But Van wears a long black tail coat which reaches to the ground, with a white shirt, bolo tie, and black hat. A tuxedo involves a short dinner jacket without tails, and usually a bow tie and a vest or cummerbund. A long black tail coat is not a tuxedo, especially if it has strange wide straps all over it.

But there is more to Gun X Sword than odd notions about formal wear. In the beginning it seems like a Western. A small town is threatened by a gang of outlaws called "The Wild Bunch" -- a reference to the title of a 1969 Western film. Van walks in just as the bad guys are attacking a cute girl named Wendy. He rescues her, and she offers to marry him if he helps save the town. He has no interest in marriage to such a young girl, but he allows Wendy to tag along with him.

Van's hand weapon is the "sword" of the title, so the "gun" must be the revolver that Wendy carries around. Just when it seems that the story will fit into a familiar niche, everything gets crazy. The bad guys drive some Mad Max style vehicles, Van wields a flexible, shape-shifting sword, and both sides pilot giant mecha called Armor. Yes, this is a Western with giant mecha and orbiting satellites. At this point I started to classify the show as a wacky steampunk Western, like the movie Wild Wild West.

But the show defies classification, because it combines elements from so many different sources. It has eclectic music like Cowboy Bebop and a hot babe character named Carmen 99, who is a lot like Bebop's Faye Valentine. It has an opening theme sequence like a James Bond movie, and a wedding-murder revenge plot like Kill Bill. (Van searches for someone called "The Claw" who killed Van's intended bride at his wedding.) Episode 3 involves a side story along the lines of Transformers or Power Rangers set in Mexico, and other parts reminded me of Fist of the North Star, Last Exile and Steamboy. Watching Gun X Sword is like watching every animated and live-action movie you've ever seen all combined into one.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi also appropriated material from many other anime, but it did so as a series of parodies. Gun X Sword does not really parody the works it imitates, nor does it ever become just a boring series of stolen ideas. Instead, it is more like a mashup that arranges familiar ingredients together in a whole new way, with its own style. The result is very entertaining.

The English voices are very good, so I prefer to listen to the English soundtrack. It is worth also listening to the Japanese version of episode 1, just to hear how many English words are in the Japanese version: words like lucky, unlucky, armor, and tuxedo for example. One of my friends used to joke that because of the adoption of English loan words, in another 100 years Japanese would become identical to English spoken with a Japanese accent. He could probably point to this episode as evidence.

Van's hat is like a cowboy hat but with a diamond shaped brim, and it has a split in the back that visually echoes the slit in his tail coat. Wendy's pigtails also have this bifurcated form. There are a few scenes that show Van and Wendy from a distance, and her pigtails stick out to the side of her head in just the same way that Van's hat brim does. This makes her silhouette a miniature version of his, which is a nice touch. All the clever little designs like this make the show beautiful, even if you don't consciously pay attention to them.

The DVD extras include 2 episodes of something called "Gun X Sword-San." This is a bizarre and funny short skit where some of the Gun X Sword characters are played by hand puppets with a South Park sense of humor, but the whole thing is rendered in crude 3D animation. I guess this is there just in case the main story didn't seem weird enough.

The magic of Gun X Sword is that even though each piece of it may seem familiar, the end result is something completely new. This anime was a lot of fun to watch, and I would recommend it.

Gun X Sword Art Box

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