Gun Frontier Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, October 30, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2003



What They Say
No legend of the Wild West would be complete without a showdown aboard a moving locomotive! Tochiro vows to put everything on the line to save his sister and bring an end to the Organization. His enemies are waiting with an ultimate weapon, capable of turning Tochiro into nothing more than a big floppy hat resting on the sand.

The Review!
The concluding set of episodes to the surprisingly fun series brings the show down nicely and gives hope for more.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese, primarily due to my enjoyment of Harlock’s voice actor. The show features a solid stereo mix that makes good use of directionality across the forward soundstage with the bullets flying and swords swinging. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout it and we noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in the early spring of 2002, Gun Frontier sports much similarity to Cosmo Warrior Zero but without the overly digitally layered look. The transfer here looks fantastic with lots of bold solid colors, excellent depth and vividness. Cross coloration is extremely minimal and aliasing is very limited. There’s pretty much nothing to take issue with here.

Packaging:
The final cover here gives Shizuku a chance at the cover while Tochiro’s gang desperately tries to reach her. The cover looks good and continues the style from the previous volumes nicely giving the entire series a solid feel. The back cover provides a number of shots from the show and a decent summary of the shows premise and a clean listing of the discs extras and basic production credits. The insert lists the chapters on one side done up as the kind of sheet you’d find from those days while the reverse side is just boxart advertisements for other shows.

Menu:
The main menu is a again a quiet piece that just has the static image of the front cover with the selections lined along the left side, though with the colorful use of bullets as the selection indicators. The menu looks good and is definitely in-theme but it just feels odd with it being so quiet. Access times are nice and fast and there are no transitional animations to slow things down.

Extras:
The last round of extras has mostly what we’ve seen before in one form or another. The ending sequence gets a textless run again here and there’s another batch of production sketches. To finish things out there’s a new batch of dub outtakes from these episodes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With only three episodes here, the series moves along at a really fast clip and has numerous action sequences to it, especially as it works its way towards the climax. What it doesn’t lose sight of however is its humor.

Tochiro’s gang (as they’re now known by Sitalnenn’s men) arrives in the next town where they believe his people have been taken to. Taking the stop they were told to on the train, they’re surprised to find just a station and nothing else outside of a gallows on top of a nearby peak. Hanging around there for some time on the chance that they’ve missed something, day turns to night and the peak comes alive with a green glow. When they all finally make it up there and see all the bones glowing, they’re even more shocked to see the biggest city they’ve ever seen on the other side. The city controlled by Sitalnenn and his men.

As we get to know Sitalnenn and the way he works the town, he doesn’t come across as more than a somewhat cloddish and thuggish brute with a penchant for women. He’s married to something of a shrew that loves his animal ways but wants to make sure that he’s only hers. Once his discovers that one of the people working on the massive cannon he’s supplying to his boss, Dark Myster, is actually a woman he changes his attitudes about her completely. Add in that she’s the quite attractive sister of Tochiro and you know nothing good will come from it at all.

As Tochiro continues his search for his sister, Harlock and Sinonura end up strengthening their bonds with him after ensuring certain things about their pasts are either dealt with or simple cast aside. Between the three of them, they’re set to tackle to the town and do what it takes to help Tochiro find his sister and free his people. With Sitalnenn coming after them now with his auto-carriage that has a gatling gun on it as well as numerous men on horses, the show hits the majority of the chase scenes spot on and runs through the end with some great scenes across the western plains.

In Summary:
Gun Frontier continues to be a surprisingly enjoyable series from start to finish and the end episodes don’t disappoint. If there’s anything that’s truly problematic about them is that they serve more as an end to a chapter rather than the end to a story, which isn’t terribly surprising considering the shows origins in manga several decades old. The series plays by the same rules for most of the episodes and the final three keep that in mind. Tochiro and Harlock must almost be hanged and Sinonura must be naked for a certain amount of time – willingly or unwillingly.

When we first saw Gun Frontier, I loved the way it took characters we knew and placed them in an environment that would allow them to be even more manly, if such a thing were possible, and to explore some new avenues. So when I learned that the Gun Frontier manga was actually the first time that Matsumoto put Tochiro and Harlock together and predates much of his other work, the entire series took on a new perspective and I gained even more appreciation for the material. Seeing it more as a springboard of what was to come as opposed to a fanciful alternate storyline brings more emphasis to the bonds between the characters, something that becomes important as the final episodes roll along here, especially for Sinonura and the sides she’s playing against each other.

This has been a great year for Matsumoto material and Gun Frontier has shone far more than I ever expected it to. For those fans of either Tochiro or Harlock, you really do need to see this series as it will only enhance your appreciation of what each character has become over time.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Production Sketches,Dub Outtakes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gun Frontier