You’ll want tickets for this ‘gun’ show!
What They Say
In 1860s Japan, a special breed of samurai stands against the Shogunate, armed with superior strength, speed, agility... and guns! Welcome to Samurai Guns, a blood-drenched tour of bushido's twilight. Morally ambiguous "heroes," razor sharp dialogue, and hair-trigger violence make Samurai Guns a slam-dunk hit!
I listened to the 5.1 English dub for the purpose of this review. Although light on directional effects, the musical score is pretty dynamic and sound effects all get that appropriate oomph when the subwoofer comes into play. All effects are layered well and everything is perfectly distinguishable. This is an excellent track that would only benefit from some more directionality.
Samurai Gun is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:33:1. Even as good as the audio is, the video easily surpasses it. The stylish presentation is given a chance to shine with deep blacks, vibrant colors, and amazing contrast. The contrast is especially important given the number of night shots. 3d effects are sprinkled throughout the show and incorporated cleanly with no artifacting. I think I noticed one moment of banding during the entire 13-episode run. All in all, this is the best the show can look, and I’m happy to report it can look pretty good!
Jubblies! Ahem, excuse me. The first word that popped into my head when I first saw the box was ‘fan service.’ Every woman in the artwork is displaying their cleavage quite prominently on the box and they only get less modest on the artwork for the slimcases housed inside. Anyways, the artwork is fairly stylish, organized well and fits the content of the show. Like most ADV releases, the box design is incredibly sturdy.
The simple 4:3 menus feature character profiles in white emerging out of a black background with the episode selection to the side. It’s simple, stylish and works well with fast access times.
Enter Ichimatsu- mild-mannered bartender to those that know him, but this eye-patch wearing neighbor is also serving up justice under the cloak of night. Equipped with special armor and armed with surprising firepower, Ichi and fellow agents Daimon and Kurenai work to punish the cruel tyrants who abuse their power and deal in human misery. Will the Samurai Gun unit save the day? Is their organization hiding something more sinister?
It’s to Samurai Gun’s credit that the title is so ambiguous. Knowing next to nothing about the show, I popped in the first disc expecting some some sort of samurai/western hybrid. By the end of the opening credits, I thought the show was just a samurai tale with swords removed in favor of firepower. Thus, it was quite surprising to find that the show was actually closer to a secret agent tale and contained a much more involved plot than the two scenarios in my head would allow.
The best part of the show is its constant moral ambiguity. Although the audience is guaranteed to hate almost every enemy (more on that later), the organization that the main characters work for is shrouded in just as much mystery and little clues about their employer’s underhanded dealings keep coming to light. Ichimatsu himself has a massive problem with killing and shows it in the way he acts before each mission which resembles a hit more than an objective.
This isn’t the only problem that Ichi has. He has constant night terrors from witnessing his sister raped and murdered when he was young which makes him ready to punish the villains who are cruel to women (which is just about all of them). In everyday life, he is incredibly vulnerable so his transformation when he dons the armor and mask is that much more engaging. This backstory also offers a reason why he’s committed to removing those who abuse their power and both Kurenai and Daimon have reasons that are just as plausible.
Not that they need much of a reason when the villains are this nasty. Nearly every episode features some form of torture at the hands of the episode’s main antagonist which range from cruel to disgusting. The villains are all so jaded that they derive pleasure from seeing others in pain and it usually takes about 10 seconds for the audience to be ready for justice. Of course, nondescript defenseless women seem to be the victim of choice for all these villains.
Fortunately, for every scene featuring the brutality of some defenseless young maiden, there’s a scene with either of two of the show’s stronger characters: Kurenai and Ohana. Kurenai is a singer where Ichi works who plays to the adoring crowd and when in armor, she is just as strong and quick-witted as her male counterparts. She rarely if ever compromises herself. Ohana could have been the generic “hooker with a heart of gold” to Ichi’s hero character but the writers allowed her character to grow and even offered an introspective look at her life in the brothel when she acts as narrator for an entire episode (which is rare in itself for this type of show). These characters aren’t just strong compared to random woman victim #1-100, they’re two of the strongest women I’ve ever seen in anime and both smartly written.
So what of the action? Even though the fight scenes aren’t overly complex or fluid as something like Afro Samurai or Trinity Blood, they’re competent and well thought-out, dealing with a variety of weaponry from traditional ninja sleeping powder to gattling guns on steroids. The villains are almost always formidable but the heroes are capable of pulling off some dazzling moves that make the audience cheer. (Keep an eye out for Ichi’s method for getting around a belt-fed machine gun!)
Samurai Gun promises little but delivers a lot with a layered morality tale with fairly deep characters. Although the constant violence against women can get a little grating, the writers make up for it with some strong women characters. The hero himself is also always engaging. The video, audio and packaging are well done so the presentation isn’t likely to get better. Action fans could a lot worse than this gem of a show.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles
37” Olevia 16:9 LCD HDTV, Sony Playstation 3 (upconverted to 720p through HDMI), Kenwood 550-watt 5.1 surround system