Grenadier Vol. #1 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.98/34.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Grenadier

Grenadier Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Luis Cruz     June 29, 2005
Release Date: June 28, 2005

Grenadier Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Media Blasters

What They Say
During the time of the Great Japanese Civil War, the faithful samurai Yajiro Torajima finds himself surrounded by an enemy army. It is at that moment that the bountiful Rushuna appears and saves him with an enchanting smile and high-caliber revolver.

Rushuna's mission is crucial to mankind – she is traveling across Japan in search of a solution that will bring about an end to war forever. Together, Yajiro and Rushuna challenge countless opponents with his sword and her talent for reloading on the bounce.

The Review!
The main character's speed loading technique is not the only entertaining or unique thing about Grenadier.

The original Japanese stereo track was used for my primary viewing session. It is a typical stereo mix that has most of the action pumped through the front soundstage. The action sequences do have some directional effects added, and all elements from dialogue to music were balanced well. The track did not suffer from any distortion, drop outs, or similar problems. It simply lacks the punch one would expect from a title that has gunplay at its core.

The English audio track is an equally solid stereo track. It too does not suffer from any problems. The English voice cast does a decent job overall; fans of either language will be pleased but not blown away by either track.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the video for Grenadier is crystal clear and free of any noticeable defects from the digital transfer process. The colors are quite vivid, and the show features some great details especially in the weaponry used. The normal firearms, while anachronistic, could pass for images from a gun shop catalog; the detailing reaches down to even the bullets Rushuna uses.

One minor complaint with the video is the use of yellow subtitles in the pre-broadcast special found in the extras section. The original source video contains yellow text along the bottom of the screen, right where the yellow subtitles appear. This made it difficult at times to read the subtitles; placing the subtitles somewhere else or making them a different color would have helped greatly. However, this complaint only applies to the extra and does not affect the actual series content.

The figure and DVD come packaged in a thin cardboard box; the box has a small cut-out window to show off the Rushuna figure inside. The artwork for the front and back of the box mirrors the actual DVD cover art with some minor alterations to account for the figure window. The box opens from the top and contains a flimsy insert to pad out the space between the box and the figure.

The front cover artwork for the DVD features Rushuna in a pose that outlines her various guns. The series logo and volume title are at the bottom of the cover with the volume number placed tastefully in the upper left corner. The back cover features a clean, readable layout for the requisite screenshots (which again spotlight Rushuna's guns), plot synopsis, disc contents and specifications, and the series credits. No insert other than a small catalog of other Media Blaster titles was provided.

The menus are simple static images with loops of the songs playing in the background. They are very clean and functional with no transition delays when switching between menus. There just is no punch or style to the menus, but they get the viewer setup and into the content quickly.

The first extra to catch your eye is the detailed figure of Rushuna. It features no articulation points but makes for a well-crafted addition to anyone's collection of desktop toys. Rushuna's hat is attached to the back and does not appear to be removable.

To compliment the figure, Media Blaster has included a number of great content extras. First up is the pre-broadcast special that gives an overview of the series along with interviews with the director and voice actors. There is some good information in this special, especially in terms of the director discussing how the anime differs from the original manga.

Also included is a textless version of the opening sequence and alternate versions of the opening and ending sequence. The alternate versions were subtitled and featured different animation and songs. What was lacking was an explanation of where these alternate versions came from. Were they used for the TV broadcast? Were they discarded somewhere in the production process? A brief note was all that was required to avoid puzzling the viewer.

Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary for all four episodes by Mikako Takahashi and Kazuya Nakai, the voice actors for Rushuna and Yajiro. They do not warm up to the mic until the end of the first episode, but they have a lot of fun watching the finished product for the first time and reminiscing about the process. It is great to see an extra like this get picked up for a US release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Going into Grenadier, I did not know much about it other than the outline of the plot and a few images of the characters. It appeared to be a fun series that would serve up plenty of action and eye candy. If it had a decent plot or characters, then that would be a surprising bonus. As the last set of credits on the disc rolled, it was indeed a surprise that the series was not all eye candy but does have some substance to it.

The story starts simply enough as a group of samurai attempt to attack a castle where their lord is being held hostage. A young mercenary named Yajiro is among them; the samurai face a slaughter though as the enemy is comprised of senshi, men who have learned how to use guns. Yajiro narrowly escapes the initial slaughter but has some of the senshi on his trail.

He finds more than ample cover in a hot spring being used by a young woman; the woman throws the senshi off the trail and introduces herself as Rushuna. Rushuna is traveling the world in the hopes of teaching everyone the ultimate battle strategy -- embrace the enemy with a smile removing their will to fight.

Yajiro scoffs at this and tells Rushuna to head in the other direction; however, Rushuna's journey takes her through the castle. Yajiro quickly learns that Rushuna is a highly skilled senshi but has a problem practicing what she preaches. Rushuna quickly dispatches the entire army occupying the castle using non-lethal force. She continues on her way, and Yajiro decides to join her on her journey across the land.

Their first stop is a kingdom ruled by a child king and terrorized by a blond senshi. Some men looking to collect the bounty on the blond terror mistake Rushuna as their target. Her quick draw sends them on the run with Rushuna quick to follow so she can clear up the confusion.

However, she runs into the actual blond terror and narrowly escapes with her life and the truth of who the man terrorizing the land is. While she heals, Rushuna and Yajiro find themselves by the Jester, a powerful senshi that is manipulating the events in the kingdom for his own ends. They give chase back to the castle where Rushuna heads in to resolve the situation. And for once, she does manage to get the enemy, Jester's puppet, to succumb to the ultimate battle strategy.

This particular story highlights one of the items that surprised me about the series so far. Normally, a series that features a spunky woman with amazing powers is saddled with a male companion that has a low IQ and always feels the need to protect her regardless of whether or not she requires protection.

However, Yajiro behaves quite the opposite and shows that he can actually think before he acts. Rather than rushing into the castle with Rushuna, he recognizes that she can take care of herself and stays behind to head off any interference from the locals. While he does display some macho posturing at times, he treats Rushuna as his equal or knows that she is more of a skilled fighter than he currently is. This is a refreshing departure from the usual formula applied to this sort of series and makes Yajiro an enjoyable character.

The final episode has the pair attempting to make some money as street performers in a town that does not smile. They soon learn the reason for their failure; a group of senshi is shaking the town down for all its money. Some well-placed taunts and even more well-placed bullets by Rushuna have the evil senshi on the run and the town learning how to laugh again. The smile soon fades from Rushuna's face though; a bounty of 5000 gold pieces has been placed on her head, and Yajiro believes it has something to do with her master Tenshi.

The hook for this series is the unique use of cleavage by Rushuna; it certainly does not hide the fact that it is a series geared primarily towards a male audience. But if you can look past Rushuna's prodigious ammo sacks, there is a decent plot lurking underneath. Nothing is quite what it appears to be in relation to Rushuna's journey.

Where the series suffers initially is in Rushuna's character; she is painted as the typical heroine that is skilled but naïve. She bounces from incident to incident holding on to her ideals. But again, there is potential lurking underneath the surface.

Flashbacks to her training with Tenshi show a Rushuna different from the optimistic one seen in the present. Unlike Yajiro, she is not as interesting a character, but her past and the events of the present could shape her into an equally as engaging character. Despite this, the first four episodes proved to be enjoyable and humorous enough to hook me into wanting to follow the series.

In Summary:
It is the eye candy that will first draw the eye to Grenadier, but the first volume shows that the series is entertaining in other ways as well. The character of Yajiro is a refreshing change from the typical male sidekick seen in this genre. Rushuna's character is not quite as appealing at the start, but her ties to the underlying main plot, along with the plot itself, have great potential. Other series have covered the same ground much better, but the first volume of Grenadier manages to provide enough humor, entertainment, and a hook to draw the viewer into sticking with it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening,Alternate Opening/Ending,Full Length Commentary Track

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable


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