Gun Frontier Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gun Frontier

Gun Frontier Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     May 12, 2003
Release Date: April 29, 2003


Gun Frontier Vol. #1
© Media Blasters


What They Say
It is a harsh and barren wasteland, where the weak aren’t even allowed to dream. It is also a sacred land for true men, for there is no place a man can feel more alive. This is the Gun Frontier.

Sea Pirate Captain Harlock and the errant samurai, Tochiro arrive in the United States on the Western Frontier. Along with a mysterious woman they meet along the way, the two friends challenge sex rings, bandits, and corrupt sheriffs. They are searching for a lost clan of Japanese immigrants, and they will tear Gun Frontier from end to end until they find it.

The Review!
One of the more fun things to do with an established property is to take your characters and completely change the world around them. Gun Frontier pulls this off masterfully.

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:
Going with a solid western motif, the cover evokes all the right images with a shot of Harlock against an old town railing, Tochiro fighting in the dirty streets and the look of the logo. All of this works nicely to really give a feel of what the show is going to be like. 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 surprisingly 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:
There’s a nice selection of extras included for the first volume, with the best being the textless opening. The dub outtakes take up nearly five minutes worth of goofs and amusing moments, but there’s also both a still image gallery and a series of production sketches to help flesh things out a bit more.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With little foreknowledge of this particular series, I found myself very pleased at the different take that’s presented. The Harlock universe is often made up of a variety of just barely connecting stories, more often than not they’re designed to stand alone and tell the tale Matsumoto wants told. Gun Frontier really embraces this concept and abandons all the science fiction aspects of the series and takes the cast back the real old west of the frontier land of the United States.

The leads of the show do continue to be Harlock and Tochiro. Listed on the summary as a former sea pirate and an errant samurai, these two characters are close to the way they’re usually portrayed in other series. The real exception is that Harlock plays more of a deadpan humor sidekick to Tochiro than the reverse, which adds a great spin to their relationship. We’re introduced to them as bodyguards for a pawn shop merchant as they take out a rather unruly character.

While their boss is pleased with what they’ve done, he sends them off to bury the body. Going forward with this series particular and peculiar sense of humor, it shifts to a scene of the two of them digging a hole in front of one of the many saloons in the town as they talk about their hardships and what they want to do. It’s not long after that that they’re back at the shop and shooting up another unruly customer, though this time they’ve screwed up and shot someone who was just argumentative. So now they’re fired and looking for work again.

Enter the beautiful Sinunora, aka the Maetel lookalike. Harlock and Tochiro learn that one of the men they shot was someone she was with, causing them to feel guilt and thereby giving her their last pay. Through an odd set of circumstances, they eventually end up traveling out of the town with Sinunora in their group. Sinunora is an extremely odd character and very out of character for a Matsumoto show. She offers herself early on to both of them (at the same time no less, which elicits some amusing reactions) and has little issue with strutting around naked.

But she’s got something going on, as she has a real strong interest in Tochiro’s origins since he’s not a White. During one night out on the wilderness, the group gets surprised by a rogue cowboy type who ties up Harlock and Tochio and eats well of the horsemeat they recently gained. He even goes so far as to have Sinunora remove her skirt and to dance for him, which was almost a surreal experience for this kind of show. As it progresses, and our two heroes are knocked out of the picture, we learn of a place called Samurai Creek where there may be more people like Tochiro and may answer the questions that Sinunora has yet to really voice.

With the first four episodes, I’m finding it hard to really convey what the show is about since it’s been little more than Harlock and Tochiro getting into fights, on purpose and accidentally, all while being manipulated by Sinunora. There’s definitely a heavy accent on racism, such as when we get to one villain who refuses to walk into a bar with Tochiro at his side based on how it would affect his reputation. This is a particular subject that’s very rarely raised in anime and I was glad to see it incorporated into an appropriate time and place and used well to illustrate the situations.

Gun Frontier is also more of a comedy than anything else I’ve seen from Matsumoto and it plays extremely well here. Harlock’s style really transposes well to the classic western frontier storyline and Matsumoto’s elegant and simple designs look like they were made for just such a storyline. While the plot’s a bit weak early on here, there’s enough hints of some good stuff to come along. Combined with the good action sequences and surprising raw sexuality of Sinunora, this was a big divergence from what I had expected of the title after coming from Cosmo Warrior Zero. Those who enjoy this show are likely to become real advocates of it since it takes the best of Matsumoto and really has fun with it. Good stuff.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Production Sketches,Dub Outtakes,Textless Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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