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DVD Review

Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 49.98
  • Running time: 650
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gun Sword

Gun x Sword Complete Collection

Gun x Sword Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

By Joseph Medina     February 02, 2011
Release Date: December 14, 2010


Gun X Sword
© FUNimation
Tormented by the sudden and tragic death of his fiancée, the aimless swordsman Van wanders the planet of Endless Illusion in search of the man who took his happiness away.
 
What They Say
There's a claw-fisted, fiancée-murdering, older-brother-corrupting, genocidal maniac terrorizing the planet of endless illusion, and only Van, a tight-lipped loner in a jet black tuxedo, can bring the scoundrel to justice. Armed with his shape-shifting sword, a mechanized suit of armor sent from the heavens, and a fierce hunger for condiments, Van hunts the villain who murdered his one true love with dogged determination. Riding shotgun on his quest is Wendy Garret, a pretty young spitfire who'll do anything to reunite with her long lost brother. Together, they seek vengeance in a lawless, futuristic frontier, draining bottles of ketchup and righting wrongs wherever heroes are needed. With any luck, they'll find the men they seek before the sun sets on civilization once and for all.

The Review!
Audio:
The sound is pretty excellent on all fronts. Both languages have wonderful 5.1 mixes, and the Japanese has an additional 5.1 DTS setting, which also sounds great. I experienced no distortions while listening, nor do I believe that any quality in sound is lost in either language presented.
 
Video:
This series is pretty much par for the course when it comes to animation. It’s decent looking, but it isn’t particularly unique, nor is it particularly well animated. The video transfer was relatively seamless. The only real issue I had was one shot near the end of the series that had some distortion issues, but there’s no way of knowing if that’s a problem that carried over to all copies printed, or if it was just an anomaly in the copy I had.
 
Packaging:
The entire 26 episode series is presented in a standard-sized plastic DVD case with a couple “pages” of DVDs on the inside and the bonus DVD tucked in the back. Covering the entire DVD case is one of those cardboard sleeves that can slide either over the top or the bottom (the ones that usually just get in the way all the time and you feel tempted to throw out). On the front cover is a nice picture of Van in front of a barren wasteland and the Gun X Sword logo on the bottom. On the back is a picture of Wendy looking deep in thought in front of more barren wasteland. The top right of is the slogan “Revenge is a dish best served with condiments.” At the bottom right are the synopsis and explanation of the DVD features, and at the very bottom are pictures found throughout the show.
 
The inside picture of the DVD cover is a between-the-feet, western style, shot of Wendy turned towards Van who sits lazily on a bench. It gives it a nice western feel that represents the show and its tone fairly well for the first half of the series.
 
Each of the four main DVDs has a nice, almost holographic, glow to them. On the right side of each DVD is a picture of a main character, and on the left is the Gun X Sword logo. DVD 1 has a picture of Van; DVD 2 has a picture of Wendy; DVD 3 has a picture of Carmen 99; and DVD 4 has a picture of Priscilla. The final “bonus DVD” simply has the words “Extra Features” plastered on the top with the show’s logo on the bottom. It’ s a lot more simple and makes it seem like it wasn’t quite planned along with the rest of the DVDs as a part of the set.
 
On the whole, an attractive set with images that accurately represent the show. The DVDs are a lot easier to get to than usual FUNimation affair (with either 2 DVD skinny cases or with “layered and overlapping” DVDs), and it’s nice enough to pick up and look at. Both practical and attractive.
 
Menu:
The menus for each DVD are essentially the same. The representative character of the DVD is plastered on the right side of the screen with a barren wasteland in the background and the main theme of the series playing loudly. On the left are the options to playing the show, checking scenes, or setting up the language options.
 
Clicking on the “Scenes” option will take you to a silent menu with a different picture of the same character on the right side of the screen and the episode options on the left. Clicking language options will take you to another silent screen with yet another picture of the same character of the DVD and the language options on the left side.
 
The whole set is very methodical in its menu system, and though it’s nothing particularly special, it’s fast and effective enough for someone who just wants to hurry up an watch the show.
 
Extras:
If there was one thing that was done properly for this release, it was the extras. I'm mostly talking about the inclusion of a delightful 13 episode series called Gun X Sword San; little four-minute skits with poorly animated 3D chibi renditions of the main characters (and a creepy old-man rendition of Kameo, the turtle). It’s stupid, dark, needlessly violent, bloody, yet on the whole, completely harmless. Unlike many net-series companions to full anime series, you really don’t need to know a whole lot about the main series to appreciate it, which makes that much greater.
 
Another amusing extra is the TV version of episode 17. Episode 17 of the series can pretty much be labeled as the obligatory fan-service episode of an anime series where the female characters are needlessly thrown into skimpy bikinis and sent off on a random mission to win over the queen of a mini-nation. It appears that the episode aired at one point in Japan, and in any moment a significant amount of cleavage, camel toe, or butt cheek was shown, then a strange llama-like face would pop in and cover it up. It’s a bit one-note after awhile, but still amusing, especially if you find yourself rolling your eyes at these fan-service episodes of any anime.
 
The last unique extra was a clip of the show where David Vincent, the English voice actor of Van, goes off script, and what seems to be a blooper turns into a proposal for his girlfriend. It’s short, but a bit sweet, and definitely worth checking out.
 
The remaining extras in the set are pretty standard. There are a couple Gun X Sword Japanese TV commercials, CD commercials, Japanese trailers, and a clean opening. None of them are incredibly special, but they do round out the extras pretty nicely for an overall excellent batch.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My initial impressions of Gun X Sword were virtually nonexistent. Never had I heard of the series, though it had a setup that held great promise. But as soon as the name Hideyuki Kurata got plastered all over the screen under the position of screenwriter, everything changed. This was the creator of the Read or Die franchise (and writer in each of its iterations ranging from the novels, the two manga series, the OVA, and the TV series) and screenwriter for great shows such as Brigadoon and Bamboo Blade. The bar had now been raised unfairly high, and I could only hope that it would be able to meet those expectations.
 
The story starts out relatively simple and unoriginal. A town is under the oppression of a gang of wacky criminals, and a wandering traveler in the form of Van reluctantly gets dragged into it, and in the process he frees said town. Before he leaves, he attracts a young girl by the name of Wendy, who is in search of her older brother who has been kidnapped. Van is hesitant to accept her companionship at first. After all, he’s a man who’s looking to get revenge on a villain by the name of The Claw, who killed his fiancée and left him to suffer. The thought of getting a little girl caught up in the middle of something like that is a bit awkward, to say the least. But he lets her on board nonetheless, and thus begins this interesting sci-fi western.
 
To say that this series lacked any real spirit early on would be an understatement. A grave understatement. First off, the show lacked any real consistent tone. It was wacky, stupid, serious, and practically self-referential in some episodes. There was no way to know what to expect from the anime as a whole. The first eleven episodes are almost unbearably slow, cliché, and horribly uninspired. It was almost good enough for standard entertainment, but for the most part it felt like a lesser Trigun or Cowboy Bebop. It almost felt like the series was just going through the motions to try to appeal to the audience of the two previously mentioned anime, and failing miserably. It became a chore to wade through the first half of the entire series, and I found myself dreading each viewing. With its long list of strange and ridiculous villains (i.e. men with tentacle mustaches, a French-looking submariner, and a couple that was clearly inspired by the movie Pulp Fiction) I found it harder and harder to take the show seriously.  Needless to say, it had not met my unreasonably high expectations.
 
And then The Claw entered the picture.
 
If Kurata is good at one thing in nearly everything he does, it’s creating a unique and almost sympathetic villain (i.e. Joker from R.O.D. the TV) that confuses the audience enough to keep them coming back for more. With the exception of maybe one or two episodes after episode 11, the rest of series is an intriguing and well-paced build-up to the inevitable confrontation between Van and The Claw. The show then does something to itself that is both genius and annoying: it takes those first seemingly useless eleven episodes and retroactively imbues them with some importance. Many characters that seem like episodic players suddenly become relevant again, and it all culminates into a strangely satisfying conclusion that almost justifies the horrible mess we were dragged through for nearly a dozen episodes.
 
It’s a double-edged-sword, really. Normally one would say to watch episode one, skip most of the first half, and continue from there. However, taking away those episodes would ultimately take away from the impact of the conclusion. It really is a shame that the studio couldn’t do much make those early attempts more effective as standalone episodes, because putting a viewer through so much stagnant waters so early on would be enough to turn off the most patient of people. 
 
In Summary:
There really is a lot to like in this series, despite my gripes. There’s a lot of cool mech action, likable characters, and an amazing villain. It just takes too long to get to these good parts, and it’s really this fact that keeps it from even approaching the status of a classic, which I feel it could have been. But if you’re a patient viewer and feel like you could trudge through four hours of seemingly pointless sludge, then I guarantee that it’ll be worth it in the end. If you find yourself unable to do so, however, I would just skip this title altogether.
 
Features
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, Japanese 5.1 DTS, English Subtitles, Gun X Sword San episodes 1-13, Textless Opening, Japanese TV Commercials, Japanese CD Commercials, Japanese Trailers, Episode 17 TV Version, David Vincent’s Proposal Video

Review Equipment
Sony KDL-40EX400 BRAVIA EX400 LCD hdtv 40 inch. Sony SLV-D370P DVD Player. Electrohome ELE-HTB920E 5.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System
 

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