Samurai Gun Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Samurai Gun

Samurai Gun Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     April 26, 2007
Release Date: October 16, 2006


Samurai Gun Vol. #1
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
Welcome to the Wild Wild East
As the industrial revolution casts a shadow across the future of feudal Japan, a group of samurai have banded together to stand up and fight against the abuses of power by the ruling shogun. Incognito by day, tooled-up by night, these dark knights use the new technology to dole out big-time gun-barrel justice. And the most feared amongst them? Ichimatsu, the man always ready to help, the man known as... Samurai Gun!

Episodes Comprise
1 - The Man with the Samurai Gun
2 - Experimental Railroad
3 - The Sleeping Flower
4 - Inazuma

The Review!
Samurai Gun, sanjou! Any thing I'd heard about this series before getting my hands on it seemed to revolve around one key phrase: "Samurai! Guns!! Whores!!!" That would lead you to believe you'd be getting a certain type of show and maybe doesn't give you much hope of quality. Don't let that put you off, though - it may just be worth giving Samurai Gun a chance...

Audio:
Audio is presented in English 5.1 surround, and in Japanese and German 2.0 stereo. I listed to the Japanese track for this review. While the soundtrack is clear and there's no problem picking out dialogue from the background effects & music, there's not a huge amount of use made of the soundstage to give any real feeling of direction to on-screen events. A spot-check of the English track shows some use made of the rear channels, but it's not all that extensive. There were no apparent problems with the encoding on either track.

Video:
Video is presented in the original 1.33:1 full-frame ratio. There's some colour banding visible in darker scenes " it's quite noticeable when it occurs, but it doesn't show up very often. Apart from that, the show looks good " colours used are bright & vibrant and come across very well, while there's plenty of background detail in most scenes.

Packaging:
Unusually for an ADV title, the UK cover art is slightly different from the US version, with Ichimatsu taking pride of place in both regular and battle clothing with Ohana in the background to provide some female eyecandy. The back has the usual screenshots, technical info and promotional material.

Menu:
Menus are available in both English and German, selectable when the disc loads. I went with the English option, which appears to a montage of clips of Ichimatsu in battle gear making good use of his gun. The main screen has a static image of Ichimatsu again, this time in somthing more casual. Direct access is provided to the episodes, while submenus are provided for language select and extras. There are no transition animations, so it's all quick and eady to use.

Extras:
Along with the traditional clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, there are production and character artwork slideshows, and a 7-minute "Fun with Audio" clip, which sees some of the show's scenes being redone with comedy audio.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
In a feudal Japan in which the Shogunate seem willing to stoop to any level to maintain power and where projectile weapons have become preferred to traditional swords, the Samurai Gun stand up for the downtrodden, and fight for justice. One of the Samurai Gun, half-breed Ichimatsu, is a reluctant hero " having watched his family being killed, he's got a natural desire for revenge, but in general the bloodlust has gone out of him and he'd be quite happy if he never had to draw another man's blood again. Fate isn't so kind, however, and along with his gun-wielding comrades he continues to track down those responsible for wielding the Shogunate's iron fist, and give them their just punishment. His latest orders involve a trio known as the Minamiyama Brothers - as well as doing the Shogunate's dirty work, they've taken to hunting young women for sport. They're about to find out what it's like to be on the other side of the hunt...

Ichimatsu's a strange one " cold, unemotional and uncaring, and generally dismissive of any orders or requests he receives from the Samurai Gun's masters, he's more the sort of person you'd expect to slip into being a recluse, not someone who'd suit up and delivery high-explosive justice. The one person he seems to be able to open up to is hooker Ohana, who he spends a lot of time with (no doubt at great expense), but he only ever works off his frustrations with life by talking to her, never anything more. For Ohana, it's an easy job " and his attitude towards her means she's perhaps begun to see him as something more than just a client.

Alongside Ichimatsu are schoolteacher Daimon, who by day seems the least likely killer you could meet, and tavern singer Kurenai. In most situations even one member of the Samurai Gun would be able to give a good account of themselves " put three together and they're thoroughly deadly. The Shogunate isn't taking this threat to their authority lightly, either, and has set up a special Anti-Samurai Gun Unit, led by the devious and ruthless Watou.

This disc opens by giving some of the main characters their own introductory episodes that try to give a little of their background before creating a situation where the Samurai Gun can save the day in a suitably gory set-piece battle, with Ichimatsu, Kurenai and Ohana getting their turns in the first three episodes. Behind the scenes, Watou keeps control of the Shogunate's forces, and provides a different challenger each week for the good guys to deal with. That means that there's a definite "villain of the week" feel, to this disc at least, while each episode sticks pretty much to the same formula " an introduction to what this episode's villains have been up to, the presentation of the mission to Ichi (who invariably agonises over it before accepting), and the mission itself during the second half of the episode. As storytelling goes, it's hardly deep or meaningful " Samurai Gun doesn't seem to be heading into that sort of territory - but it's easy to follow and enjoyable enough.

The real appeal of the show comes from two areas: most noticeably from the level of violence and gore, which the animators have clearly had some fun with " for each person killed (more often than not some unlucky young woman who's fallen into the wrong hands), there's plenty of gore, often rendered in glorious CG detail. I know some people appreciate that sort of attention to detail, but I can't help but think that it's a little over-the-top and just a way of providing a quick visual hook to drawn in an audience. There's certainly no shortage of violent scenes here, but it's shock value only, and that soon wears off, leaving the show to stand on its other strengths.

That's where the characters themselves come in. They're definitely an interesting bunch, although as yet they're still lacking development. Ohana's my personal favourite, as there's a lot of time put into portraying how she's come to view her life in a brothel and how her involvement with Ichi eventually comes to change that. Daimon's laid-back attitude when not in his armour marks him out as outgoing and easily-liked. Ichi and Kurenai are more enigmatic and reserved " that could be seen as either a mysterious aspect that makes you want to know more, or as a sad lack of development, depending on your perspective. None of the leads ever really dominates the show " while Ichi seems to be nominally the star of the show, each is given their chance to shine across the four episodes here " although the fairly simple storylines do limit them a bit.

In summary:
Samurai Gun didn't sound overly promising when I first came across it " an interesting setting (putting guns into historical Japan), but maybe not that much else going for it. It works a lot better than it sounds " action junkies will appreciate the gunfights and gore, while the characters are an intriguing bunch that I want to learn more of " although it does have its fault. The gore level is over-the-top in places, while there's a danger of it falling into a villain-of-the-week routine that could quickly become repetitive. This volume is a promising start, though, and I'm looking forward to the next disc.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,German Language 2.0,English Subtitles,German Subtitles,Clean opening & closing animations,Production & character art galleries,Production notes,Fun with Audio

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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