On Watching Gungrave Again

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Despite its moments of silliness and its video-gamery, Gungrave remains one of the best anime I know. If you like seinen anime, you should see it. NB: It is a story created by Yasuhiro Nightow, hence my comparisons below to Trigun, another work of his.

It must be at least eight years since I’ve watched all of Gungrave. This is the first time I’ve watched it since I was cut off by a loved one, and that matters because Gungrave was, for a while, explicitly a text I used to understand the breakup between my former friend and me. I used to tell myself we had fallen out like Brandon and Harry and, like them, would find our way back. It took me about 2-3 years to figure out that wasn’t so. Our society has changed too since then. It’s much less tolerant, much more judgmental. So with those changes in mind, here are some thoughts on how my experience of Gungrave has and has not changed.

On the whole, I still love it for all the same reasons. I love the core friendship between Harry and Brandon. I love the humanity of (almost) all the characters. I love its very Nightow-like refusal to condemn the people for their actions; that is to say, the actions can be obviously egregious and lead to terrible outcomes, including for their perpetrators, but that doesn’t reduce the humanity of the perpetrators or eliminate their ability to change, to learn. That great universal love so present in Trigun is present here too in a softer light. I am still very impressed by the plotting, the tightness of the themes, the way the characters serve as foils for each other. I may even be more impressed with the pacing than I used to be.

And I appreciate even more than I used to that Gungrave sticks the landing. Its final episode may be its best. Even Shouwa Shinjuu, which is the best anime I have seen in a very long time, does not stick the landing; it’s the series’ one flaw. Even Trigun (both anime and manga), which is, on the whole, a greater work, fizzles in comparison in its final beats. And on the other side of Game of Thrones, I am deeply impressed by a serialized story that can follow through in that way to the perfect conclusion, exquisitely executed. And now for some more detailed perceptions (spoilers follow)… Read more… )

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Arwen Spicer
Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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