Studio: Madhouse (Death Note, Trigun)
Writer: Yousuke Kuroda (Trigun screenplay)
Genre: Crime, Sci Fi
First complete run: 2003-2004
Regular episodes: 26
I'm not sure what I expected from an anime based on a video game. The game is a third-person shooter, so I guess I thought the anime would be a good old-fashioned shoot-em-up. The show's plot seemed interesting enough. It follows two street thugs, Harry and Brandon, as they work their way up through the ranks of a crime syndicate called Millennion. The show takes place in an early 20th century fictional town full of tommy guns, hitmen, and lawlessness. It's a show about ambition, power, and life on the streets. As the series opens, we learn that Brandon has been betrayed by Harry and subsequently resurrected, hunting and literally living for revenge. Brandon version two, who becomes known as "Beyond the Grave," giving the show its name, is the protagonist of the eponymous video game. It sounded like a recipe for vicarious run-and-gun action. Boy, was I mistaken.
Beyond the Grave is quickly introduced in the first episode of Gungrave, then disappears as the show flashes back to Harry and Brandon's youth together. The burly gentleman on the cover who looks like he's ready to kill vanishes forever in favor of a pair of very unremarkable street thugs. Harry and Brandon, as they are for the vast majority of the anime, are not interesting at all. And there's basically no action. Most of the anime very dully plots their advancement through the ranks of Millennion, featuring boring dialogue and petty crime. Two thirds of the way through the anime, the plot gets a little bit more complex and engaging, but only slightly. By that point, to be honest, you'll just be ready for both of the protagonists to die and get it over with. The animation, script, and score are absolutely commonplace. Seen better, could practically write better, I fell asleep in front my of computer screen.
Now here's the catch. Maybe 3 episodes before the end, Gungrave gets pretty good. It takes most of the anime for the flashback to catch up to the original story from the pilot. Which means Brandon is only truly Brandon for a tiny portion of the anime. Far from being a televised version of the video game's action, the show is almost a prequel to it. And by the end, you're about to pretend like you are in the game and take a gun to the tv. Snore. Gungrave contributes nothing to the anime genre that hasn't been done twenty times better already.