Gungrave: The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)
July 18, 2011 by Dennis Amith
“Gungrave” is an anime series that features awesome mafia-style violence, total carnage and violence galore! If you love this series (and enjoyed the original PlayStation 2 video games) or wanting more classic anime on Blu, the Blu-ray release for “Gungrave: The Complete Series” is the definitive version to own!
Image courtesy of © 2011 FUNimation Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Gungrave: The Complete Series
DURATION: 26 Episodes (650 Minutes)
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Japanese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Subtitles
COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment
RATED: 16 and Up
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Originally created by Yasuhiro Nightow
Directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru
Series Composition and Script by Yousuke Kuroda
Storyboard by Junichi Takaoka, Mamoru Matsuo, Tetsuro Araki, Toshiyuki Tsuru, Yuzo Sato
Music by Tsuneo Imahori
Character Designs by Masanori Shino
Art Director by Hideyuki Ueno, Tomoyuki Shimizu
Mechanical Design by Masahiro Kimura
Sound Director: Yasunori Honda
Director of Photography: Hisao Shirai
Anime Production: Madhouse
Produced by Project Gungrave
Featuring the following voice talent:
Kenji Hamada and Tsutomu Isobe/Tony Oliver/Abe Lasser as Harry MacDowell
Tomokazu Seki/Ron Allen as Brandon Heat/Beyond the Grave
Iemasa Kayumi/Michael McConnohie as Big Daddy
Kikuko Inoue/Michelle Ruff as Maria Asagi
Kumi Sakuma/Kay Jensen as Mika Asagi
Motomu Kiyokawa/William Frederick as Dr. Tokioka “Dr. T”
Fumihiko Tachiki/Lex Lang as Bunji Kugashira
For Brandon Heat, death doesn’t matter. Driven by his need for revenge, he returns from beyond the grave to cripple Milleneon, the huge mafia organization which uses undead monsters as its enforcers. His ultimate goal is to destroy Harry MacDowel, the leader of Milleneon and, at one time, Brandon’s best friend…
In 2002, PlayStation 2 video gamers were treated with a third-person shooter titled “Gungrave” created by Yasuhiro Nightow (creator of the manga and anime series “Trigun”). The video game would feature anime style cut scenes but with an intriguing story about a man from the dead who has come back to exact revenge against his former mafia organization and most of all, to get back at his former best friend, who has taken control of the organization known as Millennion.
But as enjoyable as those cut scenes were, many have wondered if there would be a “Gungrave” anime series and sure enough, the following year, MADHOUSE Studios (“Trigun”, “Ninja Scroll”, “Vampire Hunter D”, “Monster”, etc.) created a 26-episode anime series. And with the success and interest in the series, a second PS2 video game titled “Gungrave: Overdose” was released.
The series would be directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru (“who has worked on “Cowboy Bebop”, “Naruto”, “Great Teacher Onizuka” and “Vision of Escaflowne”), written by Yousuke Kuroda (“Infinite Ryvius”, “Mobile Suit Gundam 00″, “Tenchi Muyou! GXP”, “Trigun”, etc.) and feature character designs by Masanori Shino (who has worked on anime series such as “Inuyasha”, “Mobile Suit Gundam F91″, “Black Lagoon” and “Banner of the Stars”) and mechanical designs by Masahiro Kimura (“Black Lagoon). The music for the series was composed by Tsuneo Imahori (involved with series such as “Cowboy Bebop”, “Arjuna”, “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade”, “Trigun” and “Wolf’s Rain”).
Where the video game series focused on Brandon Heat’s revenge on his former friend and organization, the anime series focuses on the friendship between Brandon and his best friend/future nemesis Harry McDowell and how he got involved with Millennion.
Having been released on DVD courtesy of Geneon and then later by FUNimation Entertainment, “Gungrave: The Complete Series” receives its first HD treatment on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment as part of their “Anime Classics” on Blu-ray lineup!
The main characters of “Gungrave” are:
Brandon Heat/Beyond the Grave – During his younger years, Brandon was a small-time criminal along with his friend Harry McDowell. A bit lost in life and tries to make sense of it. He is very fond of Maria and would do anything for her. Due to circumstances when he was younger, he and Harry join one of the top mafia organizations known as Millennion and quickly rises the ranks over the years, but despite his success, because he wants to keep Maria out of his trouble, he keeps his distance. “Beyond the Grave” is the name given Brandon Heat after receiving the necrolyze treatment to revive him courtesy of Dr. T. Unlike most who receive the necrolyze treatment, Brandon still retains his soul for those he cares about but at the same time, much more deadlier in this form as he exacts his revenge.
Harry McDowell – “Bloody Harry”, the leader of the small-time gang of Desolation Alley, he and Brandon join Millennion. But for Harry, having so much power starts to take over his ego and will kill anyone to achieve such power.
Maria Asagi – Has always been passionate towards Brandon who was raised by Millennion mafia member Jester. When Jester was killed, she moved in with the leader of Millennion, a powerful man named Big Daddy.
Mika Asagi – Seen at the beginning of the series (and the primary character of the video game series) and is the daughter of Maria and Big Daddy.
Big Daddy – The leader and founder of Millennion. Despite being in charge of a mafia organization, he has always been kind towards Maria and also Brandon.
Bear Walken – Big Daddy’s right hand man and one of the major members of Millennion. Has a daughter named Sherry who is engaged to Harry but at the same time, doesn’t trust Harry but for his daughter’s safety, agrees to side with him.
Bunji Kugashira – An assassin from rival group who ends up becoming a member of Millennion and a friend of Brandon.
Bob Poundmax – One of Harry’s key men (his second “superior”) who is quite intelligent but overweight.
Balladbird Lee – Bob’s best friend and a member of Millennion.
Dr. Tokioka (Dr. T) – The scientist who developed necrolyzation (reviving the dead).
The series are broken down in several arc’s. The first arc pretty much focuses on Harry, Brandon and his friends living on the streets and getting into trouble. Unfortunately, the trouble they get involved is big enough to get them and their friends killed.
The second arc features Harry and Brandon joining Millennion and how they slowly grow in rank and become one of the top people in the organization as they take on the rival organization known as Lightning. Also, the plan of the mafia organizations to use necrolyzation to revive their dead and make them monsters.
The third arc focuses on Harry’s thirst for power and will do whatever it takes to get to the top.
The final arc focusing on what people are familiar from the video games and that is Brandon Heat revived as this killing machine known as “Beyond the Grave” and exacting revenge on those responsible for his death and protecting the people he cares about.
“Gungrave: The Complete Series” is presented in 1080p High Definition. One has to remember that “Gungrave” was an anime released back in 2003. So, anime fans should not expect that uber-vibrant, colorful, digital look as many anime released today. Also, the anime series is a television series so it is not going to have all the major detail such as an OVA or film. But for the most part, the anime character designs uses dark edges, while certain scenes feature good artistic backgrounds, many buildings are well detailed.
In HD, there is a considerable difference in the fact that red colors are absolutely vibrant on Blu-ray and background art is quite detailed. But with that being said, for the majority of the series, picture quality has what seems like an intentional softness to it. So, certain scenes are colorful, while other scenes has this white glaze over it (especially the scenes that are focusing on the past). Of course, those scenes were quite intentional. But for the most part, the series is well animated.
Overall, “Gungrave” is an awesome, old school anime MADHOUSE production and when it came out back in 2003, there was no denying of how awesome this anime looked at that time and capturing the amount of emotion and also motion for a television series. But it’s great to see how good this classic anime series looks on Blu-ray and once again, I can’t wait to see what FUNimation Entertainment has planned for classic anime series on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for audio, “Gungrave: The Complete Series” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The biggest improvement with the Blu-ray release is that the action and the gun shots really come alive the surround channels and via LFE.
I had the opportunity to watch the series in both Japanese and English and for the most part, voice acting is solid for both. The series is pretty much front and center channel driven since its mostly a dialogue driven series for the first four volumes. But once the major part of the action begins, that is when the soundtrack of the series starts to shine and you do get pretty good surround sound usage. Also, fans of Tsuneo Imahori’s music, will definitely enjoy what he has to bring to the series.
Subtitles are only in English.
“Gungrave – The Complete Set” comes with the following on disc three:
- Promo Video Collection – The promotional video (5:20) is more or less the commercials for the series before it aired on Japanese television.
- Textless opening and ending themes
Note: It’s important to note that the special features that did not carry over from the DVD release are the conceptual art and commercials which included the TV, DVD and original soundtrack spots.
“Gungrave: The Complete Series” comes with a slip over cover case.
“Gungrave – The Complete Set” is possibly one of the more exciting, mature and solid anime series that is originally based off a video game. For the most part, many video game turned to anime have not had a well-told storyline but for “Gungrave”, you really do get an action-packed, mafia storyline about power and corruption but also a little of that twisted scientific logic of bring the dead back alive and them returning as monsters.
What I enjoyed about “Gungrave” the most is that it it slowly built the storyline around Brandon and Harry’s friendship and eventually leading to Brandon’s return as “Beyond the Grave”. Despite the game having this cool character, the series focuses more on the mafia/yakuza-style of storylines that we typically read from manga or have seen long ago on a series such as “Crying Freeman” without the sex and humor. This is anime series is dramatic, violent and for the most part, one may even look at the series going for a more “Godfather” style of storyline.
Needless to say, a series by Yasuhiro Nightow brings excitement to fans who loved his previous series “Trigun”. Once we see Beyond the Grave (Brandon) start to take charge and exact revenge, the series which was already quite enjoyable already gets an extra dose of excitement as the series transforms to another style of anime and is geared to a more violent, action-paced anime series. And by no means is this anime for the younger folks, although this series doesn’t have the sex and humor of other yakuza/mafia-based anime, it is a violent anime series.
And that is where Nightow’s creativity shines. From Beyond the Grave’s character, the dramatic moments intensified with Maria and Mika, the transformation of the “Superiors”, the action sequences and also the weapons. “Gungrave” definitely is an exciting, action-packed final episodes of this awesome series. But you feel the series character development and mafia storyline pays off, as storyline development of both Brandon and Harry’s characters, their friendship leads to to the final episodes. The anime series could have gone the cliched storylines on revenge but suffice to say, the ending is not exactly what one may expect and overall, a fresh way to end this complex series.
Last, it is great to see “Gungrave” released by FUNimation Entertainment as part of their dedication to releasing classic anime on Blu-ray and the series looks great on Blu-ray! Picture quality is much clearer, colors are more vibrant than its DVD counterpart but still, it is an older anime series and there are many scenes that were intentionally mean to look a bit soft.
But the picture quality is great and also, the addition of the lossless Japanese and English soundtrack was fantastic! No doubt, this is the definitive version to own of “Gungrave” for now! And if you love the series, you will love this Blu-ray release!
Overall, “Gungrave: The Complete Series” is an enjoyable series with an intriguing storyline, good amount of action and solid animation. For those who enjoyed the original PS2 games, it was exciting to know that the game would have its own animated series back then and whether or not you remember those games, for one wanting an action-based anime series, if you’re open to classic anime, you can’t really go wrong with “Gungrave”.
Also, exciting to find out afterward that for an anime inspired from a video game, “Gungrave” didn’t suck at all. Overall, “Gungrave: The Complete Series” is definitely recommended!
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