For me, a personal anime golden age is any consecutive run of 3 years in which the highest number of your favourites are gathered. 3 years may seem arbitrary, but I’ve chosen this specific range because, at least from my experience, the vast majority of anime fans tend to live and die in that time, leaving behind their lists and blogs as if time suddenly stood still, their scribblings, once filled with such joy and passion, now mere archives for the future generations of warbling young otaku to laugh at and build on, and so it continues. Anyway… before this all becomes a bit too existential, let’s crack on, shall we? Hi, I’m your local anime ghost, also known as bateszi, and here’s my personal anime golden age.
Now that Harry’s henchmen have been all but vanquished, Millenion’s stranglehold on the city has crumbled into nothing but dust. Looking to avenge his old friends and settle old scores, the scarred and tired Brandon is left searching deserted streets for his arch enemy, while Harry scrambles from place to place, trying to regain control of his “family”; no doubt, it’s a futile effort from a desperate man.
Between all these movements, Millenion’s old guard are planning to oust Harry and wrestle the organisation (a.k.a. mafia/yakuza) from his control; they’ve found a way to fight his supernatural org-men — and so Harry’s last pillar of power begins to shake.
Ultimately, he’s finished. All that’s left is Brandon; his greatest enemy and his best friend.
It’s taken me nearly 7 months to write this review. I love Gungrave, but it’s an emotionally draining and hard boiled series. I first watched it back in 2003 and certain scenes remained with me; namely the horribly fractured, life long bond shared by Harry and Brandon. After what happens in the first episode, you know that at some point in the future, Harry is going to kill Brandon, and yet still, when it finally happens, it’s an utterly gripping and shocking tribute to Harry’s developing inhumanity.
The rest of the series, despite occasionally over-indulging in some comic book silliness with the whole necrolyzation theme, steadily builds up to these last three episodes; essentially the reunion of Harry and Brandon. In a series that’s all about family and life-long friendship, I suppose it’s a little too easy to expect a simple revenge. Brandon comes face to face with Harry, the man that ‘killed him’, and despite all that’s happened, despite knowing Harry is a murderer, Brandon still can’t pull the trigger on his friend. The beauty of this scene is best emphasized by Brandon’s own touching confession; realising that Harry would destroy it all, he still chose him over Millenion.
At this moment, Harry is suddenly overcome with grief and regret; realising that he killed his best friend for nothing at all. And so the two men who once held the world in their palms find themselves back where they started, completely alone and on the verge of death – yet friends again, smiling together; they pull their guns and point at each other, trigger fingers strong. This time they are going to do it.
And then that’s it, the end of Gungrave. One of the best anime conclusions of all time; we never see how Harry and Brandon finished, and indeed, one could argue that they somehow survived, but the truth in my mind is that they finally died — with their grudge lifted, they are finally able to pass away.
What more is there to say about Gungrave; I adore it. It’s a tragic, moving and life affirming story. I’m glad Harry didn’t become a necrolyzed monster, that he remains a man, consumed by ambition and dragged to brink of madness allows his character to retain a strong resonance with the viewer. He isn’t a "villain", just a man who lost control and by the end, has paid the price with his increasingly detached and violent life.
Tsuneo Imahori’s musical score holds up wonderfully, echoing the tragic drama unfolding on screen, while Madhouse contribute animation that is as consistent as ever. Nothing wrong with these three episodes at all; they verge on perfection.
The story of Gungrave unfolds over an entire life time; we see Harry and Brandon rise to the top of the world, only to descend into the flames of hell. Being character-driven and intensely focused on meaning of true friendship, Gungrave’s strongest appeal isn’t so much its over-the-top zombie aesthetic, instead it shines as a heart fluttering drama that is all at once tragic and uplifting. Recommended times infinity; buy this now.