My Anime Favorites: Gungrave

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Summary: Gungrave opens thirteen years after Brandon Heat is betrayed and killed by his best friend, Harry MacDowell. He is reborn through the use of Necro-rise as Beyond The Grave, and begins a quest of revenge against the crime syndicate. The series then backtracks to Brandon’s youth, follows him and Harry as they rise through the criminal underworld, detailing the circumstances that led to their eventual falling-out.

Why: 

Much like TTGL (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann), I had to watch this one more than once. Plus, it may not be on a majority of lists you’ll find out there. It was about a decade ago and the first time I had channel surfed to a little network called G4; had to be 2:30 or 3 am so all the gun-play woke me up while drawing my interest.

Years later, I had another go at it (realizing I only saw the second half before). Two words: no regrets.

The main strength of this series, especially in the first half, was its characters. The dynamic between Brandon and Harry, from friends to enemies, back to lifelong friends, was quite fluid and believable. Hell even the use of flashback to carry these episodes was… daring. Any viewer could have become bored with the prospect but the execution was what made it thrive; notably the decline of Harry and Brandon’s friendship, using their own vices to tear them apart: Harry’s insatiable greed and Brandon’s blind faith.

The defining moment was the elevator scene. Being a smart viewer, I could smell it coming but when Harry actually shot Brandon, I was in shock. The characterization was so strong that I couldn’t rationalize Harry committing such an act, acknowledging his increasing paranoia. From there, Brandon’s unflinching wrath became justified.

Gungrave’s second half was defined by Gunkata, superhuman battles, and Heat’s struggle “to get his man”. Alone, it doesn’t bear much water yet coupled with the aforementioned melodrama, it solidifies. Each move by these friends-turned-rivals is an emotion filled gambit, one-sided (the protagonist, Heat) until the series conclusion.

Harry MacDowell, the perceived antagonist, climbed the ranks of his world’s Mafia, for a reason any of us could relate to: in order to succeed, ascend from the gutter he was born into. But did the ends justify the means? Unfortunately, no. Due to fact that Harry made a mess of things by betraying everyone who loved him. He executed his best friend, took his girl, became a kingpin, and sent a hit squad after his once presumed deceased ally. In the pursuit of what?! Power. However, the ultimate cost was power all he had. Karma had found him and loneliness was her gift.

In the end, both Brandon and Harry, had learned from their failings. Brandon embraced the uselessness of his revenge and sought only to grant his friend forgiveness; in contrast, Harry, connecting with his friend and conscience again, he embodied the shame of his vile actions, discovering none was worth what he lost. A denouement perhaps, as the duo slowly experience death via shootout, Brandon in cell degeneration and Harry from old age/wounds sustained.

These old dogs had their run…and it had come full circle.

Bye for now, KS.

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