Gungrave is an adaptation of the video game by Red Entertainment and SEGA of the same name. The adaptation is faithful to many of the original aspects of the game. The story focuses on Brandon Heat, who comes back to the living seeking vengeance on his former friend Harry Mcdowell, for betraying him 13 years ago. As time goes by, Brandon slowly regains his memories when he revisits certain key locations.
The use of symbolism is notable. In the climax of episode Die, Harry is in the dark while Brandon is in the light showing the striking morality between the two and when they reach to the top of 24th floor it represents all the way to the top from the bottom for both Harry and Brandon. Harry’s white suit shows the contrasting personality and behavior to Big Daddy who dresses in dark clothing.
The show shows the life of being a criminal for what it really is: dark, gritty and brutal, and often short. Anybody can die at any moment in violent ways when least expected. Some characters who are not involved in the criminal activities will still be killed any way either by accident or guilty by association.
The show has a pretty dark and grim atmosphere and the story is told in three acts. The first act shows Brandon Heat and his friends are a group of petty thugs who get into a fight with another group of thugs. It turns out that the second group is led by the younger brother of a previously thought to be a dead mobster.
Brandon was also seeing a girl named Maria who lives a completely normal life. They met one day after Maria was nearly gang raped by a local gangsters until Brandon and Harry took them down. Since then, Brandon and Maria have remained friends and have been secretly seeing each other.
Loyalty is the main theme of the show. The Millennion Group is bound by a code of iron and those who betray it are killed without exception. Betrayal is never to be taken lightly and is always punishable by death.
A small time mobster named “Madd Dogg” Ladd who turns out to be a feared older brother returns. In retaliation for the fight, Madd Dogg kills Brandon and Harry’s friends Jolice, Kenny and Nathan. Brandon and Harry then set out to avenge them and also to protect Maria from getting harmed. Madd Dogg Ladd ruthlessly kills Maria’s guardian Jester for trying to get in the way and this leaves Maria an orphan once more. Madd Dogg Ladd later on gets killed by the top hitman Bear Walker as a favor for Big Daddy when he comes across him and Brandon indirectly.
Maria eventually is taken in by her fathers closest friend Big Daddy who gives her a life just as Jester would have wanted. At Jester’s funeral, members of the gang that Brandon and Harry got into a fight with try to attack them but the underboss of Millennion came by to negotiate a truce between the warring groups and persuade them to join Millennion. Brandon and Harry use this as an opportunity to get a new lease on life.
The second act shows Brandon and Harry are now members of Millennion.
Brandon was part of a small time debt collections group and Harry was part of the business operations of Millennion. They eventually become full time family members and for the first time in their lives they have something close to a family. Brandon becomes a hitman and the of the best ones in the Millennion family and he shares a close partnership to Harry. Later, Brandon and Bear are both in charge of the top hit teams in Millennion. Harry now is a more heavily involved in being in charge of Family operations and his influence and power rivals the higher ups and with this comes more enemies for Milleinon. Necrolization is introduced in this part.
Necrolization is an experimental process of bringing the dead back to life and turning the deceased into invincible killers. It was originally worked by Dr. Tokioka but after multiple unsuccessful attempts, it was deemed unethical and shelved. The prototype was meant to be super soldier who would hunt down Millennion high ranking members. The reanimated human would drop lifeless after a certain time.
Maria meanwhile has a job as a secretary and Brandon is not allowed to see her unless she and him are at the mansion together. Brandon refuses to see Maria because he regrets his life as a killer and he is deeply afraid of facing her. From here on out, he lives a dull and dreary life dedicated to being a hitman.
Eventually he rises to the ranks with Harry as the years go by and he and Harry are considered to be the biggest members in the organization. Harry eventually decides to use necrolization for his own purposes. He got involved in money laundering and embezzlement outside of the family’s activities. He impulsively killed Brandon after subtly telling him about his future plans of overthrowing Millennionn but Brandon refused and because of this he was framed as a traitor.
Brandon secretly decided to be necrolized in the event he was killed so that he would be the one to go after Harry. Millennion is using Orcmen, monstrous experimental creatures as enforcers.
The third act shows the downfall of Harry and the Millennion organization he runs and takes place thirteen years after Brandon’s death. Slowly, one by one Brandon’s friends within the organization also dies and his memories comes back to him. Millennion is now even more powerful than before. Harry as the leader has brought prosperity to the organization. His co-conspirators Ballabird Lee, Bob Poundmax, Bunji and Bear are now high ranking members.
Mika, the daughter of Maria and Big Daddy is forced to flee after her mother was killed and Harry wanted to remove all traces of Big Daddy. Harry loses his support and power slowly due to Brandon’s vendetta with one side eventually forming to support Big Daddy loyalists and the other supporting Harry. One of the scientists involved in the necrolization process decides to go against Harry and teams up with Mika to stop him. He serves as Mika’s guardian and protects her from the rampaging and insane Harry. Mika considers Brandon to be forever her family and the bond between them is unbreakable.
Brandon as a necrolized is virtually unstoppable and even deadlier than he was alive. Brandon even after being reborn, has a hard time killing those who were his friends Bunji, Bear, Ballabird and Bob. He also lives a life of being in constant sorrow being undead and he has nothing else to live for other than protecting Mika. Brandon’s new dead body also is deteriorating as time goes by due to the amount of damage it takes.
The character development in this show was quite interesting especially for Brandon and Harry. Most of them were quite interesting while some of them were you stereotypical gangsters. The pacing was slow at times and jumps back and forth between scenes which can be distracting.
Brandon Heat is brought back to life as Beyond The Grave and he has very little memory of himself in the past. Brandon Heat is a very quiet and extremely skilled killer. Despite his profession he is actually a kind, loyal and dedicated friend and his determination in solving any problem is one of his most defining traits.
Harry and Brandon both have different goals in the organization. Brandon wants to appease Big Daddy and Maria and also to protect Harry. He has no interest at all in power, fame or fortune like Harry does. Harry McDowell is a deadly opponent in his own right. He uses charisma and charm to get whatever he wants and he is more focused on the business side of Millennion’s operations. His desire for freedom is the most defining trait. He wants to do whatever it takes to get absolute freedom to do whatever he wants, whenver he wants and how he wants it.
Eventually this becomes his biggest downfall as he becomes more manipulative and ruthless. He even forgets his former friends as well due to his own ambitions.
He also has a habit of shooting enemies multiple times even after they are killed as part of his growing ruthlessness. He descends into madness after betraying Brandon and this even causes him to regret his cruelty. His grip on reality and his organization begins to crumble. He creates a lie to frame Brandon for his own crimes against Millennion and few know the truth about his actions.
Harry and Brandon have very good chemistry together and even as arch enemies, they have a mutual respect. Bunji was another stand out character. He is something of a loner who has a habit of killing anybody he works with. He joins Millennion after being persuaded by Harry. His loyalty to those who are stronger than he is one of the most defining traits. He is just as dangerous as Brandon whom he considers to be a“brother”. Bunji is known as “madness” due to his extremely ruthless methods of killing. Both he and Brandon are in charge of the True Grave hit team for the family. He was initially in denial over Brandon’s supposed betrayal but after learning the truth he slowly regains his former respect for him.
Big Daddy, the leader of Millennion is completely different from the typical mobster. He is a modest and wise leader who treats his members as part of a family. He and Brandon have a father and son relationship with fly fishing as a mutual hobby. He gives Brandon very valuable advice and he also shows concern for those who works for him. He has a lack of ambition and his main focus is to keep the peace of his family and the other gangs. After Harry murders Big Daddy, there is a massive change in the organization focus as ambition and greed takes precedence over living in peace.
The character designs were highly accurate to the original game. The art style is generally well done and the action is ultra violent and fast paced. The mix of jazz and rock music is a good match for the anime and fans will enjoy the soundtrack.The voice acting for the most part was pretty serviceable the female characters tended to sound a bit off key and high pitched. The animation by Madhouse was generally decent and the art style was created by the Managka of Trigun and it looks just as great as in the original game.
The story ending is bittersweet and it shows that both Harry and Brandon regret the way things turned out and they had not chosen a life of crime. Millennion despite its boss being a benevolent leader and their members such as Bear Walken and Randy having a code of honor, they are at the end of the day criminals.
There were some errors in the story. One character, Blood War is said to have killed about 328 people but Bunji stated it was 200 even though it was the former during the second act. There are also some unresolved threads in the story. The supernatural and sci fi elements seemed to be a last minute addition and not as fully developed sub plots. They also were not fully explained and seemed out of place.
Mika tends to get in the way and she can be extremely distracting from the main story and she often tries to play the peacemaker to no avail. Another character Sherry also appears in Gungrave Overdose. She is really nothing more than a mobwife for Harry and does not have any emotional impact to show.
Overall, this was a pretty good translation from video game to anime overall. Fans of the original video game and also even fans of The Crow would really like this.
It gets 4 stars out of 5.
Gungrave Gore will serve as the sequel to the Gungrave games and characters like Brandon, Mika and Bunji are making a reappearance. It would be certainly interesting to see how Red Entertainment is going to be creating a brand new experience for a new generation of Gungrave fans and seeing where the series go from here.