Gunsmith Cats: Bulletproof

gunsmithcatscoverI am prepared to make a statement of staggering importance and nearly prophetic cultural evaluation: Japan and the U.S.A. are different. (Somebody give me an honorary cultural studies degree, why doncha?) I mean, really different. And we both know we’re different, though how I don’t think we’re all exactly sure. So when a show comes from Japan that’s set in America, it’s entirely appropriate to be wary of the thing.

Well, Gunsmith Cats, based on a long-running manga by Kenichi Sonoda, is a little disappointing in this regard. It actually does a pretty good job of depicting the Windy City (far as I know. I’m a west-coaster – I’mfrightened of the rest of my country, and never leave Los Angeles) and America in general. Sure, it’s a little weird seeing a big-ass billboard proclaiming “I Am An American,” but otherwise Chicago is used well as a backdrop.

The show revolves around the adventures of Rally Vincent and Minnie May Hopkins, a pair of attractive young American girls who run a gun shop/shooting range and do freelance detective work on the side – I think. I’m not familiar with the manga, so the exact background of these two (the Gunsmith Cats, natch) is unknown to me, but for this show that’s no real problem. It’s a fast-paced, fun action show with attractive animation and some really well-staged set-pieces.

There is a story in here somewhere, involving corruption in the BATF and the machinations of a candidate running on a campaign of strict gun control. An aside: one of the things in a lot of anime that’s so bloody refreshing is how divorced it is from American political points of view. No way in hell would a show in the U.S. have an advocate for gun control as the bad guy – after all, he’s on the “right,” “politically correct” end of the issue. In the U.S., this show would probably be called The Good Senator, about the brave gun control advocate facing off (with daisies and love and big hugs) against evil gun-nut women, with the help of his friendly communist assassin.

Did I mention there was a communist assassin? That’s precisely the type of show this is. Great gun fights, the best car chase I’ve seen since Castle of Cagliostro, and really likeable characters. In particular, the ladies of Gunsmith Cats, plus their underutilized pal Becky Farrar, voiced by Aya Hisakawa (Keroberos in Card
Captor Sakura
, Itchan in Battle Athletes Victory), are cute and funny. Just as the story is thin, the characters ain’t exactly deep as the ocean, but they’re well-rounded enough not to be boring.

The voice acting on the Japanese side of the fence is typically excellent. I didn’t give the entire English dub a run-thru, but the part I watched seemed fairly typical for a mid-’90s A.D.V. English track – some decent performances, but nothing that really clicks properly. Not terrible, and maybe it got better as the actresses became more comfortable in their roles, but it doesn’t replicate the charm of the original Japanese performances.

Of these three episodes, the DVD set itself is a beautiful-looking production. The disc looks and sounds great, and has a terrific set of extras. Chief amongst these is an interesting, if a little lazily edited, documentary on the making of the Gunsmith Cats. It would have been nice had there been some chapters encoded in the documentary what for easy skipping around, but just having it there is good.

Gunsmith Cats was something of a surprise to me, and just what I needed – a light action show, without too much of a commitment beyond just having fun. The characters are likeable (and the character designs by Sonoda, particularly for Rally and Minnie May, have a unique feel to them that sets them apart from the more typical character designs of the rest of the cast) and the story has just the right amount of complexity to keep it from being more set-pieces strung together. It has the sense of humor that Hollywood action movies seem to have replaced with cruelty and graphic violence. The American setting is like icing on the cake – it’s always neat to see how others might view your own nation (particularly when there isn’t some grand pretentious point being attempted about American cultural imperialism or other such BS). I just wish I knew some girls like these.
Rating: B+

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