Geneon // 2004 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // November 18th, 2004
His name is Heat, but his heart is cold.
When we last saw Harry and Brandon, they had just taken their first steps into the world of the criminal syndicate Millenion. Picking up shortly thereafter, this second volume of episodes from the Gungrave anime series chronicles their first few years in the syndicate, and we slowly begin to see the heights each would reach before fate tore them apart.
Here's a brief synopsis of the four episodes included here:
* Episode Five: "Millenion"
Brandon's career in Millenion begins when he is assigned to work with Gary and Mr. Widge, two loan sharks who dole out money for off-track betting. The three are ordered to retrieve some items stolen from a warehouse owned by Millenion; Mr. Widge brutally kills the two men responsible for the break-in, and Brandon realizes the lengths to which Millenion members will go in order to protect the organization's reputation. Harry, who is working in Millenion's corporate branch, introduces Brandon to Bob and Lee, two of his colleagues. He also tells Brandon where he can find Maria, his girlfriend, and Brandon goes to visit her. (There's a scene reminiscent of Goodfellas in this episode. Brandon and Gary drop Mr. Widge off at the home of his elderly mother, who has no idea what her son does for a living. No mention is made of any paintings of dogs.)
* Episode Six: "Big Daddy"
Brandon spends the day with Maria, and the two are overseen by Millenion thugs. Harry tells Brandon he must never see Maria again, for her safety as well as his own. Brandon is taken to the mansion of Big Daddy, the head of Millenion. Big Daddy, who is now looking after Maria following the death of the man she believed to be her uncle, tells Brandon he can only visit Maria at the mansion. Later, at a party being thrown by Big Daddy, Harry foils a plot to kill Millenion's leader, but one of the assassins slips past him and sneaks into the party. Brandon kills the man before he can reach Big Daddy, but is wounded in the attack. (There's a pretty cool scene in this episode, possibly an homage to Road to Perdition, in which Brandon stands in the middle of an empty street and slaughters several members of a rival crime family.)
* Episode Seven: "Five Years Later"
Five years have passed. Brandon has recovered from his wounds and is now working with Bear Walken, Millenion's top enforcer. The Gashaw crime ring hires Madness Bunji to kill Harry, Brandon, Bob, and Lee. Bob, an expert at information retrieval, learns of the hit and informs Harry, who turns the tables on Bunji and convinces him to join Millenion. They join up with Brandon and wipe out the members of Gashaw. (It was only a matter of time before the influence of John Woo crept into this series, and this chapter features two lifts from the master. The episode opens with Brandon bursting into a boardroom and killing several men; this scene's composition is very similar to the opening of The Killer. Later, when Brandon and Bunji first meet, they confront each other in a shot reminiscent of a signature Woo face-off.)
* Episode Eight: "The Family"
Big Daddy officially welcomes Brandon and Harry into the Family, the upper echelon of Millenion membership. Sherry, Bear's daughter, is introduced to Brandon and Harry, and Harry quickly begins pursuing her. Harry orders Bob to run background checks on all members of the Family. Bear learns a member of the family has betrayed them; unfortunately for Bear, it's Sid Galarde, his oldest friend. Bear cannot bring himself to kill Sid, so Brandon does it for him. (The final scene of this episode, in which an emotionally devastated Bear breaks down at the thought of having to kill his friend, is beautifully executed; it's one of the powerful anime scenes I've encountered.)
I was quite impressed with the first volume of Gungrave, and I was equally impressed by this release; this operatic tale remains compelling, and the story and characters continue to deepen. A few hints are dropped regarding the coming rift between Harry and Brandon, and the forces behind Brandon's evolution from street tough to cold-blooded killer are slowly becoming apparent.
Geneon's technical efforts on this volume rival those of the first release. The anamorphic transfer is impeccable, and the sound equals it. All three audio options are impressive, but, once again, the Japanese DTS track edges out the Dolby tracks. There's not much action in these episodes, and as a result the audio isn't as flashy as it is in the first volume, but when the surrounds and sub kick in, they kick in, with plenty of whizzing bullets, ricochets, squealing tires, and even some steered dialogue. Extras include conceptual art, previews for other Geneon titles, as well as a preview for the Gungrave video game.
The court commends Geneon and Project Gungrave for their continued fine work. Gungrave: The Sweeper would make an excellent addition to any anime collection (although if you haven't done so already, you'll definitely want to experience the series from the beginning). Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2004 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Conceptual Art
* Video Game Preview
* Official Site
* Review of Volume One