Gungrave - Vol. 1: Beyond The Grave
Brandon Heat, death doesn't matter. Driven by his need for revenge, he
returns from beyond the grave to cripple Milleneon, the huge mafia
organization that uses undead monsters as its enforcers. His ultimate
goal will be to destroy Harry MacDowel, the leader of Milleneon and, at
one time, Brandon's best friend...
are no real heroes in Gungrave, but it is a compelling tale nonetheless.
There are only two possible innocents in this story, but considering
that only the first four episodes are presented here, I'm not ready to
place any bets. One of these characters is Brandon's girlfriend Maria,
and I have a feeling she'll play a major role in creating the rift
between Harry and Brandon. I also suspect that Mika, one of Brandon's
companions following his rebirth, is more than she appears to be; it is
made clear that she wants to see Harry dead because he gave the order
for her mother's execution, but I doubt it's that simple. The plotting
here is twisty and gnarled, and I quite enjoyed it.
Gungrave seems to draw much of its inspiration from the works of Sergio
Leone, with a little bit of Sergio Corbucci's Django (love that coffin!)
thrown in for good measure. Much of the storytelling resembles the
laconic, operatic nature of Leone's westerns, while the plot of these
early episodes brings to mind Once Upon a Time in America. Grave, like
many of Leone's antagonists (or protagonists, depending on your point of
view), is a man of few words; I think Boba Fett has more dialogue than
this guy. The first episode begins in what we can assume is the present,
as Grave is reborn and undertakes his mission of revenge; the next three
episodes flesh out the back story, as we begin to see how Brandon and
Harry started down their particular highway to hell. After sitting
through too many anime titles that sacrifice character and incident for
the sake of action, it's refreshing to find one that actually gives
itself room to breathe. Grave has a long journey ahead of him, and it
would become tedious rather quickly if he did nothing but waste a few
people every episode. I hope the plotting remains complex, but not to
the point that it becomes unwieldy.
The technical presentation here is fantastic. This is my first
experience viewing a Geneon release, and I hope the quality here is
indicative of the company's standards. The anamorphic picture is
beautifully detailed; the source elements were undoubtedly immaculate.
The color scheme varies between brightly lit interiors and daytime
scenes to rainy, pitch-black nights (imagine Ridley Scott and Michael
Bay collaborating), often in the space of just a few moments; the
transfer handles these transitions with incredible ease. The sound is
just as impressive. The English 5.1 Dolby Digital option is well done,
and the dubbing is a cut above what I've come to expect. The sweet DTS
track is even better (yes, I'm a DTS disciple); bass is deep and tight,
and the surrounds kick during the gunfights. You'll hear gunshots
ricocheting, shell casings hitting pavement, and rolling thunder. The
nearly omnipresent sound of falling rain in the surrounds made me look
out the window a couple of times. Even better is hearing the growling
stomach of a character experiencing hunger pangs; it was so realistic I
jumped up and made myself a sandwich. The Dolby and DTS are identical in
the actual information they convey, but the DTS track wins the race.
Extras aren't much; all you get are some conceptual designs, previews,
and textless credits sequences. In a way I'm a little glad the extras
weren't more extensive; too much information might have accidentally
provided some plot spoilers.