Gungrave Volume 4

If there is a volume that encapsulates everything that makes Gungrave such a fine series, it is this one. This is Brandon Heat’s tragic closing night, the promised implosion of friendship and loyalty that we have known was coming since the very first episode. These are the moments you have been waiting for and it is every bit as shocking as one would expect; two best friends, crippled with an unquenchable thirst for power, turn their guns on each other and cannibalize their livelong dreams in a bittersweet moment of muddled emotion and insane ambition.

The volume begins with Harry and Brandon’s continued rise up the ranks of Millenion. The years they have spent climbing the organisation’s ladder has noticeably changed their outward appearances; Brandon’s wild long hair is now a clinical “short back and sides” to match his swift professionalism while Harry’s face (despite retaining his trademark bright eyes) has visibly aged, a sign of the pressure and stress he now deals with on a near daily basis. Essentially, they are no longer the rough around the edges street punks we once knew, they have grown into almost completely different people. Are they better for all this change, can they remember their old selves?

For better or for worse, Harry’s life long thirst for power is only doubled when Big Daddy announces his impending retirement and intention to appoint a successor. Naturally, the gossip amongst the made men is that Harry is the red hot favourite; his influence within the city is at an all time high and his outstanding charisma befits a true leader. But what if Big Daddy doesn’t choose Harry? For how long will the code of iron bind Harry to the old ways of Millenion?

Now I am trying hard to hold back the gushing fanboy within me, but when I sit through four episodes of such high quality anime, I can not help but launch into streams of incoherent hyperbole. I could talk about this volume all day, about how Harry’s fall from grace and ultimate betrayal of Brandon makes for such sad, yet enthralling viewing. This is a chilling deterioration of childhood dreams, a breaking of life long friendship and an ideal example of limitless ambition leading to swift mental instability.

Brandon was always the doomed star of Gungrave, but his despondent fate has never been as potent as it was in these episodes. A man caught between his love, his friends and his work, Brandon often chooses the well being of others over that of himself. His personal sacrifices are made all the more powerful as his world crumbles around him.

Director Toshiyuki Tsuru, and in particular musical artist Tsuneo Imahori, deliver this climax of the first half of Gungrave in such a melancholic way, Harry and Brandon’s idealistic childhood dreams provide such a stark contrast to their modern day selves; we are left asking where did it all go wrong, and I assume Harry is wondering the same thing. Soulless ambition is no replacement for lifelong friendship.

In Summary

At the centre of Gungrave is the fractured friendship of Brandon and Harry and this is the volume where everything snaps with a bullet to the heart, a gut wrenching and powerful emotional experience.

9 / 10


Washed up on the good shores of Anime UK News after many a year at sea, Paul has been writing about anime for a long time here at AUKN and at his anime blog.

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