After the first two relatively formulaic and emotionally uninspiring volumes, Gun X Sword finally appears to be carving out its own niche, with a series of important revelations that both progress and elaborate on the story and characters.
Following a promising first episode – which takes to exploring Carmen’s past and home town – one more typical of the series in general is offered to the viewer, before the more engaging third and fourth episodes. Volume three continues the search for the Claw, with the gang of Carmen, Joshua, Van and Wendy working toward the city of Zonnet. When they arrive, however, at the beggining of the third episode, Wendy immediately recognises her brother, and rushes to him, but is in turn seperated from Van and Joshua (Carmen having made her own way there). Having believed her brother was kidnapped by the Claw for the span of the series, Wendy is thrown off guard by his apathy toward her efforts to find him, soon discovering that he, like every villain in the series to date, joined the Claw of his own free will.
This marks the beginning of what are easily the most accomplished episodes in the series to date. Van’s past – and specifically, that which has motivated his unrelenting drive for revenge – Wendy’s confusion – as to whether, as Van and her brother suggest, she should go home – tension between the group – when Van doubts the efforts of the others to help him find the Claw – and a confrontation with the Claw himself form the emotional epicentre of this volume.
The prevailing feeling is one of tension, unlike in the airy and inconsequential, even episodic, volumes that have preceeded it. This is surprising because there is also little reliance on action or the Armour (mecha) battles that had previously served to punctuate each episode. Van himself doesn’t fight in episode nine, as Carmen takes centre stage, ten features a brief but almost non-violent battle (with Dan unable to fight in water), eleven shadows twelve, and episode twelve only sees Van call down his Armour for a battle that will take place in the next volume.
Not wanting to spoil any of the weighty surprises offered here, I’ve tried to avoid mentioning too much about the story – but if you’ve liked Gun X Sword up to this point, then this may be the volume that solidifies its place in your collection.
The series main problem – that it’s derivative, cliched, repetitive, generic and formulaic – is unlikely to go away, but the standard has been raised in this volume, such that the whole finally seemed to me like more than the sum of its parts, and I look forward to the next.