Gun X Sword creates a sense of unease right from the get go. Its hero Van’s (literal) Puritan attire of uncocked, felt hat and black longcoat seem to be cast offs from Vampire Hunter D. The hand-me-downs don’t end there. Van is not only a dead-ringer for Cowboy Bebop’s Spike but his personality is a facsimile right down to his melancholy indifference to the world around him. Finally, Gun X Sword’s setting, the planet Endless Illusion, is a futuristic West that too readily recalls Trigun’s ultra-modern frontier.
Gun X Sword’s overarching plot involves Van’s search for the mysterious clawed man. The show sets up the episodic quest structure with little fuss. Each new episode brings forth a new town with a new problem and an IV drip feed of clues to the clawed man’s whereabouts. Along the way Van picks up Wendy Garrett who is also looking for the clawed man in relation to her kidnapped brother. The, ineffectual-when-trouble-arises Wendy fills out the odd couple dynamic driving the quest and forcing the apathetic Van to become involved in the episode’s concern.
There seems to be something desperate in the way Gun X Sword has cribbed key elements of popular anime. Even its title – Gun X Sword – seems to have the underlying marketing logic that if a guns are cool and swords are cool then what person cannot love a gun that’s *also* a sword.
And I wish I could say that the over-egging ends there. Having already lifted Spike from Bebop, the creators perform a second smash & grab reviving Faye Valentine in the form of the mysterious and vivacious Carmen 99. In danger as I am of becoming a late night advertorial spruiker, there’s more – mechs. That’s right. On top of transforming weaponry and reconditioned characters, somehow Gun X Sword manages to squeeze in giant robots.
Shoe-horning in all this stuff comes largely at the expense of character. Giving Van the comedic quirk of submerging his food in condiments does not make him a character. It only makes me feel for the writers who are forced to construct a way for this to be wheeled out each episode.
Gun X Sword makes the fatal mistake of attempting to please its audience with a clinical grab bag of successful anime characters, locales, themes and elements. What the makers fail to realize is that these elements are successful because of the vitality of originality. And as much as anime fans enjoy raising a knowing smile to a tip of the hat to a forerunner, nobody enjoys the sharp elbow dig in the ribs that is functional cut & paste production.