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Gungrave - volume two:
The Sweeper
voice cast: Tomokazu Seki, Kenji Hamada, and Tsutomu Isobe

director: Tsuru Toshiyuki

100 minutes (15) 2004
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Continuing to cheerfully confound stereotypes, Gungrave continues to impress. The story picks up from volume one with best friends Brandon and Harry finally on the bottom rung of crime organisation Millennion. Fast-talking Harry impresses straight away but Brandon, softly spoken and physically capable, finds himself part of a debt collection crew and forced to work his way up from the bottom. Until, that is, a series of chance encounters propel him to the notice of Millennion's founder Big Daddy.

This owes as much to Donnie Brasco as it does to Trigun, its deliberately slow paced depiction of gang life a real and very welcome change of tone. It's also extremely dark, Brandon's voiceover repeatedly playing up the difference between the life of honour and duty he feels he's living and the truth behind it. There's a bleak, palpable air of tragedy to the series, a sense that anything can go wrong at any time and as a result the fight scenes have a real sense of physicality to them. This even goes as far as the third episode Five Years Later where, even though we don't see a fight between Brandon and another character we know exactly how both feel afterwards.

The characters are equally impressive with the fast talking Harry and almost silent Brandon making an uneasy double act. The two are incredibly close but despite that Harry's ambition is so strong it almost drips off the screen. The tension this creates neatly counterbalances the character development and gives the series a lot of its darkness and neatly plays into Brandon's success within the organisation. We see him get blood on his hands for the first time this volume and the change it brings to him is subtle but very disturbing. Brandon doesn't just lose his innocence here, he knows he does and it'll be fascinating to see what the consequences are.

Bleak, character driven and wonderfully directed this is one of the best anime series on the market; part crime, part character study and part science fiction it's intelligent, bleak and compelling. Highly recommended.
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