What They Say:
It is a harsh and barren wasteland, where the weak aren’t allowed to dream. It is also a sacred land for true men, for there is no place a man can feel more alive. This is the Gun Frontier.
Sea Pirate Captain Harlock and the errant samurai, Tochiro arrive in the United States on the Western Frontier. Along with a mysterious woman they meet along the way, the two friends challenge sex rings, bandits, and a corrupt sheriff. They are searching for a lost clan of Japanese immigrants, and they will tear Gun Frontier from end to end until they find it.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The show features a solid stereo mix that makes good use of directionality across the forward soundstage with the bullets flying and swords swinging. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout it and we noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing back in 2002, the Gun Frontier TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. It sports a similar design and feel to another show released at that time, Cosmo Warrior Zero, but did it without the overly digitally layered look. The transfer here looks fantastic with lots of bold solid colors, excellent depth and vividness. The bitrates fluctuate depending on the scene as expected, but there are some good peaks in here which help keep the backgrounds pretty solid for the most part. The show has a lot of blue sky backgrounds and areas of a single color and gets away without much in the way of noise or break-up Cross coloration is extremely minimal and aliasing is very limited. There’s pretty much nothing to take issue with here.
The Gun Frontier complete collection avoids using artwork that was done for the individual volumes and gives us something new as it has a close-up headshot of Harlock along the bottom while the background is made up of a town shot, a wagon and Tochiro falling in the rain. It’s really an odd cover to use since it’s not too clear what it is, but the western theme is pushed well with the border and overall layout. Sinunora really should have been on the cover in some form to provide some of the sexiness that populates the show. The back cover is hard to work with as well as the shots from the show that are used are too small and murky to really show it off. Even worse, the summary is hard to read because of the font and colors used on top of the parchment that is behind it. The discs features are clearly listed and the remainder of the cover is filled out wouth production information and the technical grid. The included insert reminds me of why it was good that most companies dropped inserts as one side is a series of chapter listings which are really useless while the other is adverts for other releases.
The menu designs are the same as they were on the single volume releases in that it uses a good portion of the original cover artwork as its central image. It’s a surprisingly quiet piece that just has the static image of the front cover with the selections lined along the left side, though with the colorful use of bullets as the selection indicators. The menu looks good and is definitely in-theme but it just feels odd with it being so quiet. Access times are nice and fast and there are no transitional animations to slow things down.
The extras are fairly consistent across all four volumes, and again, are retained just as they were in their single volume release form. There’s a clean version of the opening and closing sequence and a series of production sketches across all the volumes. There are also dub outtakes on each of the volumes which are pretty good as they provide some gags and flubs that properly take you out of the show for a bit. Some are longer than others, but in the end, I continue to like these kinds of extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the short manga series that ran in the early ’70s and was compiled into three volumes, Gun Frontier is a fascinating work from Leiji Matsumoto. In contrast to how we’ve seen these characters over the years, the leads of Harlock and Tochiro are shown moving through the old wild west. Their personalities are fairly similar to what we’ve come to expect, but Gun Frontier really gives us the feeling of a first draft of the characters that were later refined in another genre. From that perspective, I really found Gun Frontier to be a lot of fun since it came before the Captain Harlock material and can be seen as an insight as to what was to come.
Gun Frontier revolves around a trio of characters that are introduced pretty quickly. The central focus is squarely on Tochiro as he is in America on a mission. Hailing from Japan, and having plenty of issues surviving in a country that’s distrustful of someone who looks like an Indian, Tochiro deals with distrust all around not only from that but also because of his small stature. To make matters worse, he’s a poor shot and suffers from being nearsighted. What’s helped him along the way is that he made a friend early on in a man named Harlock. Their meeting is detailed much later in the series, but their friendship is shown as strong from the start. Harlock is given to the quiet but strong type who is a master shot but is very laid back. The pair of them are certainly a lot of fun to watch, especially as Tochiro’s natural curiosity constantly gets the better of him.
The make-up of the show changes fairly quickly when a beautiful blonde woman named Sinunora tags along with them. It’s fairly apparent from the start that she’s part of the group called the Organization. This is a sprawling group of people under a man named Dark Myster who have plans to control the world through science and technology. Throughout the storyline, minions working under the Organization are encountered as they alternately try to thwart Tochiro in his quest to find his sister. Sinunora herself is conflicted along the way as she grows closer to both men, but it’s hard to really place her mindset for most of this. She tends to suffer the most as well, as it seems like she’s either doing a striptease down to nothing in an episode or being hung up naked on the gallows. Sinunora really brings in the sexuality to the show, especially when she makes a play for Harlock at one point or gets involved with others.
What ties the show together is Tochiro’s search for survivors of a place called Samurai Creek. A small community of Japanese men and women who lived the traditional way, just in the west, they’ve been subjected to an attack that has left many of them dead and sent the rest out into the world. Tochiro and the others mostly just come across the women that have survived and are now spending their time either marrying white men or ending up in brothels. Clues are out there along the way and Tochiro’s single-mindedness and his curiosity helps him to put it together. There’s also a great deal of luck when it comes to how Sinunora manages to smooth things over at times, often with her sultry body.
One of the biggest black marks against the series is one of its greatest strengths for a segment of fandom, and that’s the character designs. As I’ve talked about in other shows of a similar nature, my interest in such designs used to be quite minimal, almost non-existent. Over time though I’ve really grown to enjoy them, particularly as the digital age got things going and the translation of the designs worked beautifully. Gun Frontier really works in the same manner as the designs are appealing and fluid at times. There are plenty of cheap moments as well to be sure, but when taking in this show over two days time, it really does look good. Matsumoto’s designs really give off a fascinating kind of sexuality to them, especially since the writing tends to be fairly blunt about it. That lets the animators really have fun with all of it and put all their cards on the table. Well, not all of them, as it’s not porn, but there’s copious amounts of basic TV-friendly anime nudity. And I like that.
Gun Frontier was never going to be a big title but I’ll be damned if it isn’t big fun. All three of the leads have a lot of character to them, the stories are fun and simple while working through a larger storyline and I adore the character designs. Things that just looked bad to me ten or fifteen years ago now have a strong allure. Revisiting this series all these years later has been a real treat. It’s solidified my opinion that it is very much great entertainment and a wonderful variant of characters that are very well known in another form. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s a show that I definitely recommend checking out if you’re looking for something different and fun.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: March 30th, 2004
Running Time: 320 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.