Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gun Blaze West vol. 1 Impression

Gun Blaze West offers up a unique manga adventure as its set in the wild, Wild West. Created by Nobuhiro Watsuki of Rurouni Kenshin and Buso Renkin fame this new manga from Viz is sure to please fans of Watsuki’s previous work due to the similar design and fun storytelling.

Meet Viu Banes, a young boy with grand designs on adventure in the Gun Blaze West, a secret land hidden somewhere out West where only the toughest hombres survive (kinda like the Grand Line in One Piece). Viu takes on a much older boy in an arm wrestling competition in order to win a gun belt, runs down an apple thief and takes on a notorious gang all while training to get stronger for his journey. Where Viu is hot headed and quick to react, his older sister, Cissy, who’s the local school teacher, keeps him grounded. Viu has a mentor, the apple thief Marcus Homer, who just wasn’t cut out for the wild west but is inspired by Viu and trains with him, training that inspires Marcus and (spoiler) leads to his going where all mentors in anime go … anyway this happens while taking on Bill Kenbrown and his gang, a group that’s fled capture and is trying to hide out in Viu’s town. So the bad guys get taken care of and we fast forward five years to meet a now 14 year old Viu, ready to head out and find Gun Blaze West. In the first town he comes too he meets Will Johnston, a bouncer who uses ropes are weapons, and who also has a part of a map to Gun Blaze West (oh yeah, there was a map hidden in the gun Viu gets from Marcus, typical mentor stuff). After this interesting encounter Viu now has another companion to travel with and poof, volume 1 is done.

I touched on the fact that the art is similar to previous Watsuki titles, which is both a positive and negative. The style is simple with vivid settings and character designs which allows for the portrayal of true character emotion and a true visual treat, but it’s this simplicity that makes Gun Blaze West look childish at times, and this title is anything but. The story follows a very Shonen formula with a young boy with grand designs on his future and the ability to overcome any odds and inspire others to join him (One Piece and Naruto are similar in this aspect). I for one love this story type and its how the author twists and turns this template that can hook a reader. The old west setting really helps also as this is an area not really addressed in manga. We’ve seen western manga and anime (Trigun and Wild Arms) but those were fictional western settings, not like GBW which uses the actual United States. Volume 1 does a great job of introducing characters and settings, getting the story rolling then setting up the reader for volume 2. I’ve read a lot of manga that just seem to lose you right off the bat. Gun Blaze West is not one of them; this is a solid action manga that fans of Shonen titles will just dig. If you’re looking for an adventure set in the Wild West then I must recommend Gun Blaze West.

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