Nothing hits quite like a good anime. Crunchyroll is now streaming an early Aughts classic with all 26 episodes of Gungrave. Based on the PlayStation 2 video game of the same name, this supernatural crime thriller is a tale of vengeance from beyond the grave. The non-linear narrative follows the rise and fall of two friends as a life of crime turns their loyalty to loathing.
Based on a video game published by SEGA, Gungrave, the anime is now available to stream on Crunchyroll.
One timeline in Gungrave follows Brandon Heat 13 years after his death. Heat is resurrected by necrolyzation, a process by which a special serum basically turns dead people into Frankenstein’s monster. The resurrection is thanks to the strange scientist, Dr. Tokioka.
Heat comes back to life disfigured and deformed but with immense strength and brutality. He is dubbed Beyond the Grave and sets out on his mission to destroy Millenion, the crime syndicate he once worked for, and his former friend, who still resides at the top of its ranks.
Why does this undead crook have vengeance on his newly living mind? Audiences learn those details in the other Gungrave timeline, which follows Heat and his best friend from boyhood to the bitter betrayal that leads to Brandon’s untimely demise.
Brandon and Harry join Millenion after three of their friends are killed. They start doing low-level work at a racetrack, but they quickly rise into more deadly professions. Brandon is trained to be an elite assassin, leading to the formation of a killer unit called True Graves.
Meanwhile, Harry grows to prominence in the organization as a leader, amassing greater power within the ranks of Millenion. The crux of Gungrave arrives when a conflict between the two friends turns sour, forever sending an irrevocable fracture through their relationship.
Brandon and Harry are joined in Gungrave by a complex supporting cast. Big Daddy is the slimy crime lord at the top of Millenion. His wife is Maria, a woman who once loved Brandon. Her relationship with Brandon is strained by his profession as a killer, and Brandon sacrifices his future with Maria so that Big Daddy can have her.
Mika is Maria’s daughter, a young woman who seeks Brandon out for protection. The relationship that forms between Mika and the undead Brandon is a complicated one, but it turns out to be one of the most fascinating dynamics of the entire Gungrave series.
Trigun creator Yasuhiro Nightow originated the concept of Gungrave for a video game.
Directed by Naruto the Movie 3: The Animal Riot of Crescent Moon filmmaker Toshiyuki Tsuru, Gungrave is full of insane action, vivid visuals, and a winding narrative that is well worth watching. The series began its run in October 2003 and concluded in March 2004. Critics were slow to warm up to Gungrave, but as its story evolved, so did overall reception.
The stoic Brandon was hard for many viewers to connect with in the show’s early episodes, but as the backstory developed the character and his relationships, critics embraced the show’s darkness and complexity.
Trigun creator Yasuhiro Nightow originated the concept of Gungrave for a video game. The third-person shooter was released in 2002 for PlayStation 2, and it brought over-the-top violence to a new level. With a combination of gunfighting and close combat melee, the key gameplay mechanic of Gungrave is its violent combos.
Players earn bonus points for creativity and brutality in their manner of taking down bad guys. The more of these sadistic maneuvers you pull in succession, the more the game rewards you. If that sounds ridiculous and fun to you, you are correct on both accounts.
Gungrave had a lukewarm reception as a video game, though it was praised by many for the absurd tactics it hangs its hat on. Still, it was successful enough to spawn not only the Gungrave anime, but several video game sequels.
Gungrave, both the anime and the video games, is a fantastic throwback to the early-aughts.
Gungrave: Overdose was released the same month as the anime’s conclusion. The franchise was resurrected in 2017 for PlayStation VR, and a new sequel, Gungrave: G.O.R.E., was released in 2022.
After more than 20 years in the world, Gungrave refuses to die. Now the gritty, supernatural crime story is streaming on Crunchyroll, inviting viewers to return to the streets and confront Millenion, one crazy kill at a time.