Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shonen Jump Advanced)
Author: Nobuhiro Watsuki
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $7.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Now available
How the West lost its way.
The first volume of Gun Blaze West wasn’t a bad attempt at telling a wild west-themed fantasy tale of a young boy who dreamed of a mythical place where only the best gunfighters were allowed to stay. With the help of a fellow named Marcus Homer, Viu Bannes trained but as fate would have it he lost his friend in a battle against a band of bandits. Now an older Viu continues his quest for Gun Blaze West in the second volume of a series that is a slight step better than the first volume.
When we last left Viu, he managed to head into the St. Louis where he meets a young man named Will Johnson and his sister Carol who get Viu mixed into a dispute between to rival saloons. Unfortunately, the rival saloon called the Bella Donna is owned by a fellow that likes to solve problems by sending his bouncer named “Target” Kevin to rough up their rivals. While the Bella Donna’s owner wants his rival out of the way, it’s Will Johnson he is most interested in hiring for an interesting reason. You see, the Bella Donna is also used as a secret fight club and a battle between Will and Target would certainly please the saloons loyal patrons.
Of course, Will isn’t the kind of guy that wants to get mixed into something like that seeing as – much like Viu – he’s got need to see Gun Blaze West with his own eyes. So what does a sleazy saloon owner do? He sends out his bouncer to smoke Will out of his home. As the Johnson home is set ablaze, it is Viu that heads to the Bella Donna for some payback. He even agrees to go up against “Target” Kevin in a duel to the death. Of course, it isn’t in Viu to kill and when he does win the fight its more with his fists than his gun.
So convincing Will of joining him on his journey, the unlikely pair travel south until the encounter a traveling circus after they pass out from dehydration and exhaustion. While the acts don’t impress them, it is a young Japanese girl named Colice Satoh that does catch Viu’s eye but not for romantic reasons. Colice is an expert at throwing knives – as her act with the giant Ringmaster shows – but Viu notices something about the technique she uses during the act. This technique is something Viu attempts to master with a little help from Colice herself.
It turns out the Ringmaster knows a little something about Gun West Blaze as well and in an attempt to get the information out of him it is Viu who attacks his rescuer. Viu might not have had it in him to kill “Target” Kevin but he tells the Ringmaster that he doesn’t plan to be a saint and would do whatever it took – including becoming a cold-blooded killer – to get to his destination. Watsuki himself, in the volume’s many character profiles, said that he really had very little control over the character design for Viu Bannes. This is why his actions and much of what he says are contradictory.
In fact, Watsuki regrets a lot about Gun Blaze West as a whole. While unsatisfied with the outcome of the series, the final chapters of Volume 2 are unintentionally zany but fun nonetheless. We meet Gualaripa and his two sons (with the unfortunate names of Uno and Dos) who come to town looking for Ringmaster who is connected to the grizzled Gualaripa. Refusing to join them, Ringmaster vows not to fight but instead it is Colice and Viu that go up against the hat-throwing family. I won’t go too much into the fight in order not to spoil the fact that Gualaripa’s attack has something to do with Gun Blaze West and the current year.
Volume 2 of Gun Blaze West certainly packs a lot in there and most of what makes up the volume is not bad but not really great either. If anything, it does slightly beat out the first volume but judging by this second attempt, this is starting to turn out to be the stain in Watsuki’s otherwise impressive body of work.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
The search for Gun Blaze West is on and this time Viu has a little help from a circus troupe that includes a Japanese knife-throwing artist and a ringmaster that is anything but a gentle giant. Viu says he doesn’t care about being just or good but yet his actions say otherwise. It’s becoming hard to like him.
Watsuki’s art isn’t bad at all and seems to fit the story nicely. He brings his own style to his projects and much like Rurouni Kenshin or Buso Renkin it just works.
Gun Blaze West started off on the slow side and picks up momentum with this volume. Sadly, the series also fizzles with this entry … showing us that even great manga-ka like Watsuki can fall victim to poor planning and weak storytelling. As he tells us in one of his entries, the third volume is the final one. Let’s hope he goes out with a bang.