Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shonen Jump Advanced)
Author: Nobuhiro Watsuki
Genre: Action (Graphic Novel)
MSRP: $7.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
The end of something that could have been but wasn’t.
Manga-ka Nobuhiro Watsuki is sorry … very sorry.
He knows that he let his series get way out of hand and, while he names a number of factors that ultimately resulted in the end of Gun Blaze West, the series wasn’t at all that bad. Still, it’s clear from reading all three volumes that Watsuki wasn’t sure how to approach the western theme or how he should develop his characters. The result is a series that just gets stranger with each chapter but doesn’t stop from being fun to read.
We’ve come to know Viu Bannes but at the same time know absolutely nothing about his past or why he’s determined to become stronger. He’s the type of kid that says one thing and does another and man-oh-man he doesn’t listen to reason. Even his companions think that his brash behavior will one day get him killed. Speaking of companions, the addition of Will Johnson and (even better) the addition of Colice Satoh have played a role in making this a bearable series to read. I think Gun Blaze West would have succeeded past the third volume if more attention was placed on this two well-rounded characters.
Alas, Viu’s quest for the mythical place called Gun Blaze West has come to an end thanks to the fact that it is the Zero Year. Each Zero Year, a representative of Gun Blaze West shows up to offer passage to the mythical place if they prove themselves in battle. This year the honor of “Guide” comes in the form of a formidable knight (that’s right, I said knight) called Armor Baron who showed up in town. Viu and his two companions end up in a saloon filled with potential Gun Blaze West seekers and even ends up befriending a gunslinger named J.J. who Watsuki secretly modeled after a real Old West figure with the same initials.
Armor Baron appears before a crowd of potentials and tells them the only way they will be shown the way to Gun Blaze West is to defeat his loyal armored army. So a big battle begins and it becomes clear to the gunslingers that bullets just don’t cut it at all. Despite this startling fact, Viu intends to fight either way and he disregard’s Will’s strategy. Yet unlike his last encounter with Guadalaripa and his sons, Viu’s insistence on running blindly to face his opponents works for him. His rational is that if he gets Armor Baron to face off against him in a one-on-one fight he will secure his passage to Gun Blaze West.
Unfortunately for Viu, there’s another man seeking the place in the name of the United State President. Sarge is a big man that is armed with a mechanical arm capable of launching rockets. As I said, the series has crossed the wackiness border in the middle of the second volume of the series and it just gets crazier after that. Oh and Armor Baron can fly via a jetpack. Really, all we need now is a cameo from Will Smith’s character in Wild Wild West or aliens landing.
Viu’s moment of truth does come when he manages to face off against Armor Baron. The good Baron does admire the boy’s bravery and sees something of himself in Viu so up to the final moment of their memorable battle it becomes apparent to the guide that despite Viu’s age he is worthy of being shown the way to Gun Blaze West. Had I known a little more about Viu, I would have cheered the final moments of the manga as the second guide presents himself to take him and the survivors of the battle to the place Viu dreamed about for so long.
In the end, Gun Blaze West ends with a bang instead of a whimper and despite the failure to really get to know these characters we end up with a final volume that shows us that this series could have and should have been better. It certainly was entertaining despite some odd choices but if you followed this one from the first volume then you will be surprised and slightly appreciative of this last one.
The journey for Gun Blaze West comes to an end with a battle that is just too strange for words. In the end, Watsuki went for a more zany approach that, strangely enough, works if the story had started out zany. Still, how did a series about gunslingers and cowboys turn into one about roller-skating Mexican bandits and a knight with a jetpack?
Watsuki’s art looks better in this volume for some reason and he even adds a few sketches towards the end. Interestingly enough, Papillion from the Buso Renkin manga was suppose to appear as a character here instead of Buso Renkin.
If anything, Volume 3 of Gun Blaze West is where the series’ real potential lies and this is where the action becomes zany enough to be fun. I loved the addition of Colice to the group and yes it’s wacky to see knights in a western but this is what makes this series so unique. It’s just too bad that things have to end when they are just starting to get this interesting.
COMPLETE SERIES GRADE: C+
Gun Blaze West was wasted potential from an author that is more than capable of delivering quality work, after all, this is the same author that brought us Rurouni Kenshin and the enjoyable Buso Renkin. Watsuki blames himself and other factors for Gun Blaze West’s early demise and this is too bad seeing as there are some fun moments in all three volumes. Sorry, but Gun Blaze West will remain his most weakest work.