Gun Blaze West , Vol. 1 by Nobuhiro Watsuki (amazon)
I probably have a bit of a soft spot for shonen properties by Watsuki, because Rurouni Kenshin was one of the series that got be back into manga and anime after a long hiatus. Kenshin had a near perfect blend of adventure, romance, drama, humor and many many fight scenes. While the first volume of Gun Blaze West might not reach the heights of Kenshin, I found it extremely entertaining.
Nine year old Viu Bannes has grown up in the mountainous state of Illinois, not very far from some canyons and river gorges. As someone who was born in Illinois I can only wish that it had such rugged scenery in reality. Viu lives with his older sister Cissy, the schoolteacher for the town of Winston. Viu is pretty much the stereotypical shonen hero. He throws himself into an arm wrestling match far above his age bracket, and wins a gun belt. He’s determined to become a gunslinger and head west.
When Viu captures “Underdog Marcus”, a broken down gunman who tried to steal some food, he ends up finding a friend who encourages him to train to achieve the goal of reaching “Gun Blaze West”, a mythical land that exists past the frontier. Viu and Marcus attempt to fight off an evil gang of bandits and Marcus dies, bequeathing his gun and partial map to “Gun Blaze West” to Viu.
One of the things I really enjoy about Watsuki’s manga is the strength of his character designs. The villians all look appropriately grotesque, but all the characters have distinctive looks including the townspeople fleeing in the background. There are a few fart jokes and pratfalls thrown in to break up the action and training scenes.
Several years later Viu is 14 years old. He completes his training and starts on his journey, heading towards St. Louis. Is Viu going to assemble a group of intrepid fellow travelers? Will the travelers all have specialized ways of fighting? Will there be many dramatic gun battles? Is there really any reason to ask these questions? The first volume of this story is really an extended origin tale, I expect Viu’s quest will begin to gel after the second volume. Gun Blaze West is shonen manga at its most shoneniest. Sometimes after reading so much love and angst filled shoujo manga, all I really want as a refresher is a series like this where someone will clench their fists and exclaim, “When you absolutely have to fight, fight absolutely!”
Review copy provided by Viz