Gunsmith Cats Review

Title: Gunsmith Cats
Length: 3 x 26 minute episodes
Genre: Action, thriller, comedy
Year of release: 1995

High octane blockbusters have a certain amount of things they’ve got to do right. Not only has the action got to be solid, but it has to be paced along the movie at regular enough intervals to keep you going out at the exposition to buy more popcorn to chew through the good bits. Despite being a 3 episode OVA, Gunsmith Cats clocks in at about an hour and a half and has the exact feel of your Hollywood shoot ‘em up (insofar as being set in Chicago!). But this unique format means it can also be a little too good at the in-between stuff. Where others tell perfunctory stories, Gunsmith Cats grabs you with its goofy characters that have enough connections, skill and screen presence that they’re just asking for more mysteries to solve – and, with this strong of a foundation, you just know the sequel won’t be a cash grab.

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To put it bluntly, Gunsmith Cats gets all the action stuff right, and sometimes surprisingly so. The car chases and gunfights are rendered with impassioned animation; even if the backgrounds can lack detail, the camera movement is quick and regular and you’d be pressed to notice. The direction has the smarts to pick-up on antagonist Radinov’s brutality, filling the mooks with lead with a horrifying physicality, and this is contrasted by the goofy smoky explosions or stylish take-outs from our protagonists. But perhaps all of the surprises come from just how cool it all is, and a chunk of that’s from the firm roots of its characters.

Rally and her housemate May run a local gun store Gunsmith Cats, but that doesn’t pay the bills so they partake in part-time bounty hunting. It’s here that they get coerced by Bill, a not-so-by-the-books cop, into a conspiracy well over their heads. The pair have a great rapport, and rope Bill and their third wheel of a friend, Becky, into their shenanigans, but it works as seasoning as they get the job done fairly efficiently. There’s a lot of bickering between the two, in fact it’s kind of like a buddy comedy – but when it comes down to it, they are very tight and easy to root for.

Rally, in particular, has a very no-nonsense attitude, yet still entertains the comic half of the script. Her ballsiness and simple motivations make for a very relatable protagonist. Aside from the, you know, gun nerding, but she’s a pretty sharp guntoter, and the equally sharp writing helps bring this out. Even if she’s using ricochet of a shotgun’s bullet spread, it’s in her nature. Scenes like putting sunglasses on after losing a front windscreen are the kind of human-badass that the genre needs more of. May’s a lot sillier than Rally and doesn’t get as much serious screentime, but it’s not too much of a loss as Rally is more than capable of carrying the hour and a half of conspiracy detectiving.

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Naturally, action scenes take a precedence, but there was an eloquence that big buck action thrillers usually lack. The sleuthing turned up the heat and things got serious for our leading ladies in a way that the comic tone definitely wouldn’t have suggested. In fact, the final episode had a degree of tension that was supported quite well by the character development, and I wasn’t just on the edge of my seat because of the production – I was genuinely rooting for our girl to get out of trouble safely! That’s not to say that the thriller aspect is world-rocking levels of awe, but it’s adequately levelled for our protagonists to be a part of and fulfillingly told, and really, what more could you ask of your popcorn flick?

There’s a lot to like in Gunsmith Cats, but not a lot to take in. This is a very strong blockbuster affair, but I’m afraid this one never got lit for an anime sequel. If you’ve got a bag of popcorn at the ready, Gunsmith Cats is a very strong serving, but the fact it never got franchised is honestly its greatest weakness.

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