Trigun is one of my all-time favorite anime series. It often gets overshadowed by Cowboy Bebop, another space western anime from the same year that I also happen to love, but something about Yasuhiro Nightow's striking character designs and Vash's insistently goofy optimism in light of all the bandits and assassins he runs into make it a series I always recommend to anyone who asks me about anime. After that I tend to follow it up with Gungrave, a later series by Nightow that started life as a PS2 game.
Developed by Red Entertainment and released in 2002, Gungrave was a shoot 'em up with character designs by Nightow and mechanical deisgns by Tales artist Kosuke Fujishima. Nightow's Catholic influence is clear from the player character: an undead goth cowboy Mafia assassin called Beyond the Grave, or Grave for short. Grave carries huge cross-themed revolvers similar to the one Vash uses, and he can use special attacks like an RPG and gatling gun stashed away in the coffin he lugs around his neck. Trigun's Nicholas D. Wolfwood has a similar deal with a giant, heavily-armed crucifix he carries with him.
Grave is out for revenge against a criminal syndicate called Milennion that controls the city with alien-derived drugs and weaponry. Supported by the daughter of his lost love and a penitent doctor, he takes down Milennion's capos before taking on the top boss himself, his former friend in life Harry Macdowell. It plays more-or-less like a clunky, flashy Max Payne-esque third-person shooter. As great as the boss designs are it can easily be finished in a couple hours. If you ask me, the best entrypoint to the world of Gungrave is the anime.
The 2004 Gungrave anime by Madhouse tells a slightly different story. Years before being resurrected as a hulking undead goth cowboyy, the anime shows Brandon Heat and his best friend Harry Macdowell as they go from rowdy street punks to rising up the ranks in Milennion, before catching up with the story of the game. Think of it like Berserk but with Mafia and a sci-fi twist.
While I highly recommend seeking out the Gungrave anime (it's on Hulu in the US), I strongly advise you to skip the first episode. Usually it makes me sick to hear people say they skip episodes for whatever reason, but this is a rare exception. The reason why is because it's a frankly terrible example of a cold open, showing events happening post-time skip with little context to ground it. That means there's little going on other than long action scenes and foreshadowing of the retelling of what led up to this point, i.e. spoiling stuff from later episodes. All those action scenes are repeated shot-for-shot in episode 18 once the main story catches up to that point anyway, so you really aren't missing anything of note if you skip it. Episode 2 starts with Harry and Brandon's youth as street urchins, making it the true chronological start of the series of events that leads to the ending and naturally the most logical place to start.
The anime only lasted 26 episodes, but the game had a sequel called Gungrave: Overdose in 2004, developed by animation studio Ikusabune Co and featuring a few extra playable characters as Grave battles a different shady criminal organization. The series lay dormant for a long while before Korean developers Iggymob and Blueside brought out Gungrave VR in 2017 for PlayStation VR, which aimed to set up the next major Gungrave instalment. Gungrave G.O.R.E. was announced in 2017 as a true Gungrave title for modern systems, but has seen a series of delays caused by the developers reprioritizing due to the newest console generation. It's now been confirmed that G.O.R.E will finally be released for PS4, PS5, PC, Xbone and Series X|S, with Nightow credited as an "image director". Catch a glimpse in the latest trailer.
Even if it turns out to be a disappointment, it'll ultimately be a good thing so long as it turns more people on to the anime. Has anyone here seen Gungrave? Or played the games? Will you be checking out G.O.R.E? Sound off in the comments!