Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gun Blaze West, vol. 1

Story and Art by Nobuhiro Watsuki
Released in the US by Viz Shonen Jump

Slugline: More character background than actual story.

Viu is nine years old but can't wait to head out into the Old West. But he lacks a goal until the failed gunslinger Marcus comes into town and tell Viu of Gun Blaze West. This is a place where the strongest test each other every ten years with the winner get the finest gun made. This sets up a fairly standard shonen desire to be the very best style story, but as Marcus and Viu train, outlaws move into the area and after several skirmishes their bioss is defeated by Viu but at the cost of Marcus's life. This drives Viu to train hard for the next five years until he reaches the goals that Marcus laid down before dying. With his goals met, Viu starts his journey west to find the Gun Blaze West, and almost immediately finds someone else who is looking for the same place, much like many other shonen where the hero starts acquiring allies on his travels.

What is odd is that the whole section with Marcus, which is really a background character piece, which is normally handled in flashback, took about 3/4 of the volume. So at the end of it we truly feel Viu's connection with Marcus and his desire to search for the Gun Blaze West, but we have already spent the majority of the first volume and we have yet to begin the main story. I don't want to say that this wasted time, because good character work is never really wasted, but the timing of it, frontloading it all, makes it almost like it should be a prequel book on it's own or something, rather than going into the main story of the search for Gun Blaze West in the middle of the book. The book ends at a good point, but still the Marcus/Viu subplot probably could have accomplished what it needed in half of the space it eventually took up, without upsetting the flow of the story as much.

Gun Blaze West, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


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