Dec 6, 2011

Grenadier Review

Will Grenadier's service with a smile put one on your face?

     Grenadier is a manga series by Sosuke Kaise. Halfway through its initial publishing run from 2003 to 2006, it received a twelve episode anime adaption by Group TAC.

     The plot revolves around the travels of an astonishingly skilled gun-expert, Rushuna Tendou. Having been taught the ultimate battle strategy by Tenshi, the Empress of Tento, Rushuna's goal is to bring about world peace by eliminating her enemy's will to fight by showing them kindness along with a big smile. With the help of Yajirou Kojima, a former rebel of the Tenshi and a man who prefers to resolve problems with his blade, the two partners travel toward a common goal that both wish to solve differently.

     At only twelve episodes in length, Grenadier is an easy show to pick up. Whether or not it's worth it is what shall soon be found out. 


     The artwork in Grenadier is fairly consistent and doesn't show too many quality issues. It's never very detailed, but does have fairly vibrant colors. The majority of detail is devoted to the characters, but only the female characters show some degree of good character design. One character in particular tries too hard to make up for this and has a gigantic zipper to compensate for the designer's lack of creativity. Nearly everyone else looks fairly generic and bland, which also seems to go hand-in-hand with Grenadier's level of animation.

     The animation is not anything to brag about. Scenic shots are infrequent and close-ups of someone's face commonly fill the screen. This is never overdone to a point of being too noticeable, but it is an aspect of the animation that could have been improved upon. Action scenes play with a delicate balance of movement and fairly still, panning-shots. Scenes like Rushuna's unique way of reloading a gun always play out the same, but are frequently animated a little differently at some point, which is nice. In the end, the animation is mediocre. It's not bad at all, but it's enough to show that Grenadier didn't have a high budget. The visuals, however, can't be the only place Grenadier had to spread out its budget. Sound is something everyone has to focus on as well.


      Nothing really stands out in the sound department of Grenadier. Each character's voice is normally well suited to their appearance in both the English dub and the original Japanese audio. The only downside to the English dub is that AnimeWorks felt it was necessary to add extra words into the translation so that each character's flapping lips fit the amount of syllables in a sentence. This means dialogue is often wordy and very cheesy since nobody speaks like you'd expect in a normal conversation. The voices themselves are fine, but the Japanese audio with English subtitles is recommended if you want more natural dialogue.

     Outside the fairly generic OP and ED, the music chooses to let itself lie in the electronica category and shower the listener with some fairly nice techno beats. The combat themes in particular are exciting to listen to and fit the battle sequences well. Unfortunately, the theme that plays during a couple of the goofier moments in the show was incredibly short and repetitive and stood out from the rest of the soundtrack as very annoying.


Sadly, only one of them gets decent character development.
     The characters of the show are a fairly uninteresting bunch. The only ones who stand out are the two main characters, and even they have problems.

     For instance, Rushuna is a pretty enjoyable character at first. One may find where she stores her ammo a very entertaining factor of the show, but aside from her quirky personality, entertaining antics, and... full character design, she simply lacks a proper backstory and any kind of character development. This isn't always needed to make a character interesting or entertaining, but one could debate that her lack of development makes her a flat character. On the other hand, her traveling partner, Yajiro, turns out quite a bit rounder than she does.

     Yajiro is the only character to receive any real development. He changes drastically throughout the show and does receive some interesting backstory to explain his initial motives and ideals. Unfortunately, his main flaw is that he's a little more than useless at times. This isn't actually a flaw of his character, but one of the show itself. Grenadier simply forgets to involve him in the combat and sometimes chooses to save Yajiro's usefulness for a later time get Rushuna out of a jam. Like the animation, this problem doesn't always happen. Yajiro does get some action, but he's left out of enough of it to be noticeable. The show even has the audacity to introduce a third main character later on, the token loli, whose sole purpose is to provide Yajiro and Rushuna with a cheap method of escape whenever they back into a corner.

     Along with the main villain of the show and the supporting cast, nearly everyone else gives the viewer very little reason to show interest. If the characters of Grenadier are weak, then what's the main focus of the show? Maybe this is where the plot comes in...


     More than half of the show follows the episodic villain routine. The usual set-up is that Rushuna arrives somewhere new and has to solve a problem that crops up, which is usually due to a villain causing problems. The only real problem here is that the majority of these episodes rely on shallow plot, villains, and supporting characters to move  Rushuna and Yajiro further towards the end of the show. Fortunately, each episode makes sure to include something relevant to the main story to keep things moving.

     The thing is, whenever Grenadier stops focusing on the plot and pauses to show Rushuna and Yajiro simply interacting with each other, the show is at its best. The comedy here is plentiful, but not all of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny. Most of the time, they're dull and feel intrusive. As if to make up for its lack of humor, though, one good joke will drop in during every other episode. It's not enough, but after sitting through the rest of the show the occasionally good comedic scene will bring a smile to one's face. In fact, there's one scene towards the end that had me roaring with laughter, and was the only scene in the entire series where I opened my mouth and physically let out a laugh.

     Grenadier drops its episodic villain routine near the end of the series, and the action begins to heat up. Battles and verbal debates about war and peace ensue, one side character from an earlier episode shows up (but turns out to be useless), and a couple of plot twists reveal themselves. Did these moments come too late into the show to be of any significance? The answer is: yes. The final two episodes really feel like a slightly more elaborate filler that drops the ending in front of you and leaves. The best part of the final episode was the unveiling of a new villain. After a surprisingly wonderfully animated fight scene, the show ends. What about that new villain? Where did she come from? What's her story? Why didn't we see more of her before? None of these questions are answered, we're just introduced to her, given an action scene, and then the show wraps everything up. In other words, as soon as someone interesting came in, Grenadier was unable to handle the inexplicably weird idea of grabbing the viewer's interest and threw in the towel.

     So just what was Grenadier trying to accomplish?


     Grenadier is rife with fan-service. There's never any full-on nudity, but you can expect Rushuna to enjoy at least one bath scene per episode. There's nothing wrong with a bit of cleavage nor the fact that Rushuna actually uses her assets for a practical purpose (hammerspace), but you can bet that fan-service was Grenadier's main goal, not its plot.

     Perhaps the series' secondary goal was its theme. It's not hard to uncover, but the message it tries to get across is that to resolve situations, our first priority should be to act kind and love one another. It's pretty sappy, but Rushuna Tendou makes it clear that showing other people kindness and respect is the most important part of a conflict. If we try to understand each others view first, a peaceful solution is a more likely result; if it ends in war, at least we've already displayed our strongest weapon.

     Despite my complaints, I did somewhat enjoy Grenadier. It had its moments, it had its jokes, and it had an alright theme. Rushuna Tendou and Yajiro Kojima may be the only good part of the show, but at least it has something going for it. Still, if you want to watch something about a blonde outlaw looking for world peace, I'd recommend you look elsewhere.

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