Gunslinger Stratos anime review (surprisingly enjoyable)

Sometimes it pays to keep your expectations low. As soon as I heard Gunslinger Stratos was based on a videogame, I mentally shook my head a little bit and thought “Okay, let’s see how bad it can get.” Maybe because of that it wasn’t bad at all and I actually enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed a lot of other recent shows.

Story (according to Wikipedia): In 2115, the country known formerly as Japan has been split into two parallel worlds: the Frontier S (Stratos) and the 17th Far East Imperial City Management District. When the two universes are starting to fuse into one, the government of each worlds initiates the Operation Stratos, a world-scale protocol wherein a handpicked group of gunslingers, mercenaries, and special individuals, each from the two universes, will be sent in the year 2015 to alter the past by eliminating the other side until only one group survives, erasing a parallel universe in the process.

tohru gunslinger stratosThe story revolves on a group of gunslingers, each from the two universes who participate in Operation Stratos, particularly on a group of four childhood friends: Tohru Kazasumi, Kyōka Katagiri, Kyōma Katagiri, and Shizune Rindo, who all must confront their own flaws and differences when they battle their alternate selves in order to survive.

It’s an action show, but the action was neither very good or very bad, just enough to get the story across. It was easy enough to see at a glance who was doing what to who, and the action sequences had an efficient blend of flash and practicality, i.e. seriously trying to kill the other person, not just firing bullets into thin air.

Deaths are telegraphed well in advance, but at the same time writers aren’t scared to rack up a pretty high body count. This adds a lot of tension to the show because right till the very end I wasn’t sure which, if any of the main characters were going to survive. Would one of the Tohru’s make a heroic sacrifice? Both of them? One of the Kyokas? Would someone get sniped right at the moment of victory? You’ll have to watch it yourself to find out, but Gunslinger Stratos is one of the few shows I’ve watched recently that kept me guessing right to the end.

gunslinger-stratos-vol-3-limited-edition-413743.1The characters are perhaps best described as stereotypes with a twist. Hero Tohru starts out as the usual namby-pamby hero, but when he has to step up to the plate he does so with remarkable aplomb, proving to be even tougher than the “hardcore” rival Tohru. His love interest Kyoka, both Kyokas in fact, are both girls of action despite their cutesy looks. They’re not afraid to get down and dirty in action and they’re both quick to do something about their feelings instead of dragging the show out with “Will they won’t they” nonsense. The other side characters are largely forgettable, but when the main cast is this strong they’re enough to pull the show along.

The story was very fast-paced even for a 13-episode show, feeling almost rushed in places. The advantage of that is there were no wasted episodes that made you feel “Well that was a big load of nothing.” The reveals come fast and hard, it’s not one of those shows where a mystery is introduced in episode one and only resolved in episode 95.

When questions are raised they are answered fairly quickly, then new questions come up and those are answered too. The story as a whole was quite satisfying and well-resolved. Everything’s wrapped up in this one show, none of that “Go read the manga/light novel/wait for season 2 to find out what happens next” stuff. Sure there are a few things you’d probably need to play the game to get (like the full role of the Katagiri Corporation and background data on the two worlds) but you don’t get the sense that the anime is made for fans of the game only. It’s approachable to all.

Long story short, you should probably watch Gunslinger Stratos if you like shows where stuff actually happens, and quickly too. Watch if you like action and romance that goes somewhere. Avoid if you’re looking for a deep, involving story or lots of character interaction/dialogue/comedy.

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