What Is It?

Gunsmith Cats is a three-episode OVA set in the crime-filled streets of Chicago. Gunsmith and master markswoman Rally Vincent ekes out a living a the owner of a gun shop. On the side, she and her partner Minnie May make a bit of extra dough as hired guns. They take on risky jobs for fun and profit… but mostly profit. Unfortunately for the girls, neither business is exactly legitimate. So, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent Bill Collins comes knocking with a proposition, the girls have little choice but to comply. In exhange for their services, Rally and Minnie May will be “graced” with a Class-3 weapons license.

The operation begins as a simple operation. Hunt down a few gun-runners and take down what seems like a two-bit syndicate. The operation grows complicated, as powerful individuals are controlling things behind the scenes, and a Russian assassin is on the girls’ tails. Time and luck are definitely not on the side of the Gunsmith Cats, as they have to take down the syndicate and find a way to take out the assassin that wants nothing more than to see the girls in body bags.

Why Was It Passed Up??

The series is a three-part OVA based on a manga that, at the time, wasn’t available in the west. The first Gunsmith Cats graphic novels didn’t hit America until several months after the first two tapes were wild in the western market. So, the audience that would likely hunt the show down just missed out on the show’s initial run. The series still managed to enjoy a degree of cult success, mostly through word of mouth.

The OVA got a second chance in 2001, and a third in 2004, when the series was released by ADV Films on DVD under the standard and Anime Legends lines, respectively. The runs for both releases were small, and snapped up quickly by collectors and fans. As an unfortunate result, the fandom didn’t have much of a chance to expand as prices skyrocketed (I had to purchase a copy directly from former ADV honcho David Williams for a princely sum of $60 a couple of years ago).

Why This Show?

Gunsmith Cats is one of those titles that seems to be an offering to Americans. From the setting, to the characters, to even the opening and closing by jazz legend Peter Erskine, Gunsmith Cats downplays the overt Japanese aspects in favor of a more western flavor. The tales of government corruption and gritty nature seem to be ripped from the handbook of the typical American cop show writer. The action is over-the-top, with plenty of well-choreographed gunplay and numerous explosions to keep action fans entertained. At the same time, Minnie May and Rally are both fun to watch, and have strong personalities that take on a life of their own through the show.

Plus Rally has a Cobra GT-500, and that’s freaking badass.

For the most part, the downplaying of overt Japanese references makes Gunsmith Cats a more approachable, more newcomer-friendly title, as the setting and storytelling style are both familiar to those who might not be ready for a show that dives head-on into cultural jokes and references.

Closing Thoughts

Gunsmith Cats is a personal favorite of mine, both in its anime and manga incarnations. However, they’re both entirely different beasts. Those expecting to see Rally’s trademark over-the-top gunplay (which includes shooting off her opponents’ trigger fingers, or kicking a replacement magazine into a waiting chamber) in animated form will be sorely disappointed. Likewise, those looking for the manga’s often tongue-in-cheek, wink-to-the-camera style of humor wil likely be a bit disappointed, as it was also toned down. Instead, the creators opted or a more subtle, yet more realistic approach that would be easier to animate and less likely to break the suspension of disbelief. The firefights are still numerous and fun to watch though, and there are still a number of inventive sequences. A particular favorite of mine involves a dark night and a few flash bangs from Minnie May’s arsenal.

Sealed copies of the show currently fetch prices in the triple digits, though used copies can often be found for far less. If given the chance to pick this one up, don’t hesitate. The experience is incredible, and definitely worth the price of admission.


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