Friday, February 2, 2018


Presented by Kenichi Sonoda
Translation: Dana Lewis & Toren Smith | Lettering and Retouch: Studio Cutie

The next segment of GUNSMITH CATS opens with a one-off chapter exploring the secret origin of Minne-May Hopkins as she flashes back to her earliest meeting with Ken while on the way to a date with him — and, almost impossibly, yet another layer of weirdness is added to their relationship when we find that May initially posed as a young boy when she first encountered Ken, and that he took her on as an apprentice without knowing her true gender. Then, after she finally revealed herself to him as a thirteen year-old girl, they started to knock boots.

So… ick.

Following this chapter, it’s a solid eight installments devoted to the war with Goldie. The drug queen lures Rally into a trap and has her injected with her organization’s new drug, Kerasine — a potent narcotic mixing the worst aspects of heroin, angel dust, and LSD, with the added bonus that anyone high on the stuff becomes susceptible to post-hypnotic suggestions. Goldie then captures Rally, along with Misty, who’d joined her on a stakeout, and proceeds to brainwash our heroine to serve her. To test the hold of her suggestion, Goldie dispatches Rally to assassinate Roy.

Rally manages to recover some of her wits however, grazing Roy with her shot. Now wanted for attempting to kill a cop, she takes the fight back to Goldie, crashing a drug deal in a cemetery with the help of May and Becky. Goldie escapes with an assist from Bean Bandit, and in the end Rally is cleared of the charge against her thanks to one of Goldie’s underlings testifying that he had injected Rally and tricked her into attacking Roy.

It’s a trick, of course — Goldie simply wants Rally to get off so their cat-and-mouse game can resume. Goldie, as we see very clearly in these chapters, is a lesbian dominatrix who has taken a shine to Rally and wants to “break” her. This leads to some of the story’s more uncomfortable moments, in fact, as Goldie sexually molests Rally twice while the latter is under the spell of Kerasine — once when she initially hypnotizes her and again at the end when she removes the suggestion.

(Goldie’s reason for freeing Rally, by the way, is something I feel like I see more in anime and manga than anywhere else, so I assume it’s some kind of Japanese cultural thing. Like DRAGON BALL’s Goku, who frequently let his enemies escape in hopes they would become stronger and pose a better challenge to him in their inevitable rematch, Goldie wants Rally cleared of wrongdoing and free of suggestion so she can further hone her bounty-hunting skills, making her an even more formidable foe upon Goldie’s eventual return.)

For all the relatively juvenile and occasionally creepy stuff that Sonoda works into his stories, it’s also notable that GUNSMITH CATS is, in a weird way — and especially for the era in which is was published, the mid-nineties — actually kind of progressive. May and Ken are practically the only confirmed heterosexuals in the regular cast. We don’t know what Becky’s or Bean’s deals are, but Goldie is, as noted above, very clearly gay, and Misty seems to be as well. Rally’s sexuality goes mostly unremarked upon, aside from a comment early on by May that she’s a virgin, but Sonoda has said in interviews that she is a lesbian as well, though apparently asexual.

I also think it’s worth mentioning that Rally is specifically identified here as being of Indian descent. Sonoda has drawn her with darker skin since the beginning, but her ethnicity was never confirmed up to this point. Considering Sonoda is a Japanese native writing about “exotic America”, he could’ve gone the easy route and made Rally a blonde white chick (and in fact the RIDING BEAN animation featured a character named “Rally Vincent” with no other discernible similarities to this version who was exactly that). But instead he presents her as Indian-American, which just seems kind of cool to me.

Oh, and one last thing: there’s a weird continuity gaffe in this stretch of chapters, too. As noted previously, when Rally had her first encounter with the legendary CZ75, it was in the hands of a kidnapper who she shot dead. The gun is shown in detail on the final page of the story and appears undamaged; however later, when Rally first uses her own CZ75, she’s specifically reminded by Becky that she damaged one a while back, and Rally says this one was found by Roy in evidence and given to her, as noted last week. It’s pretty clear the gun Becky’s talking about is the one the criminal was using, and the one Rally now has is a different piece.

But, while under the influence of Kerasine, Rally hallucinates a vision of the father of the girl the kidnapper murdered, berating her for using the very gun that killed his daughter. The dialogue is pretty clear here, too; he’s not talking about a different version of the same model. He specifically calls it the same gun. It just feels like Sonoda confused himself as to which gun was which — or, perhaps, the English translators made that error. But either way, it’s kind of annoying for a continuity-minded reader.


  1. Hey, at least they got most of the icky bits with May out of the way in one chapter!

    It always interested me that even as anime on television in the 90s was still getting edited to not offend children-oh, Dragonball Z, how you suffered-an American publishing company was releasing manga with, basically, everything in it about May. You have to wonder how they got away with. Presumably by being under the radar at the time; if this came out today someone would be bound to notice it.

    And yeah, for all their other hang ups about sexual matters that May embodies, Japan's always been ahead of the curve in terms of homosexual representation. Which, again, led to some hilarious choices in adaptations since "cartoons were for kids!" back then.

    And again: the Goldie stuff was crying out to be the back half of a full length Gunsmith Cats series, and I wish we'd gotten it. Even if I'd had to buy it back then at $30 a tape!

    1. Dark Horse did change one thing about May in the earliest chapters of their original 1990s adaptation: they said she was eighteen, rather than the correct seventeen, presumably due to the frequent shots of her naked, not to mention the somewhat graphic image of her fellating an older man in the first volume. Other than that, though, they did keep everything in her backstory, including the stuff about her being an underage prostitute.

      The new "Revised Edition" volumes I've been reading for this series actually restore the seventeen year-old age, so I guess Dark Horse isn't as squeamish as they once were about depicting a minor in compromising positions (which, censorship and alteration of author's intention aside, seems like a really weird thing to change their mind about!)