Friday, March 2, 2018


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

And now we move into the final GUNSMITH CATS story arc, a relatively straightforward affair in which Misty gets kidnapped, along with some cargo being ferried by Bean, and Bean’s client. Rally and Bean team up to rescue Misty in an adventure involving a counterfeiter and a family of criminals out to steal his equipment. We get some fun moments involving Rally, May, Becky, Bean, and Misty (Ken sits this one out), and the overall story feels a bit like a palate cleanser following the larger epic of the final conflict with Goldie.

And then it’s on to chapter 75, the very last installment of the serialized manga, celebrating Rally’s twenty-first birthday. Sonoda delivers callbacks to the earliest segments of his story as Rally brings in Gray’s son and then visits the grave of the girl she failed to save (and whose death I complained about) in one of the very first chapters. Soon after, her friends throw her a surprise party, and besides the obvious attendees (May, Ken, Becky, Misty, and Roy), we also see Jeena and her friends from the “Kidnapped” storyline.

It’s a nice little note to close things out, as Rally — after briefly doubting her career — reaffirms herself as a bounty hunter. Oh, and May and Ken have married offscreen as well, which is another bow to tie on the story. Creepy as their relationship is, Sonoda at least sells them as a couple in love, so it’s nice to see them get a happy ending.

The one final character to receive a sendoff in this last chapter is Goldie. Rally spots her driver, Dennis, on the street, and immediately after, Sonoda reveals Goldie herself sitting in the car’s backseat, apparently amnesiac following the travails she endured in her previous appearance.

This isn’t the end for Rally and friends, though. The original GUNSMITH CATS manga ran from 1991 to 1997, after which Sonoda moved along to his next project, a sci-fi series called CANNON GOD EXXAXXION. However, after seven years on that saga, Sonoda wrapped it up and returned to the streets of Chicago for four more years and fifty-one new chapters in GUNSMITH CATS BURST. Unlike the original GUNSMITH CATS, which, as noted, I’ve read a few times over the years, I only ever read BURST once when Dark Horse released it in America around ten years ago. I’m considering looking at BURST here next year, but that’s still up in the air.

So… GUNSMITH CATS. Like I said when we started (and reiterated once or twice), this series is a guilty pleasure. I’ve always liked it, but that enjoyment was in spite of some frankly disturbing material, including pedophilia and sexual abuse. I don’t mind the hard-boiled drug stuff and the occasionally graphic violence, and I have no issues with nudity for the sake of nudity. It’s really just the weird/criminal sex stuff that makes me uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, though it took me some time to warm up to it this time around, I still find GUNSMITH CATS a really enjoyable read overall, with good writing and outstanding artwork from Kenichi Sonoda, who really is a master at illustrating kinetic action.

It occurs to me that I never said anything about the English translation by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith in all my prior posts, so let’s take a quick moment now to cover that: For the most part, it’s fine. The dialogue works; nothing comes across stilted, as you sometimes see in Japanese-to-English adaptations. However I do have two issues with the scripting: one is all the female characters’ tendency to refer to one another as “girlfriend”, which I’ve seen on TV now and then, but have never once encountered in real life. As a result, for me, at least, it just feels awkward and weird.

But the thing that bugs me even more is that throughout the story — and especially early on — everyone tacks on “…hey?” to the end of their rhetorical questions. Basically they say it the same way you would add “…right?” or “…eh?” or “…huh?” when asking or saying something that doesn’t require an answer (a crook at one point says “I know when I lost, hey?”). It’s nitpicky, but it really bothers me!

Anyway, before we wrap things up, let’s speak very briefly about Sonoda’s original RIDING BEAN manga, which is reprinted in four chapters in the final volume of Dark Horse’s GUNSMITH CATS: REVISED EDITION series. It’s clearly a prototype or a “pilot” for what would become GUNSMITH CATS, filled with the same sort of high-speed action, gunplay, and sex, with the only real difference being that Bean is the main character.

Based on supplementary pages that follow, it seems Sonoda intended RIDING BEAN to be a full-blown serial. It even ends on a cliffhanger just as the character of Rally Vincent (a blonde Englishwoman with a huge gun collection) is introduced. However, according to Wikipedia, the magazine in which RIDING BEAN was serialized ended via cancellation and the series was left unfinished. Two years later, Sonoda revived Bean Bandit as a supporting character in GUNSMITH CATS, and the rest is history.

Thus it's hard to judge RIDING BEAN as anything more than an interesting curiosity; the story has barely been set up by the time of its unexpected end, but it's still a nice, well-drawn bonus feature for any fans of Kenichi Sonoda and GUNSMITH CATS.


  1. I never read Burst; by the time it came around I'd moved away from anime and manga; overwhelmed by how much of it was available, I did the same thing I did with comics in 1993 and started cutting back, until I looked up one day around 2010 and realized I wasn't much into either anymore. The exceptions since then was One Punch Man, because it sends up so much of the anime I love, and Dragon Ball Super, because I guess I will always be a DBZ fanboy. I'll have to check it out sometime.

    My opinion now on Gunsmith Cats is pretty much it's enjoyable, fun, and definitely a guilty pleasure for the creepier things around the edges, though I do tend to forgive it a lot for the OVA being a highlight of my prime anime/manga years. And I still think it should've been a proper animated series!

    1. Yeah, I had mostly moved on too by the time BURST came out, but since it was GUNSMITH CATS, I decided to check it out. I read it, like I said, about ten years ago, but I literally have no memory of it, which has me thinking it must've been pretty underwhelming. I guess I'll find out in a year or so.

      I'm also still in for DRAGON BALL. I watch SUPER every weekend on Cartoon Network. I find I like the sillier "between saga" episodes a lot more than the big story arcs. Stuff like Piccolo babysitting and Mr. Satan fighting aliens is way more fun to me that Goku battling whatever the latest menace is.

      But for the most part I always liked the original DRAGON BALL more than Z, so that's not surprising. In fact, one of the major draws of SUPER for me is that Pilaf and his gang are recurring characters again, after sitting out the entirety of the Z era.

      (Though my favorite Z material is the early stuff with the androids -- everything from Dr. Gero's appearance up to the point where Cell becomes perfect is the best DBZ ever got, in my opinion -- so because of that, I'm really liking the current SUPER saga on Cartoon Network, with Trunks and his time machine back for another go-round.)