Friday, February 9, 2018


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

The early installments set up the characters and world of GUNSMITH CATS and provide an overarching storyline/antagonist via Gray. The next chunk of story introduces Goldie, who will go on, in the final set of chapters, to be the major villain of the entire saga. But it’s this run of material, which we’ll look at over this week and next, which I consider to be the peak of Kenichi Sonoda’s story.

It begins when Rally learns that Bean Bandit has agreed to travel to New York, pick up some drugs, and ferry them back to Chicago. Bean is given half of a dollar bill, with his New York contact having the other half to match up for confirmation of the driver’s identity. Rally, who has adopted a zero-tolerance policy on drugs since her run-ins with Goldie, challenges Bean—if she can prevent him from picking up his shipment, he will never run drugs again.

Bean agrees to Rally’s terms and initially, she attempts to steal his half of the bill by tailing him to his garage/apartment and sneaking in with Misty’s help, but the plan takes a turn when Bean departs unexpectedly and Rally is forced to stow away in his car.

Eventually, at a motel on the way to New York, Rally reveals herself to Bean after he has a run-in with a man named Jones who attempts to steal his half-bill. Jones’s driver, a girl named Riff-Raff, challenges Bean to a race for the bill, and Rally enters herself into the contest as well.

This leads into the most exciting car chase sequence Sonoda has delivered so far, and that’s saying something. I seriously believe that no one can draw speed quite as well as Kenichi Sonoda. He somehow makes the reader believe that they’re along for the ride, through the night, across state lines in sleet and snow. He also takes this opportunity to show us what Bean is made of; it’s already been established that the man is practically superhuman in terms of strength and stamina, and that he wears an incredibly heavy, bulletproof jacket (so heavy that, earlier in the arc, it sidelines Misty when she breaks her foot by dropping the garment on it as she helps Rally search Bean’s apartment) — but here we find that his bandana is bulletproof too, stopping a shot from Jones’s sub machinegun when he plays dirty and shoots at Bean in an attempt to take him out of the race.

And while the bullet doesn’t kill Bean, it does stun him, leading him to crash his car. Jones steals the half-bill and departs with Riff-Raff, leaving Rally to care for Bean. She gets him medical attention and he splits with her at the first opportunity to finish his job.

Meanwhile, May and Ken arrive in New York ahead of Rally to do some scouting and prep work for her, and we get another peek into Ken’s past as he shakes down a former associate for information on the drug deal. And, because Sonoda can’t go even one storyline without getting at least a little skeevy, May meets with an acquaintance as well, a former co-worker from her days as an underage prostitute, to get Rally a gun. (She’s been traveling with only a disposable “Saturday Night Special” since her firearm license is currently suspended following her brief Kerasine addiction.)

All paths ultimately converge when Bean hits New York and visits an information broker, inadvertently giving him the okay to kill Ken and May. But Rally shows up and saves them, having learned that the drug Bean is set to pick up is a huge shipment of Kerasine. Meanwhile, Riff-Raff, who never wanted in on Jones’s treachery, assists Bean during his time in New York free of charge in the hopes that someday she might race him. She also reveals to Bean that Rally was apparently killed with May and Ken — thanks to a false leak sent out by Rally to take the bad guys off her trail.

Soon everyone arrives at the site of the deal, where Sonoda wraps things up with a parking garage duel between Bean and Jones’s hulking henchman, who attempted to impersonate him with the half-bill, while Rally, May and the others handle the dealers. Eventually, the dealer’s leader takes Jones and his man prisoner to punish them for attempting to trick him, while Rally, having destroyed the Kerasine in the fight, extracts Bean’s word that he will never run drugs again.

In general, this arc offers our best look yet at Bean Bandit. We know bits and pieces about him, of course, mostly related to his code of honor and his reputation as the best driver in the underworld. But here we get a look at his home life — he resides in an apartment above a garage packed with American muscle cars — and his aspirations. At one point Rally asks him why he drives at all since he’s obviously rich — and we’re specifically told at one point that he doesn’t get out of bed for anything less than $40,000 per run — but he explains that he sinks all his money into buying and maintaining his vehicles, plus he has a dream of building his own car from the ground up, and he’s already invested $300K in the process. It’s still not a lot to work with, but at least we know something about the guy.

Lastly, there’s a nice bit during the parking garage scene where Bean tells the dealers he will never back down from his mission because he had bet on it with “a pal” and now that she’s gone, he has to see it through. I love this for a few reasons: one, of course, is that Bean admits, unknowingly to Rally while she’s in earshot, that despite his attitude, he cares for her. And two, it’s as a pal, a friend. As we noted last time, Rally is, per Sonoda, gay — but Bean doesn’t know that. It’s just nice, I suppose, that Sonoda doesn’t try to pair them up. They have mutual professional respect for one another, but that’s it — and that’s enough.

1 comment:

  1. Okay for all the complaining I've done here-this arc was awesome as all get out. I suppose I forgave Sonoda a lot back then for times when Gunsmith Cats got this damn good. And again, good lord this needed to be animated.