Gungrave (ガングレイヴ Gangureivu?) is a Japanese animated television series based on the video game of the same name, created by Yasuhiro Nightow. The series is directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru, from a screenplay by Yousuke Kuroda, and produced by Madhouse Studios.
The series follows Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowell as they rise through the ranks of the Millennion crime syndicate.
Gungrave aired on TV Tokyo from October 6, 2003 to March 29, 2004, totaling twenty-six episodes. Like the Gungrave video game, and its sequel Gungrave: Overdose, the series' music is provided by Tsuneo Imahori; this also includes the series' opening theme.
In 2003 Geneon Entertainment, formally Pioneer Entertainment, announced the license of Gungrave in North America. On July 3, 2008, Geneon Entertainment and Funimation Entertainment announced an agreement to distribute select titles in North America after Geneon ceased distribution of their own titles in October 2007. While Geneon Entertainment will still retain the license, Funimation Entertainment will assume exclusive rights to the manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution of select titles. Gungrave was announced as one of the several titles under the agreement on December 30, 2008.
Gungrave opens thirteen years after Brandon Heat is betrayed by his best friend Harry MacDowell. He is reborn as Beyond The Grave, and begins a quest of revenge against the crime syndicate. The series then backtracks to Brandon's youth, and follows him and Harry as they rise through the criminal underworld, detailing the circumstances that led to their eventual falling-out. It should be noted that the story is loosely based on Sergio Leone's gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America.
- Brandon Heat
- A small-time criminal who was in a gang with his best friend, Harry McDowell, along with three other close friends. After their friends were killed, Brandon and Harry joined the crime syndicate Millennion, led by Big Daddy. Brandon was trained by Millennion's Bear Walken to be a sweeper (assassin), eventually forming his own elite sweeper unit within Millennion called "True Graves".
- As Harry rose to power, Brandon remained loyal to the syndicate. Brandon confronted Harry for betraying the organization, but found himself unable to kill his friend. Instead, Harry kills Brandon during his moment of hesitation. Brandon was resurrected by Dr. Tokioka as "Beyond the Grave". His purpose is to destroy the syndicate that he once worked for and the friend who betrayed him. At the end of the anime, Brandon chose to protect Harry instead of killing him out of the old time friendship. It's implied that he probably rests in peace the second and the last time when Mika finally arrives.
- Relationship with Mika: Brandon acts like a parental figure to Mika and told her to move on when he told her that he no longer belongs to the living near the end of the series.
- Harry MacDowell
- Harry McDowell always wanted true freedom. Even when he was young, he could not stand being held back or put in his place. He used his ambition to rise in the ranks of Millennion with the help of his best friend, Brandon Heat. Impatient by nature, Harry began to plot the murder of Millennion's leader, Big Daddy, when he could not advance any further in the syndicate.
- As Harry's dreams become reality, he grows insane. The slightest sign of hesitation is taken as betrayal, and betrayal is punished with death. Harry succeeded in killing Big Daddy as well as hundreds of others in his quest for freedom, earning him the name "Bloody Harry." One of his victims was Brandon Heat. Now, thirteen years later, Harry targets Big Daddy's daughter, Mika Asagi, as his next victim. However, Brandon has returned as Beyond the Grave to protect her, and only one of the best friends will survive.
- Maria Asagi
- Maria is the sweet, clean-cut girl down the street, a contrast of Brandon's bad-boy image. Throughout the series, Maria makes her feelings for Brandon very clear. When she accepts Mr. Asagi's offer to live with him after her Uncle Jester dies, Maria is unaware that she is moving into the home of Big Daddy, head of Millenion. Brandon follows her and joins Millenion in hopes of being close to her, and for a while it works out.
- It is when Brandon becomes a sweeper that their relationship crumbles. He finds it harder and harder to face Maria with every person he kills, and soon he stops visiting her altogether. Maria eventually figures out what is going on, and once she does, the strong-willed woman decides to confront the man she loves.
- Mika Asagi
- The daughter of Big Daddy with Maria. After the incident at her home she was told to seek protection from Brandon by Maria. Through out the series, she goes through many hardships as seeing those close to her pass away one by one. Her personality basically is alike to Maria, it is shown that near the end of the series, she asks Brandon to give up the revenges and run away with her to where just the two of them.
- In order to stop Brandon from going out and wear out his body, at episode 24, she confess that she cares for him (love him) and asks if he thinks of her as a family member, they should just give up revenge and runaway together. However, Brandon tells her to move on without him since he is no longer among the living and knocks her out. At the final episode, millenion is no longr trying to kill her,and she is seen searching desperately for Brandon.
- Dr. Tokioka
- A scientist who developed the necrolyzation process(a process in which dead bodies are brought back to life as nearly invinsible zombie like beings). When Mika came to him, he used the process to bring Grave back to life.
- Big Daddy
- Millennion's founder and leader. He started the organization to protect his city and his "Family". He developed a bond with Brandon early in the latter's career in Millenion, which resulted in Brandon giving up Maria to Big Daddy out of loyalty to the man and the organization. Big Daddy was killed by Harry out of jealousy.
- Bear Walken
Voiced by: Ryūzaburō Ōtomo (Japanese), Beau Billingslea (English)
- A sweeper for Millennion, and one of the oldest members of Big Daddy's inner circle. He stays with the organization after Harry becomes the leader of Millennion for the sake of his daughter (Who is romantically involved with Harry). He is later killed by a resurrected Brandon, after inviting Brandon to his home for a duel to the death.
- Bob Poundmax
- A formerly skinny man Bob is now portly, morbidly obese intelligence operative, he rose through the ranks of Millenion with Brandon and Harry. After Harry’s ascension to the head of the organization Bob sat as one of the Big Four under Harry. He became the second “Superior” created after the procedure was perfected and the first to confront Beyond the Grave. He was killed by Brandon.
- Balladbird Lee
- Bob Poundmax's best friend. He owes his life to Harry after it was discovered that he was working with Lightning, a rival group of which his older brother Cannon Vulcan was a member, while in Millennion. However, Harry forgave Balladbird, allowing him to stay in Millennion in exchange for his loyalty. After learning of Bob's death, Lee kidnaps Mika and kills her two bodyguards in the process. Lee is eventually killed in the subway by Brandon's Anti-Superior bullets.
- Bunji Kugashira
- Bunji Kugashira earned the nickname "Madness" for his skills as a killer. He is an expert both with guns and unarmed. He also has a strange sense of morals. He deems it fine to kill others as a hitman, but he has a strong sense of loyalty to his friends and coworkers.
- Bunji first meets Harry MacDowell on a job to kill him. Harry tells Bunji that he is being used, and both men confirm it. Although Harry wants to recruit Bunji for Millennion, it is actually Brandon that persuades him to join. Brandon beats Bunji in unarmed combat, and Bunji has considered Brandon a close companion ever since. Bunji calls a lot of people "brother," but there is a sense that he truly means it when he calls Brandon that. It is this bond that makes facing Grave so difficult.
- "Tsuneo Imahori". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
- "AX2003 - Pioneer Acquisitions". Anime News Network. July 5, 2003. 2009-12-23.
- Anime News Network (2008-07-03). "FUNimation Entertainment and Geneon Entertainment Sign Exclusive Distribution Agreement for North America". Press release. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/press-release/2008-07-03/funimation-entertainment-and-geneon-entertainment-sign-exclusive-distribution-agreement-for-north-america. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- Anime News Network (2008-12-30). "FUNimation Entertainment to distribute Geneon Entertainment's Gungrave". Press release. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/press-release/2008-12-30/funimation-entertainment-to-distribute-geneon-entertainment-gungrave. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
- JVC Music's Gungrave website (Japanese)
- Gungrave (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Gungrave at the Internet Movie Database
- Gungrave at TV.com