Review/discussion about: Gunslinger Stratos
A well-known philosophical question takes the following form. Imagine a teleporter that copies your body completely: atoms, thoughts, brain neurons, and so on. The teleporter works by replicating you entirely, materializing a new copy where you want to go, and then the first body – the one used to make the copy – is destroyed. Again, the new copy is perfect, and simply believes the teleportation was successful. Now, suppose the original body was never destroyed. Two of you exist simultaneously, so the question becomes: who is the real you? The original or the new? Both have the same memories, the same body, the same brain, the same thoughts, the same everything, but which one is really you? Challenging the complex notion of identity, this famous situation is highly debatable because nobody truly knows the answer. Gunslinger Stratos: The Animation is similarly philosophical in nature, but assuming the hypothetical teleporter were real, I would use it to warn the world of the woes it willfully and wantonly wags.
Gunslinger Stratos is one of those anime that, as it is viewed, the horribleness it exudes is nearly palpable. Nowhere is this more evident than in the narrative it attempts to construct. There is almost nothing within it that is worth remembering. The implications of this sentence should not be understated; almost the entire narrative is not worthwhile.
The lone positive facet of the narrative is how it avoids a typical cliché of gun-centric plots. For many shows (not just anime), the main protagonists are always able to shoot and kill their opponents with relative ease, while the “bad guys” somehow always miss their shots. This happens because the plot cannot have the “good guys” get hurt, otherwise they will not be able to continue with the tale. To circumvent this, Gunslinger Stratos opts for shields. Essentially, each character equips a shield that allows them to take a certain amount of damage before it breaks, at which point they are susceptible to the flying bullets. In this way, the plot does not feel as if it is trying to protect its characters in an artificial manner, since an explanation actually exists. Granted, the shields are simply a replacement for the cliché – they still take thousands of bullets and never die – but it is at least more tolerable than everyone miraculously dodging every projectile.
The rest of Gunslinger Stratos is incapable of dodging, leaving its narrative riddled with holes of every variety. Looking at the plot, it is a nonsensical mess. “Timekeepers” use their omnipotent abilities to have parallel universes fight over “Energy Cubes,” giving each side unparalleled advances in armaments so that, due to human greed and warmongering, they will create the “Dead End,” a catastrophic weapon that eradicates all life. This synopsis sounds sweet, and to be fair it is. But stringing together a bunch of cool concepts like time travel, teleportation, and technology without connecting them in a coherent manner causes nothing less than confusion.
The convolution comes from three areas: unexplained events, unessential plot lines, and unresolved conclusions. First, the show has an inability to relay information that is needed to understand the world. Some examples include: If they are Timekeepers, how did they not predict the people revolting? Why is there only one Timekeeper ever shown doing all of the work? How do Energy Cubes function? Where does the little purple hair girl exist in space-time? How did the chalk-on-the-ground equation allow them to literally time-travel? The anime often chooses to forego answering these questions in favor of gunplay, which does little to support the structure of the narrative. Second, the seemingly pointless plot lines add very little to the show. One such plot line is Remy’s dire situation that affects neither himself nor anyone else afterwards. Another is the head scientists going rogue, only to be immediately killed off and forgotten. Both of these plot lines do have a small impact on the anime overall, however the impact is merely to introduce more asinine ideas like massive Energy Cubes and betrayal that either continue to go unexplained or pop up out of nowhere. Third, it fails to resolve parts of its own plot. The alternate world and what happened to them is left up in the air despite having people and problems of their own. The most ridiculous, though, is that even having gone through the whole season, the anime makes it clear that the horrific future they all fought to avoid is still a possibility. In other words, their total efforts amounted to nothing.
That describes Gunslinger Stratos pretty well: “nothing.” The viewer feels nothing for the death of characters because the show fails to make them relatable. The comedy and drama has nothing weight-wise due to both the distant characters and the poorly constructed narrative. The themes of human arrogance, controlling one’s future, and interpreting identity are enticing on paper but when jumbled together without being explored outside of two extremes – a few lines of dialogue or a large exposition – mean nothing since they are fleshed out haphazardly instead of intricately. Yet the worst offender are the battles. Not that the fights have no purpose or that they are repetitive, which is true for both, but that the guns do not define the anime. It could have been swords, boxing gloves, or magic staves because the guns are not relevant without the context of the battles. In fact, considering the implications and ideas of the anime, one could presume that some better weapon that outranks the effectiveness or potency of guns should have been made. Regardless, like the relatability, drama, and themes, the guns are nothing, do nothing, and mean nothing to the show.
Those shields definitely protect one aspect of the narrative, but they are not strong enough to withstand the bombardment of faults that the rest of the plot experiences.
Artillery continues to rain down on the art and animation.
Much of the art within Gunslinger Stratos is one of three flavors: the city, the home base, and the open plains. The former is used the most, with appropriate skyscrapers, streets, and side alleys for a battleground designed for jumping, running, and flying. The latter is the home of the non-main-cast world, but it is only visited during a single episode and is therefore not prominent. When the characters are neither fighting nor traveling, they can usually be found in the second on the list at their headquarters, a smorgasbord of metal and hallways. Collectively, it is often boring to see, with little attention given to lighting or detail, leaving it in a destitute state.
More issues exist, such as the choreography of the fight scenes and the CG. Inherently, gun fights are difficult to make interesting since it is two people pointing guns at one another with the occasional evasive maneuver. In Gunslinger Stratos’s case, the final fight is the only one that even attempts to differentiate itself, with the others consisting mostly of the aforementioned common dueling. Assault rifles, robots, and Gatling guns try to change it up from the usual pistol parties, but it still boils down to the same type of action: both sides staring at one another shooting bullets. As for the CG, while it is used sparingly, it is glaringly gross, with rigid body movements and misshapen designs. The boring backgrounds accentuate the grossness further.
Speaking of designs, the character designs are pretty awful. It is technically the future, so they all tend to look flamboyant in appearance. Crazy hair get-ups and colors, strange accessories, and refined clothes certainly make the cast unique, but at the cost of looking overly wacky and therefore out-of-place given the serious tone the anime strives far. The kicker is the second world’s character designs. Since the first set are already trying to be unique and weird, the replicas are even weirder, looking like people out of a carnival rather than a group of people aiming to save their world.
The actual animation is a joke that has a nice set-up but is missing the punchline. During the fights, the animation is about average, with characters running around with guns blazing and explosions booming. When the battles cease, though, they often stand around awkwardly with reduced facial and hair movements. This is obviously to give more resources to the action-heavy segments, but the downgrade is too noticeable to be ignored.
Gunslinger Stratos’s crowning achievement is the astonishing amount of execution that its characters do not own.
The vast majority of the cast members are not just missing meaningful development but also complex characterizations. Olga is a sexy minx who seemingly has dry lips, Kyouma is overprotective of his younger sister, Kyouka is loyal to Tooru, and so on. These descriptions are only slight hyperboles, since each of the previously listed does not only have those singular traits, but for the most part that is the extent of their character. They contribute the bare minimum to the plot, with no development or change of their own to speak of. There are many more side characters besides these three, but they are even more inconsequential, resigned to either a quick death without learning about them or being known solely for the job they perform within the organization. This leaves Tooru to pick up the remaining slack.
Tooru, unfortunately, cannot hold his own weight. Tooru is a person whose life has been difficult. His parents died when he was young, the class hierarchy places him low on the totem pole, and his social connections are not extensive. Strangely, he is neither happy nor sad about his predicament. Instead, he seems neutral, simply following the flow of time and accepting wherever it happens to lead him. From this position alone, his character is bland. His goals are unknown, his motivations are nonexistent, and his overall purpose is missing. That is to say, on a personal level, he is stagnant due to how plain he is.
Early on, Tooru does manage to find a reason to fight: to discover the origins of the mysterious ghost girl. As he learns more about the truth, his reasoning near the end morphs into protecting the future, which in a way demonstrates a drastic change in his outlook; rather than going with the flow, he has finally decided to take action to change the life he lives. But the problem is the middle ground that guides him to this point. A lot of the events do not influence his development – instead influencing the action or the plot – and even when they do, what pushes him onwards changes too frequently to be considered logical. First it is the ghost girl, then it is to justify Sidune’s death, then it is to help his friends, then it is for Kyouka, and then so he can see the ghost girl again. Tooru, who had never had anything to fight for, is suddenly pulled into multiple directions at once, which does not provide growth but instead continued stagnation since being forced to take so many paths at once leaves a low amount of room to explore any of them in-depth. In short, Tooru’s broken character is shattered by the anime’s conclusion.
Arguably, an interesting theme for the characters does exist. Given that the characters square off against mirror images of themselves, the notion that someone has to “face himself or herself” before being able to understand his or her person is enticing because of how true it is. Without someone knowing who he or she is makes it hard to seek self-improvement because that person will be unable to tell what such improvement entails. However, true to Gunslinger Stratos’s reputation thus far, there are two problems with this idea in the context of the anime. One, not everybody battles their counterpart. Tooru certainly does numerous times, but once again the vast majority of the characters never truly go toe-to-toe with their other self, meaning many of the cast members do not experience this theme to begin with. Two, the effects of the self-encounter are not provided. The biggest example is Tooru. Not only does the “bad” Tooru not view the “good” Tooru as himself but also how his fights against the “good” Tooru minimally affect him. He never seems to move away from his violent self, and because his last words are muted it would not matter if he did evolve in any capacity since the viewer is unable to prove it true. Thus, the theme does not have a solid foundation and is the last nail in the coffin for these characters.
The cast is crowned, but as the kings and queens of “Appalling Land” they hold no power whatsoever.
The opening theme has a strong vocalist, but the main portion of the piece is like the show itself: devoid of feeling. As the piece concludes that feeling starts to emerge, but it is not enough to save what came before it. The ending theme, with its melancholic tone and once more strong vocalist, is the best part of the anime overall. The piano, slowness, and beat work well together, however the sad track does not fit within the confines of the anime because it reaches this low of a point mood-wise in no other instances outside of the aftermath of Sidune’s death. There may be an argument that the hopeful turn it takes halfway through coincides with the anime’s own optimism, but such hope is also not a mood the show had regularly, instead opting for tension, franticness, and drama.
These same moods can be heard in the rest of the soundtrack, with many pieces using guitars, violins, and techno ensembles to achieve such tones. The music also tends to lean towards the mysterious and foreboding, given the mystery of the ghost girl and the Timekeepers, but it is more background noise than it is interesting music. There is a nice part to one of the pieces – some rising notes from a violin – but a singular part of a track cannot support the rest of it, let alone every other track of the OST.
Voice acting sees similarly sinking support, with below average performances provided across the board. Atsushi Abe as Tooru screams a lot but lacks emotion, Hisako Kanemoto as Kyoka speaks like any other girl, and Masakazu Nishida as Kyouma has a voice that makes him sound too old for his age. But because there are two of each character, their voices are around twice as much as they normally would be, making it twice as horrendous to hear.
I do not like this anime.
I do not like anime that have a forgetful narrative. I do not like anime that have weak characters. I do not like anime with egregious errors in their art, anime with sound that makes me bleed from the ears, or anime with the value of a used-up Amazon gift card. But this one hits all five criteria at once.
So not only do I not like this anime, but I really, really, really, really, really do not like this anime.
Gunslinger Stratos is the definition of trash. The story is ridiculous, the characters are abysmal, the art is lacking, the music is grating, and the entertainment is missing. Nearly the entirety of the anime’s contents are insipid and intolerable. Between having to watch this anime and getting shot in the leg, everyone would bite the bullet.
Story: Terrible, convoluted plot and a whole lot of nothing are too much for a bunch of shields to block
Animation: Bad, boring art style, ludicrous character designs, and about average actual animation
Characters: Terrible, incredibly weak side cast members, poor excuse for a main lead, and low execution for its theme on “facing one’s self”
Sound: Bad, bad OP, okay ED, bad soundtrack, below average VA work
Enjoyment: Terrible, I would rather get shot in the leg than have to watch it again
Final Score: 1/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3