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Manga: Gunsmith Cats

Gunsmith Cats is a manga and anime about the action-packed story of gunsmith/bounty hunter Irene "Rally" Vincent and her teenaged partner Minnie May Hopkins, a precocious explosives enthusiast with a penchant for hand-made grenades that emit pink smoke.

Three OVA episodes were made, which is not nearly enough to get into the extended story that runs through the original manga (and its sequel series, Burst). Instead, it settles for being a short, episodic, high-energy action-adventure story with a lot of fast cars, loud explosions and vigorous gunplay. Created by Kenichi Sonoda, the famed character designer for Bubblegum Crisis, Gunsmith Cats is descended from an OVA called Riding Bean. Riding Bean featured Rally as the partner of Bean Bandit, a professional wheelman with a soft spot for kids. Bean would later appear in Gunsmith Cats first as an adversary, then later as an ally and friend of Rally's.

Gunsmith Cats is noteworthy for the degree of research and accuracy it possesses. The action takes place in Chicago, and the entire animation team visited the city to scout locations and take reference photographs. So accurate is this attention to detail that many Chicago fans of the series can identify specific intersections, and even the time-period the anime was made by certain key features, most notably the construction scaffolding that surrounded the Field Museum of Natural History during that building's renovation. Storefronts tend to look remarkably similar to actual stores near the locales, and even such things as stoplight specifics have been attended to. Also, all the cars and guns are rendered with precise, technically-accurate detail, and their sound effects recorded especially for the anime from the real thing (for example, the roar of Rally's Shelby GT-500 Mustang was recorded off an actual GT tricked out with exactly the same options as its animated counterpart).

Gunsmith Cats contains examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Bounty hunting, as well as commercial bail, has been outlawed in Illinois since 1963.
  • Action Girl: Rally and others.
  • Amazon Chaser: Part of the reason that Goldie pursues Rally.
  • Arm Cannon: Bonnie, after her first run-in with Rally and May.
  • Armed Legs: Bonnie replaces her lost leg with a prosthesis outfitted with a shotgun (and her other foot, also lost, with a prosthesis that holds a "Bouncing Betty"). The 3 part OVA gives a Continuity Nod to this when one of the two exotic weapons Washington offers to Rally ends up as this (the other one is Grey's machette prosthesis from later stories).
  • Armor Is Useless: Subverted; body armor is shown to be highly effective on countless occasions, most dramatically by Bean Bandit. His Bullet Proof Jacket is completely impervious to handgun rounds, and it's allowed him to survive salvos of nearly everything from shotgun slugs to armor-piercing rifle fire. Of course, he can only wear it because he has Super Strength; Misty could barely lift it, and the jacket was heavy enough to break her foot when she dropped it.
    • Indeed, armor is so not-useless that for a lot of people it probably borders on Reality Is Unrealistic. At one point in the manga, a character muses about managing to survive the injuries he sustained because he was wearing a really good leather jacket... when, in fact, there's a reason that people wear motorcycle leathers, after all.
      • That being said, Bean's armored jacket has chainmail underweave, kevlar lamination and ceramic plating in it and probably qualifies for the mythic class V of body armor.
    • Radinov in the anime has a coat that at least as bulletproof as Bean's, and is also full of a ridiculous number of weapons. It weighs a ton; when she hangs it on a wooden coat rack, the coat rack breaks.
  • Artificial Limbs: Rally's signature move tends to have catastrophic consequences for the recipient. A Mythology Gag appears early in the anime where one arms dealer shows off weaponized artificial arms and legs to Rally, which were the signature weapons of Gray and Bonnie.
  • Author Appeal: In a huge way. The author of the manga has said that pretty much everything that appears in it, from the guns to the tricked-out cars to the way the girls look, reflects his various interests and/or fetishes.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Lampshaded by some nameless mook when Radinov kills a Security Guard with her Ballistic Knife.
    Mook #1: What kind of a psycho uses a weapon you have to recover every time you use it?
  • Axe Crazy/Knife Nut: Radinov just loves killing people, preferably with sharp, pointy objects.
  • Babies Ever After: May and Ken at the end of Burst.
  • Bad Ass: Bean, who casually shrugs off stungun shocks, gunfire, and punches to the junk. Ow.
    • To a much lesser extent, Riff-Raff. Bean specifically said one of her punches hurt more than the stungun.
  • Badass Driver: During a car chase, a little girl ran into the street after her ball. Rally yelled 'Coming through!', threw the car into a sideways slide, opened the drivers' door and picked the girl up, handed her off to her passenger, who opened her door and set the girl down on the street as Rally straightened out the slide and took off with no loss of momentum. Also, Bean Bandit and Riff-Raff, since this is how they make a living.
    • Rally later says that Bean Bandit is a much better driver than she is. Bean for his part thinks she's damned good herself, even offering to take her as his partner, saying it'd be fun. The streets of Chicago would never have been the same if she took him up on it.
  • Balls of Steel See below.
  • Bang Bang BANG: Averted; all gunfire uses actual recordings of the real weapons made specifically for the show.
  • The Baroness: Goldie.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Sonoda isn't afraid of the dramatic just-in-the-nick rescues. Everyone gets their chance to do it at some point... Rally, May, Bean, Riff-Raff, practically everyone but the pure villains.
  • Blasting It out of Their Hands: This trope is present, but it's shown to require multiple shots; firearms don't deliver enough force to knock stuff around because Reality Is Unrealistic. Rally finds it simpler to simply shoot off the weapon's hammer. Or its safety. Or the shooter's fingers.
  • Blown Across the Room: Averted for the same reason as above. Instead, the author goes to great extent to point out the internal damage bullets can do even with armor.
  • Bounty Hunter: Technically, Rally's a gunsmith, enabling Sonada to geek about guns. He knows that most people prefer car chases and gunfights to this, so bounty hunting is actually her side job.
  • Brainwashed: One of Goldie's specialties — and it's debatable whether Misty is brainwashed or not towards the end of Burst
  • Break the Cutie: Surprisingly, Goldie had a bout of this when she was younger.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Rally is an unusual case in that she's half English and half East Indian, though whether her father was from Pakistan or India itself was never made clear. This actually makes her a Token Twofer in Japan But Not Too Foreign in Chicago where the series is actually set. AND they significantly lightened her skin tone for the anime, making her Not Too Black as well..
  • Canon Immigrant: Inspector Percy emerges onto the scene in Gunsmith Cats Burst, a character only before seen in the OVA Riding Bean. Amusingly, not a whole lot has changed in his quest to stop Bean Bandit, although he's a little more homicidal.
  • Catch Phrase: "This sucks."
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Minnie May is masturbating to a photo of her missing boyfriend when Becky walks in on her.
  • Celibate Hero: Rally, much to the dismay of Misty.
  • Chase Scene: Lots, often involving gunfire, insane car tricks, and - at least once - a missile launcher.
  • Chicago: The series' main setting.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Rally gets a goodly portion of her hair slashed off by Gray and it takes a few chapters for it to be back to normal.
  • Cool Car: Several. May's Fiat was never actually sold in America, and Bean's car, the Buff, is a car he had custom built for a million dollars.
    • Said in the liner notes to the Riding Bean OVA to be completely plausible except for the Speed Racer tire spikes, and would cost an estimated 1.2 million. Also, it's a Porsche chassis over a COMPLETELY different engine.
    • Virtually every car in the series, Rally drives a GT-500.
    • The series is basically full of Gun and Car porn.
  • Cool Garage: Bean has a sweeeeet one, with dozens of cars, mostly Fords. Car nut Rally drools over it.
  • Cool Guns: Sonoda's very fond of awesome firearms. Rally's CZ75 is squee'd over in detail.
  • Consummate Professional Bean Bandit has a fantastic reputation for this. Both he and Rally make mention of unwritten rules that they follow regarding their work and the lives they lead. It becomes a very important plot point later on.
  • Cowboy Cop: Bill Collins.
  • Courier Bean "Road Buster" Bandit is the best driver around - whether it's a delivery or a getaway you need. Rally getting him to stop doing drug runs is a major plot point. He even seems happy about it.
  • Crippling the Competition: Rally has a habit of shooting the hands (specifically the trigger fingers) of opposing gunmen. Some have come back looking for revenge because of their crippled hands.
  • Downer Ending / Bittersweet Ending: At the end of Burst, Goldie is in charge of the mafia, Misty is still brainwashed and in love with Goldie, May and Ken are no longer working at the gun shop, and Rally gives up bounty hunting due to injuries hampering her shooting abilities.
  • '80s Hair: Riff-Raff, of the "punk" variety. Of course, like her spiritual sibling Lufy from Gall Force, Riff-Raff is basically double-dipped in eighties style.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Rally's real name is Irene. Only her mother is shown using it, in a Flashback. It's used a lot more when Rally's father is around. Later, Roy uses it on Rally.
  • Even the Lesbians Want Him: Misty, who had previously shown no interest in men, and had actually been pursuing Rally, declares an interest in Bean after he takes a bullet for her.
  • Expy: Riff-Raff is pretty much an update of Lufy from Gall Force. Radinov's character design is similar to both, although she only appears in the anime.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Misty towards the end of Burst. She decides to associate herself with Goldie and become her lover. Debatable because it's never explicitly stated whether its her own volition or the effects of brainwashing.
  • Fake in the Hole: In the "Misfire" arc, Minnie May tosses a dummy grenade at Gray to force him to back away from the fallen Rally.
  • Fanservice:
    • There is little full nudity, but lots of LingerieScenes and PantyShots.
    • Occasionally it borders on out-and-out porn, in May's case. Who, you know, is a prostitute.
    • With the lovingly rendered guns and cars, the fanservice even extends well beyond the more well-known T&A definition and into the true 'content made to appease the fans' one. Gun and car fans, in this case.
  • Fetish:
    • May is an ekrixiphiliac — she's literally turned on by explosions and the scent of gunpowder.
    • May's boyfriend is into lolicon, apparently.
  • Fight Scene
  • Fingore: One of Rally's favorite methods of incapacitating someone firing at her is to blast the shooter's trigger or cocking finger off.
  • Friend on the Force: Roy Coleman.
  • Gender Blender Nickname: Irene "Rally" Vincent. Rally says she picked the name so nobody would know they were hiring a female bounty hunter. She might want to return to Irene now that she's an established hunter, but people respect Rally Vincent, and she doesn't want to lose the reputation. Word of God is that her pseudonym was supposed to be "Larry" - not merely androgynous but outright masculine. "Rally" came from the difficulty in translating "L" and "R" sounds from Japanese.
  • Girls with Guns
  • Gun Porn: See Shown Their Work.
  • Guns Akimbo: Averted: Rally says that firing two guns at once isn't practical because it decreases aiming accuracy.
  • Gun Stripping: Would you expect anything less?
  • Happiness in Slavery: Misty
  • Hero Insurance: Averted. Because of her tendency for destructive high speed chases, Rally "The Wrecker" (As she is known to insurance companies) can't get collision insurance anymore.
  • Driver with a Heart Despite being a deliveryman for 'packages' that frequently involve drugs, Bean has a soft spot for kids and doesn't hesitate to drop drugs taken from a young thief and the adult drug dealer after the drugs and the kid down a manhole. Rally points this out and Bean offers her a bet with the reward being an oath that he'll never deliver drugs again just because this 'seems to piss her off so much'.
  • I Gave My Word Rally trusts Bean without knowing him that well because she suspects him of this. He delivers.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Gray doesn't just want to kill Rally for ruining his arm, he wants to rape her first.
    • Goldie to Rally and also Misty.
  • I Have Your Wife: Buskie kidnaps Alan Scott's daughter to force Scott to deliver Rally into an ambush unarmed. Buskie kills her anyway, immediately after letting her speak to her father. Judging by her condition, at the time, it's implied she had been raped only moments before Scott called him.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Rally can hit anything with a handgun. Anything.
    • The manga does go through a bit of work pointing out that Rally's sharpshooting depends partly on the kind of gun she's using—one chapter sees Rally limited by the short range of a Saturday Night Special.
  • Improbably Cool Car: A Shelby GT500 is very rare and expensive car for a teenage orphan to own. Word of God stated that Sonoda chose it solely on the basis of its specifications without considering how rare it was. Note that after the Shelby gets destroyed in Burst Rally can't get another one and replaces it with a much more realistic Mustang II Cobra. Still a collectible muscle car but not a certified exotic. Even before that point Rally had been running out of replacement parts for the Shelby, getting forced to use parts designed for other cars in repairs whenever the Shelby got damaged.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: to Percy in Riding Bean and Burst.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One Rally, May, Becky and even Bean take offense to being called 'old'.
  • It Works Better with Bullets
  • Karma Houdini: Goldie, despite all the horrors she's caused and atrocities she's committed. And she gets to walk off into the sunset with Misty!
  • Kick the Dog: One of the few things Goldie won't do. In her Start of Darkness story, after becoming a mob boss and inventing an early version of her brainwashing drugs, the family dog (Which had adored her when she was just a Mafia Princess with no direct involvement in the family business) attacked her. Her subordinates tried to put it down, but she insisted that the dog be spared.
  • Knife Nut: Bean Bandit prefers to carry a lot of sheath blades; but his armory has a lot of knives and swords. Misty is shown to use throwing knives as well.
  • Legal Jailbait: Minnie May Hopkins, who, depending on the translation, is deliberately suppressing puberty to invoke this for her boyfriend.
  • Leg Cannon: Bonnie's first encounter with the Gunsmith cats went badly for her: Rally shot her thumb off and one of May's grenades blew off her legs below the knee. When she returned for revenge her new prosthetic replacements included a shotgun in one leg (with a bomb in that foot) and a thumb that included a garrotte.
  • Lighter and Softer: In general, the animated OVAs are less violent and sexual than the manga. For example, there is only passing reference to Minnie May's past as an underage prostitute, and Rally's signature moves (which often leave their targets crippled and/or missing limbs) are almost completely absent. In another example, Minnie May's grenades tend to only make a lot of smoke or a bright flash in the anime, rarely causing the kind of havoc that a real, standard grenade would cause; in the manga, this is far from the case; she even once blew off a guy's hand by triggering the explosion of a flashbang he was holding.
  • Lovely Angels
  • Mad Bomber: May, a tiny bit. She's obsessed with grenades to the point of having them scattered about the gunshop/home.
  • Made of Iron: Bean Bandit.
  • The Mafia: Goldie.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Gray is able to keep control of his gang and even orchestrate his own escape from inside prison.
  • Mind Control: Goldie's weapon of choice. She's even loaded bullets with her own trademark drug so people she shoots are susceptible to suggestion.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Radinov's reaction to having her earring shot off, and her earlobe along with it. She reacts first the sight of her missing earlobe.... then the pain.
  • Mugging the Monster: Rally and May keep a lot of weapons in their home, and consider using them on would-be housebreakers to be stress relief.
  • Mythology Gag: The Anime also has a shoutout to two manga-only characters when Washington shows Rally two exotic weapons: Bonnie's submachine-gun leg (sans foot) and Gray's sword arm. Rally tells him to stop joking around.
    • At least one of the guys that break into Rally's place is a guy who tried to rob them in the manga, wearing the same suit and shades. Like his manga incarnation, he greatly enjoys being able to use an M249 machine gun (it's his signature weapon in the manga - in the OVA's case, he pilfers it from Rally's basement.).
    • Also, Bean has a dream of building his own Cool Car from the ground up. When he succeeds, the resulting vehicle is the one he uses in Riding Bean.
  • Names to Know in Anime: Michiko Neya (Rally), Kae Araki, (May), Aya Hisakawa (Becky), Yoko Soumi (Radinov), Hideyuki Tanaka (Bean Bandit), etc.
  • Old Retainer: Dennis Tombari.
  • Older Than They Look: May, May, May.
  • One Woman Army: Radinov. Roy alludes to it, when described her as being, "not an assassin, she's more like The Terminator". She proceeds to live up to her reputation by storming through a police safehouse and mowing down a dozen or so officers and federal agents, in order to kill Carlson.
  • Only in It for the Money: What Bean says is his main motivation - that, and because he has a car he wants to build. It's likely that he also does it because he loves to drive and enjoys the thrill of the chase.
  • Panty Shot: Lots of them. Minnie Mae deliberately hikes her skirt up on more than one occasion.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Gunsmith Cats ups the ante by having the grenade held by the pin as well. It was only a Flash, however.
    • It's easy to miss if you're not paying attention/not familiar with grenades/both, but the flash grenade mentioned above had already had the pin removed before May held it with her teeth - what she was actually holding it by was a rubber band looped over the top several times to hold the spoon in and prevent the fuse from starting. That way, she could have her hands up as the goons who found them wanted, while still being able to quickly drop it and blind them.
  • Pistol Pose
  • Pet the Dog: Sort of inverted. Becky is frequently shown to be a bit difficult when it comes to helping Rally without payment. She is later shown dealing with another client, giving him false information and letting him know that she knows where he lives before upping her price when he fails to make a payment, which illustrates just how much she lets Rally get away with.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Goldie again.
  • Psycho for Hire: Radinov and a few one-off villains.
  • Rally Vincent Is About To Shoot You: Pops up occasionally on the manga cover art.
  • Rare Guns: The series as a whole is fond of this trope, as is spiritual predecessor Riding Bean. Some examples:
    • In Riding Bean, an extremely rare Semmerling manually operated repeater is used.
    • In the anime, Radinov uses a rare British Welrod silenced pistol.
    • Rally's signature pistol is a first-generation CZ75, a rare pistol with near-mythical stature amongst gun otaku.
    • Then there's Rally's personal gun collection, which is virtually a modern arms museum in itself.
  • Razor Floss: Used by Bonnie for a last ditch attempt to kill Rally. It slices her CZ-75, at least.
  • Real Place Background: Chicago, as previously mentioned.
  • Red Baron: Nastasha Radinov, a k a "Bloody Pierce"
  • Renegade Ukrainian: Radinov.
  • Replacement Love Interest: Misty is replacing Rally in Goldie's eyes — and Goldie is replacing Rally in Misty's eyes.
  • Scary Black Man: Gray.
  • Shown Their Work: See Gun Porn.
    • Not only that, but the anime in particular is extremely exacting about accuracy regarding Chicago. A fan of the manga from Chicago wrote to Sonoda commenting that only two things were missing, the two that she'd happily see gone from the real city - graffiti and litter.
  • Ship Tease: The biggest tease for Rally/May is actually in the first volume of the manga, starting in the first chapter, and then the teasing mostly trails off afterward.
    • There's also Rally/Misty, which is highlighted by Misty actively pursuing Rally.
    • There's also some Rally/Bean chemistry, but with personalities like theirs, neither would even be willing to try to actually initiate anything.
      • One of Rally's gambits involves being declared dead on an underground info network. Bean gets upset, and later states that he's completing the job for her.
      • Bean outright asks her to become his partner as a third option after complimenting Rally's driving skills. Rally's reaction is rather cute.
  • Shout-Out:Done using the license plates on various cars in the series.
    • BRD-529, the license plate on Rally's Shelby Cobra, is a reference to that of another Cool Car from Chicago. The latter is "BDR-529."
    • The tag on the Mustang that Bean uses in the earlier chapters is "THX1138", and the tag on Bean's custom car called "The Buff" is TT1000.
    • The tag on Roy's car is MAX 007.
    • Also, if you closely in a crowd scene in the third episode of the OVA, you can spot Hellboy.
    • The tags on Glass's car read ZZ TOP.
    • A random car in the anime has the license plate NCC-1701.
    • Becky draws Kilroy on Rally's cast.
  • Skinship Grope: Vol. 1 features an opening scene where Minnie-May gropes Rally after her regular target practice while commenting on how stiff her nipples were. Rally returns the favor after Minne-May lets one of her custom-made grenades fly and take out Bonnie's car. She even comments on how they feel like "tiny pebbles".
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Usually averted, unless your threshold for "big gun" is pretty low. Rally several times points out that guns, stocks, and grips need to be chosen with the size of their user in mind, and her preferred pistol isn't a particularly large one.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Inverted. The dossier on Rally that Radinov received from her mysterious employer lists her first name as "Larry".
    • Word of God is that she was supposed to be Irene "Larry" Vincent, but it got scrambled in translation due to the interchangeability of Ls and Rs in Japanese.
  • Think Nothing of It - Bean uses this excuse a couple of times after saving the girls, along with I Was Just Passing Through . It crosses over into Suspiciously Specific Denial when Rally insists on thanking him more than once. Bean actually sounds rather embarrassed about it till Rally relents.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: "Minnie" May Hopkins has a slight tendency to use home-made concussion grenades in inappropriate situations... usually clusters of them, in the OVA. However, she's every bit as skilled in their use as Rally is with handguns. A single one will just leave a couple of gang members stunned for a minute or so. She can use three to blow out a pursuing car's drive shaft. And when she's really pissed off, she'll set off a dozen of them at once, causing extensive damage to whatever building she's in (typically shown with a Discretion Shot of the outside of the building with all the windows breaking and billowing out smoke).
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Rally and May in the anime - Rally mocks an ATF agent coming into her store almost immediately (though, to be fair, he was shifty-looking), complains about the ATF (especially when it turns out her collection is basically illegal as all hell), and attempts to kick him out when she learns he's not going to pay up for a favor, which is at least somewhat understandable. Odd, given that she shares a neutral view on Federal agencies (well enough to work with, and speak well about the FBI) and tries her damnedest to keep up with licenses in the manga. They're also more curse-prone than in the manga, though they aren't exactly Miss Clean there, either.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: According to the anime, Rally and May's diet consists almost entirely of pizza (When it's Rally's turn to get dinner) and Chinese (When it's May's turn). In the manga, Rally has a fondness for kebabs.
  • Tricked-Out Shoes: Minnie-May keeps a small explosive kit in the heel of her shoe.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The series clearly happens in The Nineties, not only cause the fashions and hairstyles... but also because the animation recreated Chicago with incredible, accuracy, to the point many Chicago fans of the series can identify the specific time-period the anime was made by certain key features, most notably the construction scaffolding that surrounded the Field Museum of Natural History during that building's renovation.
  • Unorthodox Reload: When Rally has a broken arm, she reloads during a firefight by dropping the magazine on to her foot and then kicking it up into her pistol.
  • Vetinari Job Security: Goldie is allowed to get away with her crimes and get a happy ending with a brainwashed Misty because she is necessary to keep the Chicago underworld under control. Well, that and remembering how Rally shot her in the head multiple times for being a psychotic bitch persuaded her to tone down the puppy-kicking or Rally might keep it up until she actually dies.
  • Walking Armory: Radinov has more guns in her coat than she knows what to do with, and that's on top of it being armored. The woman must be immensely strong.
  • Wall of Weapons: Rally's closet. Also, Bean Bandit's armory full of bladed weapons.
  • Wrench Wench: Rally is a gunsmith after all, and she's shown teaching May in the manga. She's never shown working on her own cars though, though she does wank over its capabilities at times.
    • Not literally... at least not on page.
  • Wrong Wire: Ken Takizawa deliberately uses these in his bombs because, "Hey, everyone makes mistakes, huh? And I like living!" In other words, if he screws up while building the bomb (which was increasingly likely due to multiple sclerosis), he has a few minutes to correct the mistake before it kills him.

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alternative title(s): Gunsmith Cats
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