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Let's get the disclaimers out of the way first: yes, Gun X Sword is derivative. Yes, Van looks like Spike from Cowboy Bebop, and the space Western location of the series resembles Trigun's Gunsmoke. The plot is similar to Kill Bill (or to many other revenge dramas) and the design of some of the armors in the series was heavily influenced by earlier and more famous mecha anime. There's no doubt that this series is a pastiche, drawing elements from many different works. The question is, does the show do anything interesting with those elements?

Yes, it does. It tells a story that begins simply and gradually becomes more complex. The Monster Of The Week structure that dominates the first a 1/3 of the series gives way to a fast-paced and tightly plotted story arc that culminates in . . . well, awesomeness. Van's revenge quest becomes increasingly complicated as the villain and his motives are fleshed out. While the series isn't aiming for philosophical profundity, it does raise questions about the nature of happiness and the relationship between individual rights and the good of the community. It also seriously explores the moral implications of various characters' motives and actions.

There's character development, too. Many of the supporting characters are fleshed out a bit as the series progresses, but the deepest character development takes place between Van and Wendy, who challenge each other to grow in different ways. (It's sometimes claimed that Van is a static character, because his motives don't change from beginning to end. This is not true: he changes quite a bit. However, some of that development is subtle enough to be overlooked.) Wendy, the other main character, changes more noticeably: not surprising, as her plot is primarily a Coming Of Age Story. Wendy moves from being a Damsel In Distress and Morality Pet for Van to being the moral center of the good guys' team. She's the character who grapples most with complex ethical questions, and she plays a significant role in the last battle.

Gun X Sword has attractive art and a strong (mostly instrumental) soundtrack, but what it really has going for it is attitude. Where else will you find sword fighting, gunslinging, mech battles, Mafia dons with battle cars, and ketchup and mustard wielded as weapons? Highly recommended.
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