Volume 5 - The Protector

Starring (voice): Tomokazu Seki, Kenji Hamada and Tsutomu Isobe
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 08 May 2006

Within the gangster mafia organisation, Milennion, two childhood friends, Harry and Brandon, must fight to survive. Harry fights to control the organisation, while Brandon becomes one of their best hitmen. But ties of friendship cannot stop Harry's insane ambition, and in a show down Harry kills Brandon. Now, with Harry in control of an army of zombie gangsters - OrgMen - it seems that there is nothing that can stop him...

Disc five of Gungrave, directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru, carries on where disc four left off and contains episodes seventeen to twenty. With Brandon now resurrected as Beyond the Grave the two friends are heading for a conflict, a conflict that will be sparked by Big Daddy's young daughter Mika.

In Mika, Harry has finally given in to his lust for power and sets about cleaning house. His first target is Mika, daughter of Big Daddy, the former head of Milennion, but things do not go as planned and Mika is spirited away to the protection of Grave. Harry sends his OrgMen after her. With time running out can Mika get to Grave before the OrgMen get her?

Grave and Brandon is awake, awake and annoyed. Time for some good old OrgMen butt kicking. After an exciting shoot out on a bridge the episode settles down with a lot of old footage being used as flashback material, as Brandon tries to collect together his shattered memories and come to terms with what he has become. Another good episode with good dramatic content, both Brandon and Mika journey through their individual losses, a journey which brings them ultimately closer together. Harry's quick realisation of just who Grave is, means he throws the whole weight of his organisation in an effort to kill his former friend all over again.

Superior opens to a flash back to Bob (finally someone called Bob) in a hospital bed, close to death. Only the superiorisation process can save him, but the cost will be that he will be turned into a superior type of OrgMan. Back to the present time and Mika is trying to find out all she can about the Milennion Organisation. Brandon is still out for revenge and, after overhearing that Harry and the Big Four are having a meeting, he heads off. The story continues to be absorbing and interesting. This episode has one of the best fight scenes at its conclusion.

Following Brandon's killing of Bob, Bother opens with Lee beside himself with rage. Payback, as they say, is a bitch, Bunji and the Organisation come after Brandon. Whilst, the episode has the usual level of violence and the inevitable showdown fight at the end, it's really about Mika coming to terms with just who her father was and turning her back on his world of violence.

Set-up on the disc is the same as previous volumes - with Japanese stereo or DTS, with subtitles or signs only, or the very acceptable English 5.1. Both the Japanese version and the English dub are very good. The English voice actors really give the show a level of gravity not normally evident in dubbed versions. Sound on the disc remains very good, especially when the show is played in the Japanese DTS - which demonstrates some very good use of the rear speakers. Extras are scant, to say the least, with only twenty pieces of production art, a bunch of trailers for other anime shows and the DVD credits.

The show remains top quality. Whilst it's true that the extras on the disc are nothing to write home about, this is nicely balanced by the value enhanced four stories per disc. With only six episodes left to go it will be interesting to see how, and if, they are spread over two discs.

Charles Packer

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