Gun x Sword tells the tale of Van and Wendy, who are both after the man who has a prostetic claw instead of a right hand. Van wants to avenge the death of his bride, who was killed by Claw-man. Wendy's brother was abducted by Claw-man, and wants to bring him back to the town of Evergreen. As for the title of the series: Van has a belt that can turn into a sword, and Wendy is carrying her brother's gun with her.
They meet in Evergreen, where the people have been besieged by 'Lucky', a bandit who is after the money in the town's vaults. Van stumbles into town, looking for food, and is (unwillingly) drawn into the conflict. Somehow he manages to piss off Lucky, who then summons his armor (a mecha) to take the bank by force! This in turn pisses off Van, who summons his armor Dann from orbit, and proceeds to beat the crap out of Lucky.
Wendy and Van are two completely different characters. Wendy wants to do what is right and proper, while Van is like a child who has only one single goal: killing Claw-man with his own hands. When they meet Ray, who is also after Claw-man, he and Van immediately clash (though of course you know they will have to cooperate later on in the series -- that's just how things work).
The series is an odd mix, really. The first half chronicles the travels of Van and Wendy across the planet 'Endless Illusion', following Claw-man's trail. This part is quite episodic, even though there are some recurring characters (such as the aforementioned Ray and Carmen99) -- every episode, there is a new city/village/situation to take care of. The 'villains' are all quite amusing, such as the baron with the prehensile mustache or the queen of the swimsuit kingdom. Often, Van summons Dann and administers some violence to the evil-doers. Think Cowboy Bebop, only funnier.
Only in the second half of the series does the plot kick in. Van and Wendy get to meet Claw-man, and they are swept up in his Grand Plot. The Claw-man has a Grand Plan to re-write the history of Endless Illusion. It turns out that this was a prison planet, which would explain the 'lawless frontier'-feel of the world and the fixation on 'justice' of the good guys. Claw-man came from Earth, just before it blew up. There is some machine on the moon, which will destroy the planet -- and after that happens, Claw-man will use one of his mega-mecha to recreate the world so that everyone will be 'happy'.
Dann, Van's armor, is one of the Original Seven: armors that were installed in orbit by the forces from Earth to keep the peace on the planet. Claw-man has drafted six of the pilots of the Original Seven for his Grand Scheme -- and one of those is Wendy's brother. The Original Seven are vastly more powerful than the armors that have since been constructed on the ground -- their satelite-based docks regenerate them, and the life of their pilots is linked to them through some sort of implant.
During the second part of the series, Van teams up with the rag-tag band of followers he has amassed, and together they travel to the headquarters of Claw-man for the final confrontation. Even though this is a fine part of the series as well, I couldn't escape the nagging feeling that these supporting characters basically had no real reason to travel with Van to stop Claw-man. "If you say he's evil, then we will stop him!" -- that's not a reason to leave your village and risk life and limb. Shouldn't you need some kind of proof? There are enough people around who seem to think that Claw-man's New World will be a better place -- enough for him to create lots and lots of armors, enough for him to have his own space-launch facilities. So who do you trust -- the childish simpleton out for revenge, or the hundreds of educated engineers who follow Claw-man?
It has to be said: Claw-man's ambitions are noble when taken at face value, but this is one of those "We'll better the world, even if it has to be over your dead body!"-plots that have to be stopped.
That aside, it all feels a bit more formulaic in the second part. Very few oddball encounters, but gritty battles where Van takes out the members of the Original Seven one by one. The climax of the series is pretty good, though.
The characters is where the series really shines. There is the core cast of Van and Wendy, supplemented by a supporting cast that doesn't appear every single episode. And the throw-away characters which appear only for a single episode are all amusing.
Animation-wise, there is nothing wrong about this series. The designs are nice, detailed and unique, while the animation is quite fluid. Mixing CGI and cell animation doesn't give any problems either. There is very little stock footage, which is a plus as well.
The opening animation has a nice trick to it. We see outlines of the characters, but the outlines of the characters we haven't met yet stay opaque -- that's a pretty cool way to keep track of your progress into the series.
The music is nice as well, and evokes a genuine wild-west feeling.
- Animation is good;
- The cast of characters and their interactions;
- The crazy and fun ideas the writers came up with.
- The second part seems to drag a bit.
All in all, a good series with a nice mix of action and character-driven plots. An 8.