For a country with some of the strictest gun laws in the world, Japan’s people don’t seem to have a problem with its media showing gratuitous violence (and scantily clad high school girls) on a regular basis. Over the years many anime (cartoons for the layman) and manga (comics) have had stories and characters about gunslingers, cowboys, bounty hunters, mercenaries, and even the firearms themselves. Plenty of works exist to discuss aspects of war, with everything from the perspectives of solders on the battlefield to the political movements and operations of commanders and leaders . . .
I should preface this with a note that, in case some of you were not aware, Japan has different standards as to what is appropriate for certain age groups. So yes, a lot of these shows or comics can have, from time to time, some more risqué aspects to them, sometimes involving people who aren’t what you would call of legal age in the west.
Also a few of these shows were never released outside of Japan but thanks to the somewhat grey area that is internet piracy, quite a few people know about them and enjoy them, particularly the final one on this list. If any of you want to find out more about any more info about the firearms seen in many of the shows mentioned please check out imfdb.org for more info.
Cowboy Bebop (1998 Anime)
While does takes place in the distant future with spaceships and interplanetary travel, you still find a lot of modern firearms still in use in this world. Especially the Jericho 941 used by bounty hunter Spike Spiegel while he travels the solar system with a crew of other misfits on various adventures and escapades collecting bounties and defending themselves from syndicates and terrorists along the way. Many will tell you this is a must-watch for anyone into anime as it has a great cast, a good English dub for those who don’t want to read subtitles, and a satisfying story. Recommended 16 and up due to plenty of violence.
Gunsmith Cats (Manga, 1991-97, Anime, 1995)
Taking place in a 1980’s Chicago, it’s the story about a gunsmith turned bounty hunter named Rally Vincent and her partner “Minnie” May Hopkins on various jobs and misadventures dealing with the seedy underworld of the Second City. Both are a force to be reckoned with as Rally always packs her trusty CZ-75 and May her various improvised explosives. A three episode direct to video (or as they call it in Japan an Original Video Animation or OVA) is a great watch involving the ATF and a plot somewhat similar to what a certain California senator is dealing with, with a Russian hit man thrown in. Recommended 18 and up due to violence and nudity.
Black Lagoon (Manga, 2002-, Anime, 2006-08)
A Japanese salary man ends up kidnaped, and later joining, the crew of a pirate/mercenary group in the seas of South Asia. Misadventures, violence, shooting, eccentric characters galore. Plenty of crazy things from former Soviet soldiers running a local mafia gang to neo Nazis, to gun toting indestructible maids. Leading lady Revy caries two custom Beretta 92’s and uses them to great effect. Recommended 18 and up due to gratuitous violence and sexual themes.
Trigun (Manga 1996-99, Anime, 1998)
Another sci-fi shooter, but it’s a western, too. Taking place on the planet Gunsmoke in the distant future, it chronicles the misadventures of one Vash the Stampede, a man with a billion dollar (or double dollar in this world) bounty on his head and a unique yet awesome revolver on his hip. Both a great comedy and excellent action show it is another show recommended for anyone getting into anime with interesting characters and a dramatic story mixed with comedy. Recommended 16 and up due to violence.
Upotte!! (Manga 2009-, Anime, 2012)
Girls in high school learning how to shoot assault rifles? No, girls in high school learning how to shoot assault rifles and they are the assault rifles. Guns of various calibers from different nations learning how to be better guns. A very strange premise and equally very pervy at the same time. This is one that I am conflicted on even talking about since it involves girls who appear to be in their mid-teens and…well, the term “field strip” has a bit of a different meaning.
On the one hand the author knows and loves his firearms, despite not owning any actual working models, and gives them personalities based on their history and their features (M16 talks fast but jams up if she eats something spicy, L85 is in the infirmary all the time because she breaks a lot, etc.) but the studio that animated it is known for making mostly fan service shows and while this one isn’t as bad I would warn against watching this one because no one will take you seriously anymore when they find this in your DVD rack. Yes, it was licensed in the US. And dubbed. Recommended 18+ due to sexual themes.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Anime 1988-1997, 1998-2000)
“In every age, in every place, the deeds of men remain the same.” A poetic quote to describe this space opera which is on the same level as something like “War and Peace”. Set in the distant future we find a century long war between the autocratic and Prussian style Galactic Empire and the democratic Free Planets Alliance. Billions have died in this war already but now on each side two new commanders have joined the fight and they will go on journeys to become the figureheads of the nations they stand for and attempt to shape the future of their nations, either through a strong handed approach or through subtlety.
While not really gun related I would consider it a must-watch since it deals a lot with political theories and what makes a great leader or government. A few caveats with this one though: It’s not licensed in the West, the animation is very dated, and it’s 110 episodes long. If you manage to sit through it you will never enjoy any other anime ever again. Recommended 18 and up due to violence, but it’s mostly a thinking anime with lots of classical music and almost Napoleonic War style battles, but with space ships firing lasers at long distance instead of lines of muskets.
So, that’s that. Obviously there are tons of other shows many here could get interested in. I just wanted to let people here know that there are people in other countries that do have a passion for firearms even if getting those firearms is illegal or difficult to do. I guess you have to thank exposure to Hollywood movies for most of it.