Gundress is something of a cross between Burn Up and Bubblegum Crisis, with some Appleseed technology, namely landmates, thrown into the mix, as well as some hints of Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell thrown in towards the end. It follows the anti-terror group Angel Arms as they are assigned to protect an arms dealer who, in exchange for his life, is testifying with information about the "global terror ring." As far as production goes, there were some definite issues here, partucularly as it is a 1999 anime. Namely, the production schedule got so far behind that they decided to release the unfinished version to the theaters in Japan. This unfinished version apparently consisted of many unpainted scenes, repeated action sequences, and some timing issues. This led to a massive outcry from moviegoers, to which ORCA responded by offering all ticketbuyers a free copy of the completed movie.

Technical issues aside, the anime itself is fairly poor, looking like it came out of the late 80s rather than 1999, accompanied by an equally bad story. It also includes some fairly poor character development, with some of the main characters getting no more than a minute of screentime to establish what they are about, and not a lot of screentime beyond that even. Only 2-3 of the characters get much development, the lead character Alissa(a semi-typical tough chick like BGC's Priss Asagiri), the villain, Alissa's former lover and partner in crime(strong and handsome, like so many others), and the arms dealer, a jolly little Russian(who comes off nothing like an arms dealer). Overall, about the only redeeming factor for me is the bits of Shirow involvement, his (naturally) cute and sexy heroine designs, and getting to see more landmates in action, even if the animation is little better than Appleseed, Dominion, or Black Magic.

Overall, this is a title I am quite hesistant to ever watch again, let alone place in my DVD player, and can only recommend to the absolute diehard Shirow fan/collector. The only thing I think I outright enjoyed on the DVD itself was the one extra, which was a half-hour making of featurette, and that was primarily for the amusement factor, especially when they talked about landmates looking like chicken walkers out of Star Wars, and when they popped up "Special E-Mail from Masamune Shirow" popped up onscreen before some commentary about his character and mecha design. Look below, I've even been kind enough to transcribe those e-mails for you. Note that most of these refer to the members of Angel Arms and their respective mechas.


Alissa, The Cold One Marcia, The Ordinary One Michelle, The Brainy One Silvia, The Charismatic One Takako, The Leader A Concept Sketch for Kumugan Michelle Playing Chess Marcia Lines Up a Shot Nambu Looks On Kumugan Lands on the Enemy

Regarding landmates...

Mecha in Anime are generally drawn with large hands and feet because they look better when they are designed to be clunky and fierce. Landmates were not originally designed to be in an Anime, so they are designed to be sturdy and roly-poly. They won't break easily if they are tripped when they are running, and even if they are hit, they are hard to knock over.

One of my dilemmas was whether or not to make the landmates fingertips retractable when fighting. During combat, knuckles, pliers, and cutters would be plenty, and since fingers are more delicate, they would be more likely to break or be destroyed. I made the sensors small too.

Also all the Landmates have a double-jointed knee under their leg covers. For eighteen years I have drawn them with double jointed elbows and wrists, but recently I have been thinking that it might be good for them to have soft joints made of springs or rubber. I've been drawing mecha like this for so long, I hope my input adds some flavor to the movie.

Dolce is a different type of mecha than the others so I gave it a unique look. Its knee and elbow covers are turned upwards, so rain, sand, and dust might get in and keep the joints from functioning properly, but they might be helpful when squatting of in firing mode.

Alissa is cool and classy, a young lady with a dark side. She distances herself from the other members. Her carelessly chopped hairstyle and her unsmiling mouth are her defining features. She wears shoulder pads. She can be rational, irrational, or "cyber," and she is a complex character.

Kei does Tae Kwon Do so I decided to give Kumugan long legs. Some people call these legs "reverse jointed," but actually the thigh and lower legs are shorter and the instep is long and the heels are raised so it looks like it is walking on its toes. It is not really reversed. It moves the same way a human does.

Kei is a definite lead character type. She is like a mature Sara from my manga. I built her to be very healthy, but I wonder if she is too outgoing for a military type. I guess it's okay, because this is anime.

Nocturne is a powered type that is a bit heavy but is good for sniping. Because it is a military type, I thought it should be camouflage green, and the fine color finishers gave the okay, so its details will become a nightmare for the anime staff.

Marcia is designed to be quite ordinary. She has feminine long hair that is pulled back, but her military pose is very muscular. Next to Sylvia, she is the most normal of the five.

With its shellfish face and Dumbo ears, I tried to make Troufan humorous. The antenna is nothing fancy, but I think it looks alright.

Michelle is the most convoluted character, and is more dangerous than Alissa. She wants to be seen as a classy grown woman, and understandably so... She has a greater chest and intellect than would be expected for her age. The intricacies of her character are complicated. If necessary, she would not hesitate to use biological or chemical weapons, and has a sharp personality. She is definitely a highly explosive woman! I basically made her the cute younger sister with a volatile look in her eyes. Will this come across in the anime?

Nambu is light and fast. Its key point is a hidden blade in the hand-guard. I really wanted to accentuate the graffiti, but I didn't because this is cell animation.

Silvia is a big girl and a karate expert. She has a bright personality and is approachable. I thought about making her thinner, but I didn't. I had an image of people from Okinawa being slim, so she might be a little off.

Takako is a flashy gal. I tried to make sure she wasn't too unrefined. I wonder if it would have been better to make her accessories silver.

And On Character Designs...

My drawings cannot be used for animation as is, so the animation staff does touch ups to make them more appropriate. Because they aren't very stylized, I am told they are hard to draw. I submitted rought drafts without cleaning them up. I thought it would be better for a specialist to do the retouching.

The personality of an animated character is not about outward appearances, but is shaped by the script and the acting. It is impossible to get everything from a drawing. Whether or not the girls come alive is up to the staff and the audience. I leave it in their hands.