Fanart Friday returns, tellin' it like it is--there was no lady, no two-gun shooter, and a lot more alcohol involved. Last week, we put on our goggles and got our comically huge wrenches for a trip through the steampunk genre, but this week we're going for a more classic staple--the WESTERN genre!
As you're going to see below, "western" means far more than just cowboys, the old American frontier, and adventures on horseback--western themes and style can extend to Feudal Japan, to the modern day, and even to the far reaches of space. Let's get started!
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Let's start with the pinnacle of the western hero, Clint Eastwood--who lives just a few towns away from me in Carmel, CA. While my favorite western of his was the dark and ruthless Unforgiven, he's probably best known as The Man with No Name, "hero" of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. You seriously owe it to yourself to check every one of these classics out.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have this tough-talking jackass. Early in Final Fantasy VIII, Irvine Kinneas plays up the tough, loner cowboy image, talking about how difficult things are for him, how he has to decide life and death with the pull of a trigger etc. etc. Then we find out he's totally full of shit, and Squall has to go do everything himself.
Good westerns aren't always about gunslingers and moral dilemmas--sometimes, they're told from a more human perspective. Coyote Ragtime Show does have crazy action and a very overt western motif, but at its heart it's really just about a man having to take care of his late friend's daughter. Awesome, stylish stuff here!
And then you have Red Dead Redemption, which put you in the shoes of fierce former outlaw John Marston, and then unleashed you on an Old West that wasn't quite ready to become the New West. I can't stress enough how important atmosphere is in an open-world game--you want to be a part of this world, you want to explore every tiny nook and cranny and get involved in every little bit of it. Maybe it's why I stuck with Red Dead Redemption and Sleeping Dogs--those are the kind of movies I love.
by pewternatural READER SUBMISSION!
Leiji Matsumoto is known for his sprawling sci-fi epics, and while Gun Frontier stars his sci-fi leads Harlock and Tochiro, it's actually a lighthearted comedy. Most importantly, the roles are switched, with Tochiro taking the lead, with his unusually badass sidekick Harlock riding shotgun.
An astute reader realized that not all westerns are told from the "cowboy" point of view--Princess Mononoke is about an indigenous, in-touch-with-nature people fighting to save their homeland from encroaching invaders. Sound familiar to you?
I looked at a bunch of Wild Arms art, but it was this piece showing off a ton of characters from the first three games (I'm not counting Thousand Arms, fun as that was) really got the nostalgia flowing. It's nice to see a JRPG that strays from the usual "sorta-fantasy, sorta-sci-fi" style.
Y'know what? I'm gonna be blunt--I didn't watch Samurai Gun. I judged a book by its cover, because holy shit that is the most unimaginative, least-evocative title in the history of anything ever. But to be honest, the art looks really cool and I've been in the mood for something new.
Whoo boy, did I love Grenadier. So shameless, so silly, so fun. I mean, she keeps bullets in her cleavage and reloads with a bounce. It's TRIGUN with a thousand times more fanservice, and the camp factor dialed to eleven.
Notice how a lot of these "space westerns" were coming out around the same time? I miss that genre. I didn't actually get burned out on 'em like a lot of people (understandably) did. Outlaw Star had its share of fightin' and shootin', but I remember the bulk of the series being about a race--a very, very violent race. Just like Hidalgo!
Martial arts westerns aren't as common as you'd think--I can immediately only think of Jackie Chan's Shanghai movies, The Stranger and the Gunfighter, and the awesome The Good, the Bad, and the Weird, but there's another that people keep forgetting about: Fist of the North Star. No, I'm not kidding--it has the dusty atmosphere, the "wandering gunman" hero (if you swap out a six-shooter for Hokuto Shinken), and is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Shortly after he finished Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki made a little three-volume manga called Gun Blaze West, that nobody bought and nobody loved... except me.
Have I mentioned before how blown-away I was at the quality of Gun X Sword? It has another hilariously unimaginative title, but it had excellent character designs from Takahiro Kimura, a very well-developed world, and some truly likeable characters. Also, "the one guy in a gunslinging world who owns a weird flexible sword" was a very nice change of pace.
Next to all the yamato nadeshiko and princess-type characters in Sakura Wars, Gemini Sunrise might seem out of place. She kind of is, but it's pretty awesome having a sword-wielding cowgirl along for the ride. (Honestly, I'm not using her much in Project X Zone. She and Erica just get to do cleanup.)
It's not just the hat--Vampire Hunter D takes place in a world of terrified, insular villagers, with a lone hero riding in to try and solve their problems, then just as swiftly riding off into the sunset.
Same goes for Kurohime, although that was far more on the "buxom witch with magical guns" side of things as opposed to "dark, tortured hero." Think of Kurohime here as a proto-Bayonetta.
Okay, fine, sometimes it is just the hat (and not much else). Dead or Alive has its share of stereotypes, from Japanese ninja schoolgirls to cheomsang-wearing Chinese co-eds, but their "American" fighter Tina takes it to a whole new level.
Confession time: I kinda hate Firefly's theme song. I also hate the clunky, random usage of Mandarin. But other than that, it's still pretty darn good. Usually, a crowd of people going on and on about something makes me not want to watch it, but Firefly is a great representative of the "space western," and at only fourteen episodes and one movie, it's worth checking out if you haven't already.
A lot of you probably started out on "anime westerns" with TRIGUN--I know I did. I remember the days of $30-a-pop subtitled VHS tapes back when Pioneer had the license. It was a bargain at the time--unlike ADV, Pioneer was kind enough to include four episodes on each tape!
Can't have a western-themed installment without this weirdo. From slippery side villain to major threat to his early days as a slightly-crazed Big Boss fanboy, Revolver Ocelot and his obsession with spaghetti westerns is one of the most unforgettable parts of the Metal Gear saga.
I was lamenting the horrors of searching for Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa art (seriously, bad idea) on Facebook, when our very own Humberto Saabedra swings in and offers a suggestion: Satsuriku no Jango, and its "rule 63 Clint Eastwood" Donne Anomine. Good call, Humberto!
Bravestarr is crap. Like, total crap. I don't like watching it as much as I enjoy watching people's reactions to how stupid it can get. Here, just watch the opening. Have fun. Try not to go crazy.
On the other hand, Justified rocks. It's a brutal, modern western that would work just as well with horses and Colt Peacemakers as it does with Raylan Givens' insane driving and sleek Glock. Good stuff, all around.
There was a bunch of great art for both of these titles, but getting the heroes of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo together is impossible to pass up. Both shows show heavy western influence--Bebop is more melancholy while Champloo is more frenetic--and they both put their characters through hell before any sort of resolution happens for any of them. If you want anime westerns, this is where you should start.
And that's all for this week! There's no way I could have included everything, so what are your favorite westerns? Who are your favorite western-styled characters? Sound off in the comments!
The submissions keep coming in, and your art is always welcome on Fanart Friday, regardless of your skill level or experience. Send me a link to your work, and I'll make sure to include it in a future installment! Now, I know from personal experience that it takes longer than a week to put together something you're proud of, so here are the next three upcoming installments of Fanart Friday:
-Next week, on JULY 19th, we're exploring "high tech and low life" with a trip through the CYBERPUNK genre! THIS IS THE ONLY THEME I'LL BE TAKING REQUESTS FOR THIS WEEK!
-On JULY 26th, we're hitting the street with a look at the NOIR genre!
-We start a new month on AUGUST 2nd by returning to a personal favorite theme of mine: BRICK HOUSE EDITION returns!
Thanks again for checking out Fanart Friday. I hope everybody has a great weekend--I'm off to see Pacific Rim--and I hope you drop by next week, too!