#1 Gunslingers & Samurai
The setting for Grenadier is an odd mix of ideas. Sure, it takes place in Japan and it has the appearances of a traditional Sengoku anime, but fused in there are elements of cowboy westerns and sci-fi shounen action.
The land is in turmoil as bandit lords extort villages and vie for power among each other, while the people lose faith in the absentee kings that should be protecting them. It’s an era of might makes right, and contributing to it is the increasing presence of guns. Traditional samurai and their ideals are vanishing, and droves of gunslinging thugs are eager to take their place.
The balance between traditional sword arts and firearm technology has always been an interesting part of Japanese history, but Grenadier skips the unwieldy era of the arquebus. Rifles, revolvers, giant robots, and sub-machine guns are commonplace, which creates interesting imagery where 15th century peasant levies are guarding old wooden gates with assault rifles at the ready.
#2 Rushuna & Yajirou
Rushuna is a young, blonde-haired wanderer. Exceptionally beautiful and endlessly kind-hearted, she wants nothing more than to spread peace throughout the nation… even if that requires shooting a bunch of people.
She abhors violence and uses her unrivaled mastery with pistols to fight her battles without killing or even permanently injuring anybody. This allows her to both be the cool, titular “Beautiful Warrior” while also being the series’ moral epicenter. Kinda like a mix between El Cazador‘s Nadie and Shinzo‘s Yakumo.
She’s joined on her journey by Yajirou, a young samurai sellsword with a grimy past and a disdain for guns and those who use them. This (and other issues) make his relationship with Rushuna an uneasy one, but he can’t help but be captivated by her worldview and sticks around as her side-kick. Perhaps because he believes she can help him atone for his past. Perhaps because she is gorgeous and totally his type.
#3 Maximum buoyancy
Obvious bonus points.
#4 Carefree action
Grenadier is not the prettiest show and many of its action scenes were simplistic. It was the directorial debut for former character designer Hiroshi Kojina and it was headed by Studio Live and TAC, the latter of which was in decline at the time and would shut its doors soon after. What is lacks in animation finesse, however, it makes up for with creativity and hilarity.
The action scenes are full of ridiculous moments, as Rushuna dances around her enemies and pulls of the weirdest stunts. One of her trademark skills is to hide extra bullets between her breasts, which she dislodges by aggressively wiggling and then swoops up into her revolver as they go flying. Fan-service and practicality, all in one move. Later on Rushuna is also joined by a young girl who specializes in fighting with balloons, and any semblance of this being a believable action series goes out the window.
The final episode also pulls out all the stops and is a rare case where Grenadier has some legitimately impressive choreography as it switches back and forth between Rushuna and Yajirou’s respective battles.
#5 Yasunori Iwasaki
You know what else stands out besides Rushuna’s huge tracts of land? This anime has a killer soundtrack to it. The battles might not look the best, but I was constantly looking forward to the battle themes and the rest of the OST is not far behind.
This music was provided Yasunori Iwasaki, who I was familiar with through his work on the abysmal Momo Kyun Sword. His soundtrack was the sole saving grace of that God-forsaken anime and I am ecstatic that I got to hear his work in a better show this time around. I recommend giving “Shungeki” and “Tatakai wo Nikuyande” a listen to get an idea of the two extreme ends of the soundtrack.