Early this year, I finally watched the anime Ginga Densetsu Weed. It has been on my backlog for some time, being a big fan of its predecessor, Ginga Nagareboshi Gin – or known as Silver Fang here in Norway. Here are some of my rough thoughts and feelings on the show.
I’m not very enthusiastic for the show’s protagonist, Weed. As opposed to his father, Silver/Gin, Weed was practically born into greatness. In the first series we got to follow Silver from his birth and see how he was raised and trained, and how he worked his way up to become who he is. We get to see as he builds close ties with Daisuke and Gohei and many other dogs, who all contribute to help shape his character in various small ways. It takes several episodes before Silver even starts on his big journey. We get to understand the character, what helped shape him, and we feel for him for all the hardships he gets exposed to. In Ginga Densetsu Weed we’re more thrown into the story, without any build up, and we’re quickly told that Weed is great – but without really understanding why he’s great, besides from being lucky with his pedigree. Rather than learning from anyone else, looking up to other dogs and using them as examples for his own behaviour, Weed seems to mostly teach everyone else how to be better.
I quickly tired of how Weed was praised up to high heavens by everyone he met. That is, with the exception of those who wanted to kill him – but many of whom were converted when the realized how merciful, just, and super a guy Weed is. “Wow, Weed sure is a super duper guy, he sure is alike his father!” It was almost like some sort of fanfic, where it’s not unusual for the author to introduce a new character and have the character pretty much be super awesome from the start, without having sufficiently established how and why the new character is so awesome.
I also felt very unsure about Weed’s “thou shalt not kill” philosophy, and how consistent it is. He engages in several battles through the series, he sends other dogs into battle, and he’s responsible for the death of many dogs both directly and indirectly. Like with “P4”. Still he goes into a hissy fit when Jerome kills two assassins who outright states that they intend to kill Weed, and Jerome is expelled from the pack as a result. What about all the other dogs in the pack who have killed? Was there something special about this case that really warranted Jerome’s expulsion?
With Weed’s first confrontation with Hogen (at least, I think it was the first), he tries to outright kill Hogen with his super attack, but his attack is thwarted as Hogen uses another dog as a living shield. So the living shield dies instead. It doesn’t seem like Weed is particularly bothered by the fact that he took a life in this situation – and a life he didn’t intend to take, as he was aiming to kill Hogen. But then later in the series, when he’s asked to give Hogen the finishing blow, he refuses to do so.
He says they must forgive Hogen for what he has done. Yet he still refuses to forgive Jerome for what he did. I recall Weed saying to Jerome, at one point, something like the following: “You will always be my friend, but I cannot forgive you, as you took a life and life is precious.” Yet he apparently thinks they must all forgive Hogen?
And it was very convenient that the lightning killed Hogen at in the end! And again, Weed doesn’t seem overly upset about Hogen’s abrupt death.
The ending of the fight with Genba, Hogen’s brother, was a bit… odd. Weed, being a staunch pacifist, is assured by his troops that Genba wasn’t murdered in order to achieve victory. No, instead they merely gave him major brain damage which apparently made it so he was in a constant rage and couldn’t distinguish between friend and foe, killing everyone in his near vicinity! So Genba gets put down by his own brother after having killed several of Hogen’s underdogs. I fail to see how that’s better than outright killing someone yourself.
The evil dogs also seemed a bit too one-dimensional and cartoonish. Especially Hogen, who only seemed to be after power because he was evil. Towards the end he suddenly states that his real goal are the humans, but it’s never quite explained how his lust for power and how taking over the territory play into his anti-human agenda. I think it would have been a better story if the villains could have been made a bit more… credible, a bit more believable and sympathetic. Maybe Hogen and a few of the other dogs had been test subjects at the laboratory together with P4, and have escaped from there together, sworn revenge on humanity, and worked on expanding their own pack to aid them in their anti-human agenda. Maybe they weren’t after the territory at all, and just sought revenge over the humans some other way. Weed and the others would want to stop them, as they’re not too keen on Hogen and the others killing innocent humans. And they wouldn’t needlessly abuse their subordinates, but do what they must to reach their goal – which could involve killing dogs who stood in their way.
I think something like that could have helped make the series better, at least speaking for myself. As it was, P4 was pretty much just a “random encounter” with no deeper bearing on the story, and Jerome just… hung around afterwards. So if they had made a few tweaks, maybe something like I suggested, P4 wouldn’t have been quite so redundant and Jerome would’ve had a greater reason to stick around and to help fight Hogen and his gang (since he then would have known Hogen, and his sense of duty as a watchdog would give him additional motivation).
It’s also a bit insulting to us Silver Fang fans, how Silver is reduced to a sort of MacGuffinthrough most of the series, and doesn’t contribute much to the story. Considering how many other characters manage to go beyond their own boundaries in the series, who should have died after an attack and are completely exhausted, but who still manage to be victorious, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat… one would think that Silver – of all the character – could manage to do something similar. But instead he lies beaten and apathetic through the bulk of the series.
And, there was a bit too much crying through the series. Whether it was out of sadness, or because they were so moved (when, for example, witnessing just how fantastic and merciful Weed is). Sure, it’s an understandable reaction in certain situations, but just like how so many characters exclaimed what a wonderful guy Weed was, it just got a bit much in the end, and therefore rather silly.
But I have to say that one of the emotional highlights for me was Teru and his father. It was hard holding back the tears at the climax of that sub-plot.
The original series was just a bit more… epic, with an overall better narration. Here, things felt less focused and less grandiose. They go to save Silver… then it seems like they are going to try to recruit dogs to help them in the battle against Hogen – similar to how Silver and the others tried recruiting dogs in the first series – but they seemed satisfied after they had convinced only Kyoushiro and his gang of pups to join them, as they didn’t make any more active recruitment attempts (though new dogs did end up randomly dropping in and joining up along the way, such as Hiro)… then they travel back again where they came from, as Hogen and Silver have moved… and the entire conflict was a power struggle between the dogs about territory. Didn’t help that much of the landscape looked very similar and dull, and I found it hard to fully grasp where they were in relation to everything and everyone else. They might have travelled, but the landscape still looked pretty similar (if not the same), and we’re not given much of a sense that time has passed.
It should also be mentioned that there are discrepancies between the anime version and the original manga of Ginga Densetsu Weed. After having rooted about some in the Ginga Wiki, I found out that in the manga, Jerome apparently survives; Sniper returns (and submits to Hogen); Weed has siblings; and there are a total of five story arcs, and the anime only covers two of them. The different arcs appear to be largely unrelated to one another though, not really forming any greater overarching storyline. But I haven’t actually read it myself. I’d love to do so, but it’s not published in English* nor any of the Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish). There are fan translations available online, but reading scanned comic book pages on my computer or mobile phone doesn’t seem too appealing. Maybe if I had a touch pad.
There’s a lot to pick at with the series, as it has many faults of varying sizes, but it was definitely entertaining.But definitely not as satisfying as its predecessor.
*The first three volumes were actually published in English, by some up and coming Western manga publisher. Unfortunately, the published disappeared. It did seem like an odd decision to publish Ginga Densetsu Weed rather than starting with Ginga Nagareboshi Gin, and I’m guessing the sales weren’t great.