Gungrave is my all-time favorite anime, and the main character, Brandon Heat, numbers among my favorite anime characters. The first time I watched it, I was hit by his fighting ability and loyalty. But as I watched the show a few more times, I realized there is more depth to Brandon, and that he is a Christ figure in many ways.
If you haven’t seen Gungrave yet, Anime-Planet has a description and videos here. You can also find it on Hulu. I’ll try not to spoil everything, but you might be better off watching the show, then returning here, so your enjoyment is not impeded when you decide to watch it.
How Brandon is like Christ:
Brandon demonstrates unconditional love paired with dedication to justice. He’s willing to do anything for those he loves, and three people top that list: Harry MacDowel, Big Daddy (the head of Millennion, their mafia organization), and Maria. But also has a form of “justice” that guides his choices: He subscribes to the organization’s Code of Iron—do not betray—and kills those who violate it, believing that this is the best way to protect those he loves.
Even when Harry betrays Big Daddy, who is like a father to Brandon, Brandon gives him ample opportunity to choose loyalty—much like God giving his enemies time to repent, and even sending Jesus Christ with an opportunity for reconciliation, before finally pouring out his wrath. Brandon should kill Harry, or at least make way for another hitman to kill him, but instead, he tries to convince Harry to change. But Harry’s not willing to realign his values with Brandon’s. In fact, he’d rather kill Brandon—who has given up so much for him already—than bend his will. He goes on to kill Big Daddy and anyone else who stands in his way.
Like Christ, Brandon is betrayed and killed by one he loves.
But that’s not the end of the story (in fact, it’s only the fourteenth of twenty-six episodes). Also like Christ, Brandon has a plan. He knows Harry’s heart, and when he confronts his friend, he knows he could end up dead. So he’s made arrangements to be necrolyzed—basically, brought back to life with more fighting strength than ever, using the same technology that Harry is abusing to turn people into weapons.
Not long after, Brandon surfaces briefly to destroy a laboratory. Then he’s dormant for 13 years. Most people think he’s dead—only a few know that when they most need him, he’ll return. In some ways, this mirrors Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, which leaves us awaiting his return—it’s a period in which we see so much death and suffering, it would be easy to lose hope.
When Brandon returns to stop Harry, it’s a type of Judgment Day. Harry has had plenty of opportunity to repent, but he’s just gotten worse. And now, he’s targeting Maria and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Mika. This triggers Brandon’s revival. He still loves Harry. But he loves Maria, and his drive to protect Mika and uphold the Code of Iron drives him forward. One by one, he confronts the men who betrayed him and Big Daddy, until only Harry is left.
This part, too, is a bit like Jesus Christ’s second coming… although there’s more hope in Christ’s coming, as the judgment precedes the establishment of his Kingdom. But more on how Brandon falls short below.
Unfortunately, Gungrave is terribly under appreciated, so the only links I have for you are to posts written by me:
- Hints of the Eternal Story in Gungrave—I posted this on my old blog, Annalyn’s Thoughts, a little over a year ago. In it, I outline how Gungrave reflects truths about us and God. I briefly mention Brandon’s similarity to Jesus before I write about hints of Creation, Fall, and Redemption in the show.
- Annalyn’s Corner: What is Freedom?—This post, written two months ago, examines Harry’s definition and pursuit of “freedom,” which leads him to betray Brandon, and compares it to the Freedom presented in the Bible—the Freedom offered by Christ. In some ways, it’s an extension of one of the points below. Brandon, unlike Christ, doesn’t know what freedom is, and he can’t offer it to anyone else.
How Brandon Falls Short as a Christ Figure
- Brandon cannot give life or freedom—only death and judgment. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is the Life. He first came not to condemn, or even to simply protect, but to give life. When Christ returns, he will defeat his enemies, yes, but his followers will gain new bodies and inherit his kingdom with him.
- Brandon’s necrolyzed body requires regular blood transfusions. His “resurrection” is neither natural nor supernatural, and it’s not sustainable. Christ’s resurrection is complete, and it proves his power over life and death, so Christians may have confidence in the promise listed above. (See 1 Corinthians 15 for more on this and other elements of Christ’s return.)
- Brandon “strays from the path of righteousness,” as he says, in order to pursue the ones he loves. Jesus never does this. He does enter the world of the unrighteous and spend time with them. But Jesus is holy. When he pursues us in the darkness, he brings light. He urges us to repent of evil and follow him.
- Brandon can’t take Harry’s sin upon himself and die in his place. For one thing, he’s not exactly innocent. According to the Code of Iron, he should have killed Harry without hesitation before, and by faltering, he betrayed the organization. According to other codes, he’s a murderer. So he already deserves death for his own sins, and there’s no room left to take Harry’s condemnation onto himself. He can do nothing to appease the people who are after Harry’s life at the end of the anime. Jesus, on the other hand, because of his innocence, is the perfect sacrifice, and he took on the wrath that we deserve. Because of this, God considers our sentence served and our slate wiped clean—we’re innocent in his eyes, as Jesus was.
- Brandon doesn’t have the authority to forgive Harry for betraying Big Daddy and Millennion. He only has authority to execute. Jesus, as part of the One Triune God, has the power to forgive sins.
There’s so much more to discuss about Brandon and Gungrave in comparison with Jesus and the Bible. Hopefully, I’ll return to this show and write more about it… or maybe some of you will be inspired to write about Gungrave—if you do, let me know. I’ll want to read it.