By Kenichi Sonoda. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Dark Horse.
And so, Gunsmith Cats ends. Again. It's done so before, in 1997, with an ending that provided closure but still left everything in place if Sonoda wanted to pick it up again. He did so 7 years later, beginning Gunsmith Cats Burst in the same magazine, and basically picking up where he left off. This lasted until 2008, and this final volume feels a lot more final than the first series, with Sonoda actually making a point to tie off loose ends and 'wrap things up' Despite this, he still leaves things open for a return, and I can easily see him starting a 3rd series in a few years.
This volume felt as if he either decided to wrap things up at the last minute, or was told to do so by his editors. It's not exactly rushed - the entire volume is dealing with most of the cast moving on from where they were in the series - but you definitely sense that he had a certain point where he knew he had only 3 or 4 chapters left. The book itself can be neatly divided in half, with two plots that are connected but almost completely independent.
The action-packed and fun but less interesting half deals with Bean Bandit. Bean is a great guy, and can take a gunshot to the chest like no one else in manga, but you don't read him for character development. You read him to watch him drive cars and make other cars crash. And so he does, doing a huge Blues-brothers style chase across Illinois, and escaping (as always) to be cool another day. We also see him frustrate Percy, the intensely angry rogue cop from earlier volumes. Seeing Percy frustrated and helpless gives me a warm happy feeling in my tummy.
The far more interesting plot deals with Misty Brown, who has left Rally and the gun shop and returned to everyone's favorite psycho lesbian Goldie Musou. Rally is, needless to say, a tad concerned given their past history with Goldie, and Misty is not helping by seeming totally lucid in her devotion. This leads to the discovery of a hot new mind-control brainwashing drug, one far more effective and with no harmful side effects!
I have to admit, I raised an eyebrow at this plot. OK, so we have a miracle drug that makes you susceptible to persuasion, with no health issues or brain dissolving problems. If you try to go too far against your moral code it'll seem wrong, and you may come to your senses if given better persuasion by someone else. If it weren't for the fact that several people in the series independently say this *is* a drug, I'd say it was far more likely that Goldie had simply joined Debate Club and was enjoying putting placebos out there.
Meanwhile, Minnie May (who is now home from her honeymoon, and gives us several scenes of utter fanservice near the start of the volume - I have to wonder if her blowjob wake-up call here was a callback to the blowjob she gave right at the start of the series...) heads to her old boss at the brothel, and is basically told... now that Goldie is no longer an INSANE psycho lesbian, things are really cool. She unites the gangs, less death, more control, everybody wins. It's brought home a lot at the end of this series how morally grey it is. Everyone's OK with the drug smuggling and mob violence if it's the RIGHT kind of drug smuggling and mob violence. Don't foul your own nest, essentially.
Back at Goldie's, after some fabulous lesbian sex (and the art makes it clear that's it's fabulous - Sonoda draws post-coital exhaustion really well), Misty starts to wonder if she's merely a replacement for Rally in Goldie's bed. She does some snooping and finds out that yup, she is. However, in a surprisingly mature realization, Misty feels that Goldie is also HER substitute for Rally. She calls Rally to meet one last time and points out that she is going to stay with Goldie, since they're both obsessed with the same untouchable woman, and Goldie can actually give her what she wants.
Misty's blunt and tearful speech to Rally is really fantastically done, and Rally really has no response to it. The one argument that would persuade Misty to her side - returning her feelings - is something that the still pretty asexual Rally is unable to do. Well, mostly asexual. Rally's lack of a love life has come up several times in the series, and if you look at fanfiction.net's GSC section you'll see the majority of romance fics there have her with Bean Bandit. So when Misty asks Rally for a goodnight kiss, we're not expecting much.
Boy, are we wrong. This goodnight kiss is prolonged and smoking hot. Rally is not merely a passive observer here, and you even get a nnn? of surprise from Misty as Rally deepens things. There's even some butt gropage. Rally may be fairly asexual in this series, but after a kiss like that I suspect she may start reevaluating things.
And then we get a quick epilogue. Goldie rules Chicago with Misty (and their pet maid) by her side. Roy moves to a quieter precinct. Bean... is still Bean. Becky is two steps away from being arrested for financial irregularities, which will surprise no one who knows her. May and Ken have a child, and thank you, Sonoda-san, for not drawing May pregnant. We appreciate that. And Rally leaves Chicago (that is the flag of the city in the background on the last page, by the way) for parts unknown.
This series has provided me with a lot of fun over the past 14 years or so. It's not for everyone - there's lots of explicit sex and violence, for one thing, and I will admit that the lack of karmic retribution might annoy some. But for those who like hot girls with guns, badass guys with cars, and yes, I suppose, lolis with grenades, Gunsmith Cats is fantastic. Thanks to Dark Horse for finishing the series.