Larry Ward and the Gunsmith Cats

This Saturday, gun advocate Larry Ward sent out a rallying cry for Americans to celebrate “Gun Appreciation Day.” The newly-fabricated holiday was intended as a response to Obama’s proposed firearms restrictions. To those living in Chicago, a city experiencing one of the highest gun related murder rates of the past decade and where the city’s former gun ban was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2010, Ward had this to say during a recent MSNBC appearance:

“We look at cities like Chicago and New York that have a majority of minorities in it right now and those cities themselves do not grant the same access the same equal opportunity that somebody in Texas would have to defend themselves.”

On Gun Appreciation Day, I didn’t meet many people who wanted Chicago to look more like Texas. Instead, I ended up at an event in Hyde Park where residents had decided to make Chicago look more like Osaka. The event was UChi-Con, the UofC’s celebration of Japanese anime, and it attracted over one hundred fans. Their fantastical alternate world, however, was breached in the final round of a trivia event, when the moderator asked the contestants to name the only Japanese-made anime series set in Chicago. Though most were stumped, a few knew: Gunsmith Cats.

Gunsmith Cats, written and illustrated by Kenichi Sonoda, centers around two women who work in a Chicago gun shop, serving the city’s criminal underbelly. The anime’s setting is not accidental; Sonoda strove for life-like accuracy in his portrayal of black-market gun culture. Due to Japan’s extensive gun control laws–Japan experienced only eleven gun related homicides this past year–a show about a gun shop would be difficult to set in Japan. So the Japanese creator decided to set his series in the most gun-plagued city he could think of: Chicago. The production team made several trips from Japan in order to research locations for the anime. The show itself was celebrated for highly accurate rendering of Chicago’s architectural details. It is equally detailed about the gun stores’ wares.

The anime ran in 1995 and 1996. Yet the brief appearance of this Japanese ode to Chicago’s gun culture–popping up among kids garbed mostly in ninja costumes–was clearly resonant in today’s Chicago. While the original show is more than a decade old, guns still plague the city, and its reputation seems unchanged–do we take pride in the fact that the weapons that appear daily on our streets serve as a “real-life” research tool for a country 7,000 miles away?

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