City Hunter: Goodbye, My Sweetheart

February 6, 2006 on 3:24 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter: Goodbye, My Sweetheart

Released commercially as City Hunter: The Motion Picture.

Yet another City Hunter TV special, this time to commemorate ten years of City Hunter animation. Like most other City Hunter specials, Goodbye, my Sweetheart is decidedly overblown, derivative and lacking a lot of what made the TV series so enjoyable.
Still, it offers some themes that were never explored in the series that would later become plot points of Angel Heart, and has decidedly high production values.

This was actually the first City Hunter property to be released on DVD in the US, as a litmus test for the series. It must have worked after a fashion, but Goodbye, My Sweetheart is one of the more illogical stories offered by the franchise.
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City Hunter: The Secret Service

November 6, 2005 on 8:30 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter: The Secret Service

Note: Prime time TV special, not OVA.

“The first mokkori in four years!” boasts Ryo in one of the promos for this TV special.
“This isn’t the Olympics, you know,” says Kaori.
The first City Hunter property since City Hunter ‘91, this is one of the better efforts of all of the extraneous City Hunter productions. It is true that it could have been handled in 40 minutes, ala a two part episode, but The Secret Service miraculously fails to drag.
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City Hunter ’91

July 31, 2005 on 11:52 am | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter ’91

I don’t think that City Hunter could ever have hoped to relive its glory days of late City Hunter 2, but ’91 has its moments. There are a few production aspects that I don’t quite agree with, but there are a pair of valuable Umibozu episodes and a surprise Makimura episode.

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City Hunter: Bay City Wars & Million Dollar Conspiracy

May 22, 2005 on 1:17 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter: Bay City Wars & Million Dollar Conspiracy

The 1990 City Hunter OVAs! One is not standard City Hunter fare, and the other is closer to normal; the OVAs are what ADV uses to ensnare viewers in the trap of Saeba Ryo, but for that purpose the TV series are so much better.
These two stories are interesting enough detours into the City Hunter world for fans, but uninitiates would be better off elsewhere.

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City Hunter 3

May 11, 2005 on 9:21 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter 3

The interesting thing about City Hunter is that, with each season, you have to fall in love all over again. City Hunter 3, for instance, seems to be “off” at the beginning – although really, it isn’t.

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City Hunter 2 – 46 to 63

May 1, 2005 on 8:48 pm | In City Hunter | 1 Comment

City Hunter has its diehard fans. I would almost count myself as one of them. While it may have taken 100 episodes to get there, there was one truly awesome moment: a moment that I felt.

“Goodbye, Hardboiled City”, about a terrorist ring led by the mysterious “Sarah”, is one of the best Ryo and Kaori relationship stories there has ever been. It is exactly as if the writers had set out to fashion a heart-pumping City Hunter extravaganza. The action, the music choice … pure synergetic magic – and now certain things are out in the open, not drowned as in “Kaori has amnesia!”.
Even the fact that Ryo disarms a nuclear bomb by shooting a wire and hoping for the best cannot detract from this episode; the status quo doesn’t disappoint, either.

What is disappointing is that this is followed by City Hunter‘s first recap episode, Crystal Prophecy, in which a fortune teller tells Kaori that she always puts Ryo in danger. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of these, and this one is pretty lame. The positive aspect is that most of the clips are from season one, so long ago I couldn’t remember them, but City Hunter does not work based on action alone; also, the few comedy bits make entirely no sense out of context. Umibozu as Colonel Sanders, sure; but why? The new animation is way off model – particularly Reika – and they try to make up for it all with a sweet Kaori and Ryo moment at the end, but by then it’s too late.
Of course, this episode can be summarised by my notebook: “What kind of crappy fortune teller tells the past?”

The issue of Kaori knowing herself emerges in “Reunion After 20 Years”, wherein Kaori’s elder sister appears. It had been so long, I had quite forgotten that Kaori and Makimura were not blood relatives. The moral of this story (which is not not that Kaori looks good in a dress) is strong: does Kaori know her own truth? Has she forged her own, with which she is happy? Ryo is not the only one with silencers on his heart. On the one hand, you want to scream at the characters for not coming clean to one another, but on the other you can forgive them. Ultimately, it is important to understand that Kaori lives in the underworld through her own choice, not that of Makimura or Ryo.

“Proposal from a 17 Year Old Girl” is another strong episode featuring old people. A girl is made heir to a vast fortune, and attracts many suitors, so she pretends to be engaged to Ryo. Three of her suitors hang around together, and plot murder. Sometimes, you have to wonder about these things; also about where yuppies got grenades from. Still, this episode has one of those heartwarming City Hunter episodes that we strive for; old people always have so much to atone for.

There’s even an eighties dance spectacular episode, with some fanciful animation, an episode about Ryo teaching a boy prince what it is to be a man, and an episode in which Ryo protects a male-phobic by getting about in drag. The gay jokes in this series are so innocent and hilarious.

“Good Luck, My Sweeper” is the first City Hunter three parter. Contained within are the details of Ryo’s childhood, and the question of trust. Does Ryo trust Kaori implicitly? Does “protecting” her from the truth actually detract from their relationship? It is a comfort to learn that he really can tell her anything, and she will be supportive; yet he still can’t tell her what she needs to know. The series ends on a very nice note with this set of episodes.

The fact that Umibozu and Ryo were once enemies, something we have never witnessed (they were not friends before the commencement of the anime, but they had reached an understanding) emerges in conversation, proving once more that these characters have rich pasts.
Yet the question emerges along the way: why are Umibozu and Ryo the only sweepers on the market. Umibozu always turns up as Ryo’s “surprise” adversary. This is one of the few things about the series that gets old. Silver Fox has been seen in the past, but no sweepers besides these two? Highly questionable! Not series breaking, though.

If you’re the right sort of person, City Hunter rocks. City Hunter 2 is even better than its predecessor. There is a lack of Saeko in these episodes (and to think, what I used to complain about was a lack of Umi-chan), but the amount of character drama and relationship development is spot on. At this point, it is genuinely sad to think that there are only 26 episodes over two series left to watch.

Angel Heart – Love of City Hunter in the shadow of its sequel

April 10, 2005 on 11:02 am | In Angel Heart, City Hunter | 2 Comments

Note: Those who intend to take up City Hunter should not read this article until they are far, far, deeply immersed in the series – and only then if they’re thick-skinned.

Angel voice, a new but nostalgic echo
–“Angel Night” OP for City Hunter 2

A post at Kakumei alerted me to the fact that a new anime called Angel Heart is to be part of the upcoming Spring season. The comment “what’s that? City Hunter!” intrigued me, and I set out on a quest. Taking my readings somewhat further I found that, 14 years after City Hunter ’91 comes a “sequel”.
It is not pretty, and for this reason mangaka Tsukasa Houjo suggests that he has written an “alternate universe” for fear of upsetting City Hunter fans. And I am upset.

“Parallel universe” and “coincidentally the same characters” arguments don’t cut it. City Hunter is a world where danger is supposed to lurk, and tragedy can strike. Think of Angel Heart as a bus stop: one might choose to get off at the end of City Hunter or to stay on, venturing to parts unknown. Double think and remove any knowledge of Angel Heart from your mind. Walk away!

Angel Heart is the story of the professional killer “Glass Heart” – a woman who feels remorse for the crimes she has committed. Glass Heart commits suicide, but is saved by surgeons by way of heart transplant. You can probably see where this is going … (or not, seeing as this is nothing like what City Hunter has offered) the heart that Glass Heart receives is that of Kaori, hit by a car on the day of her wedding to Ryo.
Glass Heart eventually finds herself at Cat’s Eye, where she meets Ryo. Ryo has given up the role of City Hunter but connects to Glass Heart through the shared link of Kaori.
So as not to weigh the series down completely, Ryo does learn to move on somewhat; that is, he still hits on the visions that pass by Shibuya. Saeko can see that Ryo is not completely reverted to “mokkori pervert” mode, but this is how the series has always worked: serious Ryo hiding underneath the outgoing Ryo.

The core issue presented to Ryo at the outset is impotence. The most dramatic moments in City Hunter occurred when Ryo was powerless to do anything to stop disaster. In this instance, Kaori is not claimed by a bullet, or by anything to do with the underworld, but rather as a result of her own kindness: saving a child from being hit.
The unstated reason that Ryo rarely let on to Kaori his feelings was because he wanted to shield her from that world. Time and time again he saved her, and now it seems that it was all for nought. Not even City Hunter can stop that sort of tragedy.

The idea of Angel Heart so upset me that I knew there was one thing that would stop me from ever watching it: Kamiya Akira. For a while now I have thought that I might be unable to watch Macross again because Kamiya is Ryo – and to see anyone else in the role would be criminal. At the moment I understand that Kamiya is reprising the role of Ryo (last played six years ago) one more time. Kamiya handles the role perfectly, and with the somewhat delicate material on offer here, this will definitely be necessary.

Thinking about this issue has made me realise how much I love City Hunter: Kaori, Ryo and everyone else. The series is written in a way to make the recurring characters as friends to the point that to see any one of them die, even Reika, is upsetting. Getting this news in the week I saw an episode of City Hunter 2 that truly moved me is an extreme coincidence.
The other odd aspect is that, in reality, Kaori has been dead for four years, Angel Heart‘s manga having debuted in 2001. Yet, due to chance, I found out just this week. Almost definitive proof that chance is indeed a harsh and fickle mistress – precisely the idea peddled in Angel Heart.

Angel Heart, whether or not I choose to watch it (indeed, if someone chooses to sub it), has done something important for me. In light of its announcement, I have realised how important City Hunter and its characters are to me. I will cherish the time I have left with Kaori and Ryo, and then perhaps move on, as Ryo inevitably will. Angel Heart is not just about its tragic base: from it, something new has to grow.
Undoubtedly, it would be interesting to see what that will be.

City Hunter 2 – episodes 21 to 45

March 30, 2005 on 8:42 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter 2 – episodes 21 to 45

In my convalescence, I reached an epiphany: City Hunter is pure. There is a comfort in the familiarity of the series; every episode works as one might expect, but frequently they offer new insight into Ryo’s character or his feelings for Kaori. Several aspects of the series improve as they come along, with Umibozu becoming an increasingly excellent character.
For this reason, it is excellent to watch to get back into things.

There will always be questions about the nature of City Hunter. Why, if Ryo’s identity must remain secret, are his services publicly advertised by Kaori? There are so few episodes that actually use the XYZ system that it borders on weird – especially as there is an episode about a photographer aiming to uncover City Hunter’s identity and spread his good word throughout Japan. This makes no sense, a tactic that is usually engaged in City Hunter for laughs alone. This two parter is one of the biggest let-downs because its nonsensicality is treated seriously; the situation simply does not and should not work like it does.

OH DEAR LORD THE MAN WITH THE CYBERNETIC ARM – I normally edit out my notes, but I think this one should stay. Among these episodes is a particularly nice two parter about Makimura. Clever editing abounds, and nice character depth is shown; Kaori and Ryo both knew Makimura very well, but never each other until Makimura was gone. What marrs this episode is the inclusion of a villain who has a prosthetic arm – the sort that you can attach cannons and the like to. Considering that particular character’s alleged origins, this could have been handled much better. City Hunter is still capable of darkness; it should have been used here, even if that villain was not the focus of the episode.
This is yet another episode that proves that City Hunter does rely overly on orphans, but that is not something to worry about.

Complaints out of the way, there are many good things going for this series. One quite funny episode is about ninja trying to live in a modern world; their breed is dying out as more and more become salarymen. The best thing about this is that the ninja want to become salarymen and fantasize about desk jobs. The conclusion of the episode completely ignores continuity, but all is worthwhile. City Hunter‘s comedy doesn’t always have to make sense – which is why the hypnotism episode is so damned confusing.
The two parter “Ryo is the love thief” is based on the worst joke in City Hunter history, but that does not stop it from hilarity. The situations, judged by previews (“Ryo and the Esper Girl”), make the writers look like they are grasping at straws; however, the quality of execution seldom fails to disappoint.

The biggest highlight is Umibozu. The giant man is an excellent character, a more serious Ryo. However, upon meeting Miki (a character that left me befuddled in City Hunter: Magnum of Love and Destiny) in episode 40, a new side of his character is revealed. Tessho Genda gets a meatier role and more chance to work range. One might be surprised to see Umibozu bursting out laughing, but thanks to Miki this actually happens. Umibozu still has his own dark past, but has now found something good that has grown from that. This means that he is able to whisper threats to Ryo, rather than being permanently gruff. Umibozu comedy became a whole lot funnier as a result.
The examples of character depth given in these episodes prove that City Hunter can, indeed, be worthwhile.

The OP “Sarah”, introduced around episode 27, is the best since the original “City Hunter”. The animation gives a great sense of four of the main characters and, as usual, it is an outlet for Kaori and Ryo romance. The ED changes as well, to something by TM Revolution. This is a welcome change from “Super Girl” which, while a fine song, is not suitable for some of the bleeds between episode endings and the ED (the upbeat tones are not suitable for episodes in which Ryo is forced to kill an old friend, for example). TM Revolution’s song works for both happy and sombre episodes, an excellent medium.

City Hunter 2 is reassuring anime that has some gems of laughs. The scenarios no longer impress with great frequency (the writers have done the “visiting princess at threat from own advisor” story at least six times now over both series), but there are still some great character revelations. It’s hackneyed, yes, but Umibozu, Saeko, Reika, Ryo and Kaori are like old friends. Around halfway through the whole four seasons, I’m already starting to miss them.

City Hunter 2 – episodes 14 to 20

January 30, 2005 on 1:09 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter 2 – episodes 14 to 20

While this group of seven episodes starts with one of the stupidest in City Hunter history, the rest are pretty good. Four of the episodes are two parters, which are the way to go to make quality episodes of this series most consistently.

Episodes 15 & 16 are the excellently titled “Don’t Die, Umibozu!”. Umibozu episodes are among the best because Umibozu seems to be the only character who has a past. Short of the occasional mentions to Makimura, Ryo’s origins remain a mystery. Umibozu is a gentle soul, not only because he is terrified of cats. This giant assassin cares a lot more than he would like to let on, but his constant blushing gives him right away.
Any failure of Umibozu’s is going to come back to get him – but because of the kind of guy Umibozu is, his failure tends to be killing everyone but the most important person in a raid. This episode, littered with excellent names, features “Dandy Jack”, who has trained the daughter of Umibozu’s first and last partner to assassinate the man in green. Kaori gets some good material in about what it means to be a partner – and that does not mean sacrificing one’s self for the sake of a mission, allowing the other to get off scot free.
Also of note is that Ryo and Umibozu actually kill people in this episode, and in the next, so some of the blood is coming back into City Hunter.

Episodes 17 & 18 are yet another “foreign beauty” episode, wherein a politically important woman from one of those made up countries. While this features the questionable plane hijacking weapon of the grenade, it also featured spies pretending to be gay lovers in the love hotel and the unorthodox plot of Ryo using service to distract his assailants rather than the other way around.
The idea of this episode is supposed to be about “Yamato Nadeshiko” (traditional Japanese woman), but what it really means in the end is that Ryo gets to kiss an octopus. It’s a pretty good double, with one of the most credible examples of a client falling for Ryo yet seen.

The fan service quotient is definitely upping itself – episode 15 begins with Ryo chasing a giant woman in lingerie, who fondles her own breasts in anticipation of him. This may seem risque, but episode 17 features the best Saeko service ever! Ryo should shoot off people’s tops more often, I say. While by today’s standards this is tame material, this was very dangerous stuff for 1987.

There’s an episode where Kaori takes the client that works in the way that all episodes in which Kaori goes it alone work. That is, Ryo silently assists her. The episode gets off to a bad start with a perverted old man, but he turns out to be a pretty nice guy, and the dynamic of Ryo and Kaori’s relationship is stated subtly.

Most episodes give a good idea of their theme, but none have been so literal as episode 20: Kaori gets amnesia. It is surprising that the writers would have gone for such a clichéd plot device, but at least Kaori’s line of work has a feasible way for her to lose her memory. This is a good relationship episode that allows Ryo to show more of his serious side, and also features the traditional “confession of something obscured by sound of explosion” technique.
This was a good episode, and allowed Ikura Kazue to use a normal voice (they claim that before Kaori met Ryo, she was a normal person. Considering that at their first meeting, Kaori was dressed as a man with a false moustache, I question this). It was interesting to see that with retrograde amnesia Kaori did not know that her brother had died. So much has happened to her since the amnesia that it would have been cruel to rebuild her memory.

City Hunter 2 is liberally sprinkled with two parters, and the extra time afforded for these stories allows it to work best. Among the one offs there are still some good materials, and it looks like the writers are gradually cutting out the “baby-sitting” jobs.

City Hunter 2 – episodes 8 to 13

January 10, 2005 on 9:16 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter 2 – episodes 8 to 13

City Hunter 2 continues to run the gamut of City Hunter-ness; the cool, the stupid, the funny and the pointless. One could say that this series has it all and they’d be just about right.

The biggest problem with this series is that too many episodes start with Kaori advertising Ryo’s services. He’s an underworld bodyguard, dangit! Keep him a damned secret! However, the shopping district always happens to be a good place to meet new clients. When Ryo acts as someone’s fiancée after being picked out , this gives birth to hilarious police comedy involving Ryo borrowing a police car. It also shows that sometimes concerned fathers are just concerned parents and not trying to ruin their daughters’ lives – and this episode also shows the only act of violence against a woman Ryo has ever committed (the other time it was technically against a transsexual).

In Ryo’s other adventures he gets official police dispensation to grope an officer, we learn that it is every man’s dream to “mokkori with a noble”.
There is a country in this world where peeking is punishable by death, which is quite cool. This leads us to another “internationally flavoured” episode of City Hunter. Guests from overseas in City Hunter are inevitably princesses or prodigies from non-existent Middle-Eastern or Teutonic countries. Salina and Alma, in this case, are a princess in disguise as a lady-in-waiting and a ten year old lady-in-waiting with an IQ of 250 (this facet of her character is introduced quite an awkward fashion) pretending to be the aforementioned princess. This two parter, about noble aura preventing mokkori, proves that everyone comes to Japan in order to be targeted for death and saved from horrible fates. That’s just the way it goes.
Despite any foregone conclusions that can be drawn, “Mokkori Killer” had a very sweet ending.

Kamiya Akira really can’t be praised enough for his work in City Hunter. A lot of the dialogue is boring, but the way he delivers makes it funny. “Oh! Weapon Attack! No!” is only hilarious when you actually hear him saying it. Otherwise, it would simply be dull and flat. A lot of his work was likely hell on the throat, particularly with the extremes of smooth to un- in the space of a sentence.

Anyway, City Hunter 2 is pretty damned funny. Not just because of its corrupt business-men jumping from exploding boats and miraculously surviving: it is actually getting more daring in its visual representation of jokes. Although there are very few serious, or indeed actual clients any more, there’s still enough entertainment here.

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