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.

Three week absence

March 28, 2005 on 10:34 pm | In Site News | Comments Off on Three week absence

Due to a shift of gears and a desire to spend more time watching anime than writing about it, I have left the month of March pretty much bare on this site. Ever since The Big O II – indeed, since Pom Poko (seen at the start of January, written up in February) – I have had difficulty writing about anime.

I will endeavour to actually put stuff up, but somewhere along the way it stopped being about the journey; that was the point of the pilgrimage. This site was like my anime footsteps.

Anyway! I recommend that to keep track of my updates you use my handy feed. I will be back, and that little device will tell you when.

Dead Leaves

March 5, 2005 on 11:45 pm | In Dead Leaves | Comments Off on Dead Leaves

“Nothing I see shocks me any more.”
Fifty minutes of liquid desensitisation is the perfect summary of Dead Leaves, a sure fire sign that Manga Entertainment throwing money at things can pay off sometimes.

In the middle of nowhere, a man and woman wake up naked. The man has an old-style television for a head, so he calls himself Retro; the woman a ring around one eye, making her name Pandy. Retro and Pandy have amnesia, so naturally the first thing they do is go on a violent crime spree.
Their actions catch up to them soon enough, and Retro and Pandy are imprisoned on the moon. The moon is home to genetic freaks like themselves, and is run by two sadistic wardens and an evil “princess”.
The two criminals break out of their strait jackets and lead the rest of the inmates on a wild escape. There are many casualties on both sides along the way. Retro and Pandy must take on the evil princess before they can fully take their leave.

Dead Leaves never stops moving. This means that it is incredibly fun to watch, but also that it would not do to give it too many repeat viewings. The mind actually boggles at how anyone could write this; Honda Takeichi (alias Imai Toonz) somehow managed to produce a script that represents fifty minutes of energy. The waves of the narrative are so major that to describe them would be to excise the “mystique”.

As the anime itself is one big scene, there is little point in examining storytelling nuance. Dead Leaves is presented in the form of one big comic book most of the time, with the action actually divided into panels and sound effects animated across the top of the picture (language choice here is random).
The colour design is bold and the civilian and police designs simple. For this reason, watching secondary characters actually becomes enjoyable. They are uniform, and therefore unimportant. When the escaped moon prisoners die, it is much more gruesome as each one of them is unique – from the quack doctor to the man who has a drill for a penis (affectionately referred to by the production staff as “Dick Drill”).

The designs themselves are slightly vulgar, but do not cross the line into full-fledged vulgarity until being animated; one character has testicles for his head, which looks bad but not too obvious. Then he starts moving, and white liquid starts spitting out of his top. Still, the action is too frenetic to dwell on any one sickness; each instance kind of mounts upon the next, causing an avalanche of so many things to freak viewers out that they cancel each other into negative space.

The one problem with the production is definition: the characters do not have bold lines to separate them from their environments, so some times this looks like a giant blend. It’s not frequent enough to be a major issue, but it makes something that is barely coherent slightly less so. Dead Leaves is definitely not for the passive viewer; it practically demands wide, open eyes at all times.

A cast of veterans (and relative newcomer Honda Takako as Pandy) brings the OVA to life. Watching supplementary materials, it becomes apparent that the entire cast loved Dick Drill, and Takagi Wataru and Yamaguchi Kappei tried to quit their primary roles so they could take the character on. It is not even as if he says anything particularly memorable; he just has a drill.
Mizutani Yuko goes completely against type as Galactica, princess of the moon. Mizutani, normally known for bubbly, slightly grating types such as Tenchi Muyo’s Mihoshi, plays Galactica as a woman smouldering with hatred.
Watching an excerpt from the recording session, the dedication of the actors and the effort that they had to is readily apparent. How do you voice act decapitations? Mizutani’s energy, Honda Takako’s smooth anger and Yamaguchi Kappei’s shrillness hold this all together.

Dead Leaves is fun. They don’t make anime like this any more, and on the whole that is a good thing; if it were made at the start of the nineties, it would not garner a recommendation. There is nothing for it to float to the top of, and for this reason, the Dead Leaves stands alone.

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