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.


  1. Wow, I did not expect such reactions to my post. I hope I did not upset you too much…and perhaps you read my answers to your comment. I like City Hunter and I’m just not in the mood to blog Angel Heart” now. But I’m looking forward to your posts about it. It’s pretty interesting to hear about it from someone who’s so into City Hunter!

    Comment by Mina — April 10, 2005 #

  2. The thing is that Angel Heart helped me to realise how much I loved City Hunter.The problem with this article is that I got the idea on Friday when I was really upset, but I didn’t finish it until Saturday night when I didn’t have such an intense feeling any more.

    Comment by Alex — April 11, 2005 #

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