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.

Kaori and Ryo are still skint, a problem that never troubled them in the first two series. The problem is compounded when, in the first episode, a woman loses control of her plane and crashes it into their apartment. They solve her problem and the episode just … ends. Sometimes City Hunter episodes have unsatisfactory conclusions, but the debut episode grinds to a halt.

There are better episodes, but first I’ll cover the duds of the season, because they’re easier to get through. “Hayato Ijuin’s Peaceful Day” is a straight up Umibozu comedy episode, but it is very likely the weakest Umibozu’s comedy has ever been. It has an absolutely hilarious eyecatch (the fact that I was looking for the eyecatch as a source of comedy probably tells you how well the episode down), but there’s just too much off about it. This is the first instance of Miki in the season and she has a different hair colour to previous; I haven’t checked, but I distinctly recalled her being more purple follicularly speaking.
I suppose that what this episode can be noted for is that it featured Ohtani Ikue in a support role – the very same Ohtani Ikue who would become Pikachu six years later.

The “visiting princess” storyline gets a slight twist with the fact that the princess in question has amnesia and is working as a stuntwoman in an effort to jog her memory. The episode is littered with illogicalities, such as the fact that the princess would answer Ryo’s phone and is quite frankly the worst “client falls in love with Ryo” development ever. Even the twelve year old girl from the “Rear Window” episodes of series two was better than this.
In my notes I wrote of the villain “it’s like they tried not to design this character”; the hired villain has bug eyes and looks like something out of bad horror anime.

Yet strangely I have nothing against the two part “Shinjuku Ghost Story” episode, in which a woman is killed and possesses her sister to hire Ryo to catch the murderer before he comes back for more. This story was handled tastefully and you actually felt a sense of loss and love between the sisters. Kaori’s behaviour was also quite commendable, to the point that you can forgive such a generally “normal world” anime for taking such a flight of fantasy.

The rest of the series goes by in a whirlwind with an excellent Umibozu story, the only one out of these thirteen episodes that has a lasting effect on the continuity. In this series we learn the reasons for Ryo and Umibozu’s enmity and friendship, and we even get an episode that appears to be light-hearted until it is realised that it shows the first instance of Ryo meeting Saeko and Makimura.
What I have always found lacking in City Hunter is that it always shows how Ryo and Kaori are affected by Makimura’s death, but has only once made reference to the fact that Saeko and Makimura were partners. There really should be a deeper connection between these four characters but it never eventuates.

That said, there is a Saeko episode about another partner that she had, way back in the day. Of course, one of the best things about anime is that characters’ histories are obscenely packed for their age. The story doesn’t resolve itself in a typically soft fashion, which leads into the final episode about Kaori and a European assassin. Kaori’s slightly off model in that episode, yet it works. The only thing that it does not work as is a finale, because they really should be about Kaori and Ryo wholesale.
Of course, in this era of City Hunter, everything is a bit understated; I can’t complain that much.

The production is altogether more confident than City Hunter 3, and for Miki’ s dodgy hair the staff swapped in Kaori’s proper shade, and Ryo’s traditional red shirt and blue jacket. Miki only appears in three episodes, so everything is a fair trade off – except for the theft of the traditional eyecatch sting!

The OP is not a great song, but the animation is a dream. It begins with the dancing hat and cane Kaori and Ryo from “Don’t Disappear My Love”, and ends with exactly the same shot as that with more characters. It is a perfect sequel animation. The ED is the traditional “tragic romance” that I love to see in City Hunter songs.

The previews are no longer all about the next episode but are promoted as scenes with the straight up dialogue. To get a scene out of context and, in the case of the preview for the second episode, pretty much the last scene of that episode, seems a bit wrong. I always watch previews in anime because, unless they’re spoiler laden, they’re fun bits of character (Cowboy Bebop, Black Heaven) or they’re so cryptic as to not actually mean anything (RahXephon looks like a good case of this, and Master Keaton’s previews helped put everything into perspective).

City Hunter ‘91 is not perfect City Hunter, but I’m not quite sure there’s any such thing as perfect City Hunter. It’s kind of hard for me to believe that I’m out of City Hunter TV episodes and will have to rely on the last few OVAs for my (overly serious) hits of Kaori and Ryo.

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